In the spring of 1972, the Rolling Stones released the sprawling double-Lp set "Exile on Main Street." Despite the wealth of material, some of it deep and bluesy, the record went to #1 in America on June 17th of that year. In recent times, the album has been re-released with an additional album of original session outtakes - a version that is highly recommended. Musicians continue to sing the the record's praises; Phish made one of the deep tracks, "Lovin' Cup," a frequent visitor in its setlist and even performed "Exile" in its entirety in 2009.
Here are ten factoids about this iconic 1972 album that, perhaps, your school didn't teach you!
#10 "Exile on Main Street" was not the band's first double-album. That honor went to the "Hot Rocks 1964-1971" album which had been released six months earlier in time for the Christmas gift-giving season. The band had signed over a little too much control to their former manager Alan Klein, who assembled the greatest hits package without their permission. Commercially, though, it was a good move: "Hot Rocks" sold six-million copies. Ka-ching!
#9 The album was mostly recorded in a claustrophobic basement. To avoid ruinous, over-excessive English taxes, the band fled the country to live abroad, recording most of this album in the south of France at a villa named Nellcote. The group brought in their famous mobile studio and ran cables into the basement, which was damp with a low ceiling - certainly helping to induce a bluesy atmosphere that inspired much of the music.
#8 "Happy," from the album, was the Stones' only Top 40 single with lead vocals from Keith Richards. The single reached #22 and, in fact, there are only two Stones on the track - Richards and Mick Jagger (who did backing vocals). Richards plays the guitar and bass while producer Jimmy Miller supplies the drums.
#7 Reviews of the album were mainly negative or mixed when the album came out. Critics were initially daunted by the depth of the band's material. In time, it has become almost universally praised as one of the Rolling Stones' finest works.
#6 The album went to #1 twice in England - 38 years apart. When the band re-released "Exile" in 2010 with an additional album of original 1972 outtakes, the title went to #1 again, 38 years after the first run at #1 in 1972.
#5 In America, "Exile" was the second in a remarkable run of eight #1 Rolling Stones studio albums in a row. The band rolled perfect sales scores from 1971's "Sticky Finger" to 1981's "Tattoo You."
#4 "Tumblin' Dice" was a hit single twice. The first single, "Tumblin' Dice," was released in advance of the album and reached #7 on May 27, 1972. Linda Ronstadt's cover of the song reached #32 exactly six years later on May 27, 1978.
#3 The original choice for the first single was "All Down the Line." Plans changed, though, and "Tumblin Dice" made the cut. "All Down the Line" eventually did come out on a single, appearing in July 1972 as the B-side to "Happy."
#2 The song "Sweet Black Angel," was a rare Stones political track. The lyrics concerned American black activist Angela Davis, who was on trial at the time for conspiracy to commit murder. Davis was acquitted of the charges in June 1972.
#1 The Rolling Stones became vampires for the recording of "Exile on Main Street." The band members fell into a typical schedule that found them sleeping in the day and recording all night. However, it is not known whether or not they brought the soil of their native England to sleep in.