I remember Suzanne Murphy walking through the screen door with the album under her arm. It was summertime, we had just graduated and were living in a group house where the livin’ was easy and much conversation revolved around music. A new Stones’ album always raised the noise level a few decibels.
Among recent Stones’ releases, Beggars Banquet had engendered the most passionate discussions (could the Stones be considered “revolutionaries” in any sense?), Let It Bleed had a bit of mysterioso about it…YaYa’s was played at every party. Sticky Fingers was mostly listened to in your room, on your own. We expected that run to continue…political and cultural commentary, funky dance tracks, debatable themes and obscured meanings.
But Exiles was just weird. I think we played it all that afternoon and long into the night trying to figure out what it was…where it fit…and whether it was good, bad…or maybe great. Like the music inside, the photos by Robert Frank were not like any cover art we had seen before. We didn’t know his seminal work, The Americans, or his movie about the Stones on tour, Cocksucker Blues, that most of us would never get to see. (Frank was sued by the Stones who realized the portrait would not be good for business and a court ruled that the film cannot be shown more than five times a year and only in the presence of the director. Outtakes are included in the documentary.)
Now STONES IN EXILE finally gives us a chance to see what happened in the basement of that French villa that gave birth to one of the Stones’ best albums and inspired Frank’s imagery…and to continue that discussion that began almost 40 years ago. (I wonder if I can reach my former house mates on Facebook?)