Friday, 18 June 2010


I was disappointed when I first played Exile on Main Street. Don't buy a Stones album if you've not heard of the hits, I thought.

I kept playing it, through and through, and after a while certain passages became recognizable as they came up, clicking in to focus surrounded by unintelligible lyrics and music my brain didn't find familiar yet, and eventually I started to like it.

Though styles and paces change on the album, even when you're familiar with them the songs blur in to each other, and Exile has a continuity, like a cycle of songs.

The Stones used to work by playing a track again and again, composing and recording by using repetition and reiteration and the accretion of improvements. This record was worked and reworked, and finished and overdubbed and mixed in LA, and pieces and passages from different takes were stuck together, and it keeps a spontaneity and an impression of being a finished rough cut - one step short of a fair copy, loose and ragged and right - with workings shown and corrections scribbled in the margin. There's a layering of different voices and instruments, and one extra layer is that Exile carries with it a sense of the creative process that led to itself.

The damp cellar most tracks were recorded in is more famous than most of the individual songs, and the technical problems helped: the conscious minds of the players and producers were on the hitches and glitches and out-of-tune strings, leaving their unconscious minds free to play and create and improvise freely.

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