It’s become a mythological moment on the rock timeline: the early ‘70s, when the Rolling Stones gathered in a luxurious French chateau to recordExile on Main Street
Heroin was floating around, as were assorted decadent and dangerous hangers-on, as were Gram Parsons, William Burroughs and John Lennon. The worldwide media went nuts covering Mick Jagger’s wedding to Bianca.
The Stones raggedly and occasionally made their way into the basement to record tracks for what became the most ragged but right record in rock history, a muddy mix of raw energy and loose jamming.
It’s understandable how a book about the time might be disjointed and factually vague, seeing how high everyone was. What’s not understandable is how such a book could be as boring as Robert Greenfield’s Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones.
Greenfield’s earlier book, STP, examined the Stones’ Exile tour. Here he’s tapped into the same notebooks, visited some Web sites and read some books since then, and taken on the companion tale of the album’s genesis.
But he’s a dull writer, and the book is little but disconnected anecdotes that never develop any momentum. Greenfield spends time arguing with other books’ descriptions of events – the book by Keith Richards’ drug dealer might have been factually sloppy? really? – but never gets to the heart of any of the characters.
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There’s no insight into Richards and Jagger or their unique relationship, and certainly no analysis of the songs or what made (makes) them great.
It’s probably impossible, given the drug-drowned lapses of memory – not to mention the deaths of many of the characters who were around that summer – to do a comprehensive and accurate rendering of those odd, wired months.
Greenfield, however, doesn’t even come close. – Richard Connelly
Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones, by Robert Greenfield, Da Capo Press, $24