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Source Material: The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street

by Mike McGuirk

Source Material: The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street


Recently, I stumbled upon this clip of The Rolling Stones in the studio, presumably from one of the many, many Exile on Main St. sessions, as they are working out "Tumbling Dice." Maybe they're getting ready to go on tour -- who cares. I'd never seen or heard of this footage, and I can't stop watching it. Not only does it sound loose in that way the best rock music sounds, but they finish the song and then play it again, a hair slower, literally grinding it out. It rules. Also, I always forget that Mick Jagger was an incredible singer/frontman back in the day. Even his hair is perfect here.

Where did this video come from? I have this theory that after Keith's book came out, some little turd said to Mick, "You're just some old dude. You were never cool." And Mick was like, "Actually, I have this footage of me being the coolest dude on the planet," and then had one of his 5,000 servants upload that video to YouTube.

As far as Exile on Main St. goes, the Stones' monumental 1972 double album combines the sacred moves of Chuck Berry, '50s gospel, New Orleans R&B/blues, Delta blues, country music, hard drugs and sub-optimal recording conditions. The result is pretty much the last word on blues-based '60s/'70s rock music, or, really, plain old rock 'n' roll.

The 10 albums below were either referenced outright by the Stones on Exile or can be heard in the horn charts, sweaty rhythm section (Charlie Watts is really, really, really good on this one; if you get bored with Mick and Keith, you can always just listen to Charlie) and innumerable awesome guitar parts (the end of "Tumbling Dice," the chorus of "Torn and Frayed," all of "Happy"). Dr. John and The Flamin' Groovies are included because, while they have no peers here, if the Stones were trying to emulate anybody, it was likely those two. First, the Groovies were the only band besides the Stones that could play Chuck Berry without sounding like they were trying to get the party started at a wedding (usually). And Dr. John's Gris Gris, while at the root tied to ancient music, was an entirely new way to deliver it and practically speaks its own language.

Which is basically the idea behind Exile. It's all been said before, just not this like this, with everything that came before it jumbled up and crashed out, yet perfectly blended -- anything but willy-nilly. One glaring omission is Elvis Presley's Sun Sessions CD, the music of which not only had a huge effect on Keith Richards (he has said as much in interviews), but also on Mick's singing (everybody tried to be Elvis). But Napster doesn't have the rights to it.

That said, this list could be 50 albums long; this is just a start. Honestly, to attempt a comprehensive list would be like taking a course in rock 'n 'roll, which isn't exactly the idea here: The point is to play this music loud and jump around your room, starting with "Rocks Off." Okay, have fun.