Making 'Exile on Main St.'

Page 2 of 5

Much the same can be said in 1971 about the state of the relationship between Keith Richards and his partner in musical crime, Michael Philip Jagger. One of the major themes that runs through the making of the new album is the ever-increasing tension between these two brothers-in-arms. Like so much going on at the table tonight at Nellcôte, it is not so far wrong to say that the difficulties between them began in earnest during the making of Performance. Brian Jones, who founded the Stones only to lose his band to Mick, the woman he loved to Keith and then his life as well, was the one who first taught both Mick and Keith that it was no big thing to have it off with each other's women, because no female could ever come between two Rolling Stones.

Nonetheless, Mick had seriously crossed the line three years earlier. Day after day as Keith sat brooding in his Rolls-Royce outside the house in Lowndes Square in London, where Performance was being shot during the fall of 1968, Mick was carrying on a torrid affair with Anita — the best friend of Marianne Faithfull, then Mick's girlfriend. Mick and Anita getting it on together, even before the cameras, was one thing. Mick's insistence on continuing to pursue Anita, while he and Marianne were on holiday with Anita and Keith in South America after the film was done, was quite another. Two lesser or perhaps more ordinary men, despite how long they had known each other and how much brilliant work they had done together, would have come to blows and stopped speaking right then and there.

Not Mick and Keith. The two were joined not only at the hip but the pocketbook as well. They were also particularly English in their steadfast refusal to ever confront one another directly about anything. Like the slightly naughty schoolboys they still often seemed to be, each would instead snidely slag the other behind closed doors to a neutral third party while continuing to work together. Because Mick is currently off cruising through the Mediterranean with his brand-new bride, the lovely Bianca, the Stones are now doing no work at all on their new album. In his palatial villa by the sea in the south of France, Keith has to find some means other than recording to while away the time.

Rolling Stones Album Guide: Exile on Main St.

And so it is that once dinner is done, Madeleine D'Arcy and Michele Breton accompany Keith and Anita and Spanish Tony up the stairs to Tony's bedroom where, in his words, they all decide "to unwind by gulping down a few Mandrax tablets followed by hefty swigs of Courvoisier. The combination produces oblivion almost as quickly as a bonk on the head from a cowboy's gun. In less than an hour, all six of us had flaked out on my vast Louis XIV bed." Regaining consciousness at five in the morning, Tony hears "whispers and faint gigglings from two people on the other side of the bed." Thinking at first that it must be Keith and Anita, he discovers instead that it is Tommy and Anita, who then begins to gently moan. "I could feel the bed shake as Tommy climbed stealthily onto Anita," Tony writes, "and then they were making love, gently at first and then violently. All the time, Keith and Michele snored on in blissful, drugged unawareness." When the pounding stops, Tony falls asleep once more. In the morning, he wakes up "to find Keith and Michele stretching themselves and gradually coming to." Tommy and Anita are nowhere to be seen. When he is asked if any of this is true, Tommy Weber will later say, "I can't remember any of these things. It could have happened, but I really wouldn't have been that vulgar."

Nothing much is said about anything at breakfast, and then Keith and Tony roar off in Keith's XKE to have a look at a speedboat for sale in the neighboring harbor of Beaulieu. Anita, Tommy, Michele Breton and French photographer Dominique Tarle, according to Tony, follow along behind in a rented gray Dodge driven by Dave Powell, Keith's chauffeur and aide-de-camp. As Tony and Keith head for the harbor, Tony takes it upon himself to tell Keith in a very Victorian manner that while they were all passed out the night before, Tommy took "a liberty" with an unconscious Anita. "He had his hand up her dress," Tony says, "and he was fondling her. It wasn't anything serious, but I thought you should know so you can tell the guy to piss off when we get back to the house this evening."

While it is true that Tony literally cannot bear the sight of Tommy and would be more than happy to do anything in his power to damage his standing with Keith, his comments may have more to do with business than friendship. Tommy — who up to this point in his life has had but a nodding social acquaintance with cocaine — won the unlimited respect of those at Nellcôte earlier in the summer when he brought with him to the south of France about a pound of the white powder, which he concealed in money belts strapped to the bodies of his two young sons, eight-year-old Jake and six-year-old Charlie, also known as "Boo-Boo." Tommy is now so completely ensconced at Nellcôte that Tony views him as not only a direct threat to his position as a member of the inner circle but to his livelihood as well. Although Tommy will later say, "I wasn't part of any supply route there at all," this seems to be precisely what Tony thinks at the time.

Arriving at Beaulieu "in a shower of warm summer rain," Keith and Tony go looking for the harbor master's office so he can direct them to the person selling the boat. Suddenly, another brand-new Jaguar, this one an XJ6, tries to squeeze past them in the narrow road. There is an ugly ripping sound as the other Jaguar's bumper scrapes along the side of Keith's car. "All of Keith's pent-up anger seemed suddenly to explode," Tony writes. Through the open window of the car, Keith screams, "What do you fucking think you are fucking well doing?" Ignoring the "sputtered apologies" of "the genteel Italian couple in the XJ6," Keith then adds, "You fucking stupid foreigners. I'll smash your fucking heads in."

Before Tony can stop him, Keith pulls "a huge German hunting knife" from his leather satchel, jumps out of the car and screams, "You stupid fucking idiot!" at the "old man" driving the other car. Hearing the commotion, Jacques Raymond, the harbor master, whom Tony describes as "a broad-shouldered six-feet-two giant of man," comes out of his office. Ushering the Italian couple inside, he waves Keith away, which only serves to further enrage him. Since the harbor master speaks no English and Keith does not know a word of French, Tony does his best to calm things down. It is then that Keith brandishes the knife. The harbor master lets fly with a roundhouse right. Down goes Keith. Ever the loyal foot soldier, Tony responds by hitting the harbor master in the face, thereby "knocking the Goliath onto a table."

Getting to his feet, Keith rushes out to the XKE. According to Tony, Keith returns a moment later with his son Marlon's toy Colt .45 pistol in his hand, thereby pioneering the concept of using a fake weapon to further inflame a real situation. Pushing the Italian couple to the floor, the harbor master promptly pulls out his own revolver. Unfortunately for Keith, the harbor master's gun happens to be real. Terrified that the harbor master may turn the gun on him, Tony grabs the toy pistol from Keith's hand, flings it to the ground and begins shouting in French that Keith has no pistol.

Seconds later, the sound of approaching sirens can be heard. Both men dash for the safety of their cars. As they do, Keith tells Tony to take the XKE while he hops into the Dodge. Hurtling back to Nellcôte at a speed he conservatively estimates at between 140 and 150 miles an hour, Tony roars up the driveway, leaps out of the car, bolts the villa's big wrought-iron gates shut, puts the Jag in the garage and waits.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »