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The Rolling Stones Recording in Jamaica

The band's 'Exile' follow-up set to drop early next spring

The Rolling Stones in rehearsal circa 1973.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
January 18, 1973

KINGSTON, JAMAICA — The Rolling Stones have just finished the most intensive studio activity of their ten-year recording career. Working sundown to sunup seven days a week during four weeks in November and December, the Stones cut more than a dozen basic tracks at Dynamic Sounds Studio with producer Jimmy Miller and engineer Andrew Johns, brother of Glyn Johns. Following the holidays, they will prepare for a month-long tour of Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia beginning January 21st. On return, the Stones will complete the album by adding vocals and instrumental overdubs.

"Nobody has had any time to go sightseeing or shopping," said Marshall Chess, their personal manager. Their only relaxation has been a few late afternoon hours by the pool at the Terra Nova, a palatial hotel that was formerly the family home of Chris Blackwell, founder of England's Island Records, which brought Kingston Studios their current fame.

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"We've had to compress our recording schedule in order to finish up before Christmas," said Bill Wyman. The Stones' last album, Exile on Main Street, recorded mostly in the south of France using the group's mobile studio, took a year from beginning to end, Chess said. The new album is scheduled for early spring release.

"This album will be less freaky, more melodic than the last one," said Mick Jagger. "We've recorded a lot of fast numbers already, maybe too many."

Among the working titles are: "You Should Have Seen Her Ass," "Star-fucker," "Separately," "Four and In," "Give Us a Break," "Comin' Down, Again," "Waiting for a Friend," "Angie" and "First Thing."

Lying on the bed in his small hotel room, Jagger described a con and a pro of recording in Jamaica. "Finding something to eat has been a problem. We usually get up too late for lunch and too early for dinner. When we return from the studio it's too early for breakfast."

Jagger and Keith Richards had been to the island once before on holiday. Though the Stones have moved their homes officially from England to the south of France, Jagger said he had not returned to the Mediterranean in nearly a year. "One of the benefits of recording away from home in an isolated place like Jamaica is there are no distractions," Jagger said. "We can work without interruptions and that is what we have been doing."

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Nicky Hopkins joined the Stones in Jamaica for the first two weeks of recording and then returned to London to complete his first solo album. Billy Preston flew in from Los Angeles for the final week. The only other outside musicians involved were a Jamaican conga and timbales player and Ian Stewart, long-time friend and road manager, on piano.

Dynamic Sounds, run by the island's best-known bandleader and producer Byron Lee, had developed a growing reputation as the Caribbean equivalent of Muscle Shoals' studios in Alabama. Jimmy Cliff recorded his million-selling single "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" there, and Paul Simon did "Mother and Child Reunion" and "Me and Julio."

"We finished our new Studio B just in time for the Stones," Lee said. "And we also got specific equipment they requested: a grand piano and Hammond B3 organ, as well as special microphones and headphones (which Jamaican musicians never use in the studio)--an investment of nearly $100,000."

Meanwhile, the Stones prepare to tour the Pacific. Chip Monck is again designing the staging and lighting. "There will be two revolving mirrors this time," said Monck, "one in front as before and another over the stage with a design on the back in neon. The equipment will be much more compact because of the shipping costs." Plans include a concert on a football field in Hong Kong, several shows at the 11,000-seat Budo-Can sports stadium in Tokyo and a series of outdoor concerts in Australia.

This story is from the January 18th, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone.


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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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