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The Rolling Stones In LA: Main Street Exiles

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Mick, Bianca, and their baby daughter Jade have been in L.A. for four months. He's worked once, with Bobby Bland in a ballroom in Watts at three in the morning.

Los Angeles has always been particularly a Stones city, the place where they come to mix and master their albums. Their music is forever coming out of car radios and jukeboxes. Nowhere else is an English accent, a velvet suit, or a ruffled shirt more in demand. Movie star tourist buses have begun to stop outside the driveway to Mick's house. "Still," he says, "the anonymity here is pretty good. It's not like England, where it's so crowded one has to buy a thousand acres to have any privacy, where they line up outside your house to find out who you fucked the night before. I hate that place . . . you think if only they'd let you, you could take it over and really get it together because it's so small really. You think something like the miners' strike is going to really bring about a change . . . But Heath . . ." he sighs. "Really, it's such a pathetic little village sometimes."

As for France, where he has lived since last spring, he sighs again. "Do you know there are no more salmon in the rivers of France any more? They've killed them all with pollution. In Nice and Cannes, the French are thieves . . . I'll never live there again . . ."

Rolling Stones Album Guide: The Good, The Great, and The 'Angie'

Mick goes up the stairs to gather his things. Time to go to the studio. When he comes down again he says, "People have asked me if I'm not frightened to go out on a stage and work every night in America . . . maybe you shouldn't even print anything about that . . . But, I mean, if we can't play here, in our other home so to speak, what good is it?" His voice trails away as he moves through the great dining room.

* * *

"Was this the Beach Boys studio?" Jagger says the minute he gets inside the control room at Heider's. "I mean ai've been here before. You lose all the highs." Jimmy Miller, who's produced the Stones for years, is at the console along with Andy Johns, brother of Glyn, who is engineering tonight and in actual control of the knobs and switches. "Uh," the regular studio engineer says hesitantly. "Actually it was completely rebuilt a while ago . . . You might still think there's too much bottom, but that's 'cause the top is going out over your head." Mick grimaces and decides to stay.

A rough mix of "Tumbling Dice" is racked up. Four guitars, two playing rhythm, one coming through a Lesley, horns, piano, organ, Mick's voice singing lead, Stones singing harmony, girls wailing background, answering the lead voice and exchanging harmonies. Dense music. "Well," Andy Johns says, after it's played through for the first time. "What do you think?"

Mick looks up at the soundproof ceiling. "I want the snares to crack," Mick says finally, "and the voices to float . . . it's tricky aw-rite . . . You think you've got the voices sussed and all of a sudden, the backing track seems so . . ." Mick stops and reaches for the word, ". . . so . . . ordinaire."

The tape is reeled and re-reeled. Andy flicks knobs and the bass recedes, the drums get crisp, the guitars overlap. "I thought you liked cymbals like that," Andy says, after a take Mick has disapproved of. "They sound like dustbin lids," he says. Andy pouts for a second, then rewinds the tape again.

* * *

Keith Richards is lying on the roof of a big two-tone Chevy parked in front of his house, making faces at his two-year-old son Marlan through the windshield. "Hallo," he says, climbing down, "Have you heard? They're at it again. They decided to re-mix the whole album. Been up for 31 hours so far I hear." He laughs. "Always happens. The more you mix, the better it gets."

Things are more chaotic than usual at Keith's house this day. They are packing for a four o'clock plane the next day. "We're going to Switzerland," Keith says, as Anita walks past into the kitchen looking extremely pregnant. "We figgered Marlan was lonesome, so we let it happen." Is it twins? "No," Anita says sternly, "it is the dress." She starts throwing things into what is to be the first of 19 pieces of luggage. "It was nice for me making this album," says Keith. "At the end it got a little hectic in the house what with playin' all night in the blazin' heat . . . but with the 16 track truck always outside and ready, we'd go downstairs whenever we felt like it and work on a riff."

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