The Rolling Stones In LA: Main Street Exiles

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards gear up for a new album and a U.S. tour to support Exile on Main Street

April 27, 1972
'Exile On Main Street' Album Cover
'Exile On Main Street' Album Cover
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Los Angeles – One year, to the weekend, after the Rolling Stones played the final concert of their "farewell" tour of England, Mick Jagger is at the wheel of a big black Mercedes, going east on Sunset Strip, Rock and Roll Billboard Row. Mick is on his way to Studio Three at Wally Heider's for another assault on a final mix for "Tumbling Dice," which will be the single from Exile On Main Street, the Stones' new double album, out May 7th.

On June 3rd, in Seattle, Washington, it all begins again, as the Stones start their first American tour in more than two years. In six weeks, they will play some 30-odd cities.

Today, though, things are quiet, and Mick is simply on his way to work.

"Main Street" in the new album's title is in seedy, way-downtown L.A. where Mick says, "You can see pimps, knives flashin', real inner city . . ." and where some of the pictures for the back cover were shot by Robert Frank, the internationally respected filmmaker and photographer. The front cover of the album is a photo he took of a wall in a tattoo parlor in New York City. The wall is covered with photos of strange and unusual people. Frank filmed the Stones with a Super 8 camera, then made stills out of individual frames and composed the back cover to match his original wall picture.

The album contains 18 previously unheard songs, including a Slim Harpo song written by James Moore called "Shake Your Hips," a Mick Taylor-Jagger-Richards composition, "Ventilator Blues," a tune called "Happy" on which Keith Richards sings lead, the single, "Tumbling Dice," and even a Jesus song: "Just Wanna See His Face."

500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Exile on Main Street

Other titles are "Rocks Off," "All Down the Line," "Loving Cup," "Torn and Frayed," "Sweet Virginia," "Stop Breaking Down," "Sweet Black Angel," "Rip This Joint," "Shine a Light," "Turd on the Run," "Casino Boogie," "Let It Loose," and "Soul Survivor."

Most of the basic tracks were laid down almost a year ago in the basement of Keith Richards' house in the South of France. "It was cut during the summer and we'll be touring this summer, so it all fits in," said Jagger. "It's a summer-y album and very commercial, I think . . . It's a double album, like Electric Ladyland. God knows there was enough in that for a year's listening . . . I expect, too, that eventually there'll be a live album coming out of the tour."

* * *

It's Saturday afternoon and sometime around the civilized hour of four or so, Mick Jagger comes padding barefoot down the stairs of his rented Bel-Air home. The house was originally owned by Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst's protegee. The place is straight South California Gothic even now, tangles of jungle vines and underbrush by an artificial waterfall that's gone dry. The only sound around is the whisper of a sprinkler outside.

Mick sits down at the dining room table with a beer, wearing one of those shiny silk zippered jackets that sometimes have maps of Vietnam or Japan on the back. Two tigers snarl at each other across the shoulders of this one.

"It's not such a grueling schedule really, this tour," he says. "It's like the one we did las' time. Five cities a week for six weeks. We wanted to 'ave a rest in the middle, two weeks off to recover, but that meant we'd have been in the country more than six months and eligible for national service . . . you know, the draft . . .

"It'll give us a chance to play music people haven't heard us do before . . . I mean . . . God knows I love rock and roll. Still, I'd like to see the band experiment more, with form as well as content. Because myself, I like Satanic Majesties . . . I mean Mick Taylor has even more strange ideas than me an I know Charlie wouldn't mind goin' along with it . . . I wouldn't wanna be a band people think they could rely on . . ."

Is it the last tour, as a band?

"Naw. I'd like ta come back and play another in the autumn meself, in all the places we missed . . . we'll be doin' a little bus tour of the deep South this time, playin' in New Orleans for the first time and in Shreveport . . .

"The toughest cities to find a place to play in are L.A. and San Francisco. In New York, you just do Madison Square Garden. But out here . . ." Mick reaches back and stretches, ". . . one would like to do something outside, in the open air. But it's so smoggy and all. What we'll probably end up doin' is work different places around L.A., Long Beach, maybe the Palladium. In San Francisco, we'll do Winterland . . ." Mick sighs. "But see there are problems. We'll have to do four shows at Winterland to make what we could with one at the Oakland Coliseum."

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