Musicians on Rolling Stones' 'Exile on Main Street' were so high they forgot they played

music news 11/05/2022

The Rolling Stones' session musicians were so high on drugs they couldn’t remember playing on the band’s classic ‘Exile On Main St’ album, it has been claimed.

Martin Fry, 64, from pop band ‘ABC’ said the landmark double album – released 50 years ago this week – was “obviously” produced by people who took a lot of illegal substances.

He said: “It’s my favourite Stones album, such a bizarre and funky record with so much diversity, from ‘Tumbling Dice’ to the almost gospel of ‘I Just Want to See His Face’.

the album cover of Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones

“There’s a carefree magic unburdened by their status as world’s biggest rock band.

“It’s not particularly commercial, but it’s elegant and beautiful. Mick Jagger’s lyrics are fantastic.

“It’s not a good times record. It’s questioning and paranoid. It sounds like they’ve been through a kaleidoscope.

In that period people obviously took a lot of drugs, and some would just show up and forget they played on it. I’m still trying to unravel it.

Photo of ROLLING STONES and Charlie WATTS and Mick JAGGER and Keith RICHARDS and Bill WYMAN and Brian JONES

Martin spoke to The Guardian newspaper along with other musicians who paid tribute to the drug-fuelled album, released 12 May, 1972.

Grammy-nominated singer Valerie June, 40, added in the piece she feels ‘Exile’ is still relevant in the context of today’s drug abuse in America.

She said: "As someone raised in the African American south, the gospel and blues influences are so rich for me. I love the slow build of ‘Shine a Light’ and the bass.

“The song’s about Brian Jones but also about drug addiction. To me, 50 years later, it speaks to today’s opioid crisis in America and shines a light for them.”

Richards, Jagger and producer Jimmy Miller in the basement studio of Villa Nellcote in 1971.

The Rolling Stones guitarist Brian died aged 27 in 1969 when he drowned in a swimming pool after years of drug abuse.

Recorded during a string of hedonistic months in a cavernous villa on the Cðte d’Azur in France, ‘Exile on Main St.’ has been hailed ‘The Rolling Stones’’ sprawling masterpiece.

The 2010 documentary ‘Stones in Exile’ about the making of the double record highlighted how drug use was rife during its making.

Saxophonist Bobby Keys, who died aged 70 in 2014 and played on ‘Exile’ declared in the film:

Hell, yeah, there was some pot around, there was some whiskey bottles around, there was scantily clad women. Hell, it was rock 'n' roll.

The film also referenced guitarist Keith Richards’ rampant drug use during the making of the album, when he was deep in a heroin addiction.

Singer Jennifer Herrema, 55, told The Guardian about one of the album’s standout tracks: “‘Torn and Frayed’ is such a beautiful song, seemingly about Keith Richards. ‘Doctor prescribes drug store supplies / Who’s gonna help him to kick it?’

“He is a torn and frayed dude.”

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