The Rolling Stones' Rocky Road to Exile on Main Street

Categories: Get Lit

Photos courtesy of Mirrorpix/Da Capo Press
Two Birds of a Feather: Bianca and Mick Jagger arrive for the first show of the Stones' 1971 "farewell" tour of England in 1971
Ain't It Time We Said Goodbye: The Rolling Stones on the Road to Exile
By Robert Greenfield
Da Capo Press, 196 pp. $25.99.

Like estranged lovers who can't quite quilt each other, music journalist Robert Greenfield and the Rolling Stones have kept coming back together through the least in print. His first book on the band, S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, was his personal, fly-on-the-wall account of much of the band's famously debauched 1972 tour in support of Exile on Main Street.

More than 30 years later came Exile on Main St: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones, the definitive account of the making of what many consider the band's best record. In this slim, third effort, Greenfield takes an even more personal memoir, mostly of his experiences in the band's 1971 "Farewell" tour of England before they became (temporary) tax exiles on France, where they put down much of Exile.

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The chapters include factual retellings of the time and then, in italics, Greenfield's additional commentary from his perspective today -- a journalistic affectation which is often annoying, which even the author admits.


Other chapters detail his later interview encounters, primarily with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, often while reporting for Rolling Stone magazine.
And while some of the incidents and occurrences on the tour may ring familiar and not just for the Stones -- the shows, the drugs and women, the internal power struggles, the groupies and hangers on -- Greenfield's anecdotes shed more light on the personalities (especially Jagger and Richards) than the incidents.

While he tells of hours in which the group and those in their orbit would sit around waiting to see if Keith would ever make it to the gig or recording sessions (sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't...and was usually loaded), on the flip side there is Jagger personally calling box offices along the tour to make sure they were enforcing a two-ticket-per-person purchase maximum.

1971-72 marked a line of demarcation in terms of how the Stones ran their unit as a business (which became much bigger) and also their second huge wave of popularity to reach the level of a truly iconic group.

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