Coming hot on the heels of the 40th anniversary of one of rock and roll’s all time greatest records, The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, is the news that a dramatic movie highlighting the making of the record is at the inception of production for the silver screen.
The Playlist reports this week that Virgin Produced Productions, headed by mogul Richard Branson, has acquired the rights to Robert Greenfield’s concise tome Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones and plans to make a feature film about the making of this seminal record, with all of the drama and wild tales of rock and roll excess that went with that making of the 2-album set.
Exile on Main Street is contemporarily lauded as one of the Stones’ most compelling sonic releases in their large and sprawling body of work. Originally released on May 12th, 1972, Exile was first met with slight derision and confusion from fans and critics alike. Now, however, it’s considered one of the the band’s best pieces of work, some would go so far as to call it their masterpiece, an album chock full to the brim with memorable songs, classic rock and roll, a stripped down street-smart grittiness almost teetering on the tightrope of vagabond sounds, adventurous horn laden tunes, all raging from red hot rockers to cool ballads, and spawning the radio hits “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy” among others.
The making of the record almost takes on mythical proportions, as tales of alleged heroin use by guitarist Keith Richards and drink and debauchery by him and the rest of the band are almost as well known as the finished product itself. People like William S. Burroughs and Graham Parsons and writer Terry Southern (Candy, Easy Rider) drifted in and out during the recording sessions, which took place during the years 1969 -1971 and wavered between Olympic Studios and lead singer Mick Jagger’s Stargroves country house in England. Chaotic tales of band members not showing up for recording sessions, coupled with long work hours strained the relationship the band memebers had with each other, and in particular slightly alienated then bassist Bill Wyman from the rest of the group. Wyman typically had a workmanlike ethic that clearly clashed with the constant partying caravan the others were on. Thousands of dollars were wasted on said partying, especially on cocaine and heroin and booze of every style and stripe, and the recording sessions stilted as a result.
Finally three years after its beginnings, the record was completed. Produced by Jimmy Miller and boasting some well recognized long standing musicians in the industry at the time, Billy Preston, Bobby Keys, and Dr. John to name three, Exile scratched and shook more heads of the fans at the time of its release than turned them on. It’s cocktail of blues, country, and straight forward rock and roll made an audience of Stones fans (who had just come off of the acclaimed 1971 release Sticky Fingers) and critics blink their jaundiced eyes at the release. The album took time to pick up steam and a 1972 tour brought the Stones and the reputation of the album, back to the band’s standards, who by that point was coined “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.”
So a lot of fodder is there for what should be at best an interesting theatrical dramatic music pic. Since of course Richard Branson had released the Stones’ last three records on his Virgin Records label, he should have no problem getting the full attention and creative collaboration from the band. Branson was also the main catalyst who re-released a lot of the band’s earlier classic albums recently as well (Exile among them), so this is a no-brainer. Now, of course, what needs to be done now that the production is in responsible hands, as no directors or actors have been cast yet. It should certainly be interesting to see who plays the band and their sycophants and friends. Regardless, the upcoming production should certainly be a vivid window into the making of a rock album that endures to this day as one of music’s best of all time.