Posts Tagged ‘rolling stones’

features, music

10 reasons why The Rolling Stones are better than The Beatles

By Stefano on May 2nd, 2013

1 They have the coolest member of both bands


Brian Jones or Ringo? There’s no contest there.

2 The Stones had an edgy dark side.


The Beatles would never have released an album called Their Satanic Majesties would they? The Beatles dabbled with the counter culture in the 60s. The Stones were the counter culture

3 The Beatles gave up at the end of the 60s.

3some girls

Lightweights. The Stones made some of their best albums in the 70s and beyond.

4 The Beatles gave up touring. The Stones are the greatest live act the world have ever known


So a few screaming girls stopped The Beatles from touring. Have you seen the violence at the early Stones gigs? Yet they went on to become the best live band ever.

5 The Stones were much better musicians.


Keith is the Human Riff, Charlie Watts is an amazing drummer, Brian Jones could play anything with strings. The Beatles were great songwriters, but only average musicians.

6 The bands that followed The Stones were cool.

6 Pretty Things SB 65_1

In the wake of The Stones we got the dirty punk R&B of The Pretty Things. The Beatles gifted us Gerry and The Pacemakers and Cilla Black!

7 Gimme Shelter has the best intro to a pop song ever.

7 gimmeshelter

Though Paint It Black runs it close

8 The Beatles’ solo stuff is mostly pretty poor.

8 Frog-Chorus-660-80

Ok I’ll give you Imagine and Ram, but there’s also Double Fantasy and this gem. The Stones (oh, apart from Bill) never bothered too much with indulgent solo stuff.

9 Who would you rather go and see today. The Stones or Macca?

9 today

Well if the Olympics is anything to go by the Scouse fella can’t really sing any more.

10 Without The Stones there would be no Brian Jonestown Massacre, the best psych band of the last two decades.


And the world would be a much poorer place

Accessories, features, music

Happy Birthday Keith Richards – a tribute (and some cool photos)

By Stefano on December 18th, 2012

Simon Poulter of the always excellent – What Would David Bowie Do? blog on the human riff.

Britain’s Daily Mail, a newspaper you can regard with varying degrees of editorial pointlessness, surmised in June that Keith Richards – the Human Riff, the Human Lab, and a dozen other nicknames reflecting both guitar prowess and indestructibility – was now so broken, so ravaged by arthritic hands and addled memory that he was finding it hard to perform.

Almost in unison, a section of the paper’s permanently seething readership waded in with a barrage of reaction, some berating Keef for even being alive, others suggesting the Rolling Stones had ended their relevance a long time before and should now just give up.

This may go some way to explain why, when the band announced their four 50th anniversary shows, a nuclear mushroom cloud appeared above Middle England as concerned representatives of the Mail’s readership turned apoplectic at news Richards, Jagger, Watts and Wood – with a combined age of 273 – were to roll once more.

Well, today we can make that 274, as Richards chalks up his 69th birthday. It’s an unlikely milestone, even he’ll admit. This apparent freak of nature, who only gave up hard drugs eight years ago, has, for the best part of adulthood, tested human pharmaceutical endurance to its limits while seeing so many contemporaries succumb to rock’s lethal distractions. He is at a loss to explain how he has survived and others didn’t. Perhaps he should just say “pleased to meet you – hope you guessed my name”.

The brilliant autobiography

Much of Richards’ homespun philosophy can be found in his brilliant book Life. A stupendously refreshingly read, Life tells Keef’s story with well managed honesty and little obvious attempt at embellishment, either of the hard truths or the apocryphal tales. It is an engagingly rich story of a boy emerging from London’s bombsite-ridden suburbs to embrace the music of America’s impoverished south, turning such an unlikely affection into the spiritual heart of the most famous – some maintain greatest – rock and roll band of the last 50 years.

That’s an accolade that welcomes challenge: bands have come and bands have gone. “Every generation throws another hero up the pop charts”, sang Paul Simon, and the Stones have faced plenty of competition. They’ve also faced plenty of challenges of their own, not least of which the sibling fractures between Richards and Jagger that have seen them fight, tussle and, seemingly, fall apart irreparably on regular occasions.

Something, however, has always brought them back together again. Richards has always maintained that he and Jagger share a true brotherly love, a bond that occasionally breaks. In his words, Richards has, though, tended to paint Jagger as the more nefarious Glimmer Twin, the posher of the two middle-class Dartford boys, the Stone with the business sense and, now, the knighthood.

Richards, on the other hand, has frequently played up his image as the Stones’ pirate captain, the rock’and’roll rogue: unpredictable and possibly dangerous, like John Belushi’s character Bluto in Animal House, but beneath it all, fundamentally a good guy.

For a while – particularly in the wake of John Lennon’s murder – Richards regularly carried either a knife or a gun, or both. He’s not the Stone to be messed with by any order. Just go to YouTube and find the memorable clip from their 1981 tour, when Keith sees a fan jump on stage and starts charging towards him and Jagger (who deftly takes a swerve), removes his Telecaster by the neck and hacks the fan to the ground before strapping the guitar back on to continue playing. “The cat was in my space,” said Richards, matter-of-factly, “so I chopped the mother down”. That’s why you’ve got to love Keith. Liam Gallagher may have looked like he could do something like that, but you suspect only Keith Richards would.

Immersing myself in Richardsville

Over the last few months I have been immersed in the Rolling Stones. Whatever commercial voodoo they performed around their 50th anniversary has clearly worked. I’ve bought their book and visited the Somerset House exhibition of the book’s photographs; I’ve acquired Blu-ray Discs and DVDs of them in concert in the 70s, 80s and 90s, of them jamming with their great hero Muddy Waters, in the brilliant Stones In Exile documentary, and setting new records on the Bigger Bang tour. And I’ve spent a frustrating 30 minutes attempting to blow what’s left of my life savings on a ticket to one of – any of – their London and New Jersey shows. Somewhere there is a bulldozer with a tongue logo on it shovelling cash into four or five large piles.

While this accumulation will be due in part to Sir Mick Jagger’s assumed stewardship of Rolling Stones Inc. (actually, a Dutch-registered public limited company called Promotone BV which holds its annual company meetings in the curious-to-say-the-least location of Amsterdam), the company’s Chief Riff Officer and CEO Jagger’s fellow Wentworth Primary School, Dartford, alumnus, Richards, might be comfortable with his rewards, but remains at his happiest strumming a blues in an open D tuning.

These last few weeks, the more Stones material I’ve been exposed to, the more I’ve come to appreciate their music, especially its subtlety. That is not a word you associate with the Stones, who’ve often been regarded by music snobs as a Premier League Status Quo for the chugging, thumbs-in-belt-loops-ahoy boogie of Honky Tonk Woman, or the cringeworthy street patois of Miss You, and it’s equally abhorrent disco beat.

But then listen carefully to Sympathy For The Devil, Paint It Black or Gimme Shelter, or some of the live standards like Monkey Man or Tumbling Dice or Midnight Rambler, along with lesser known gems hidden away on their 26-odd studio albums. Why, even more recent fare like Love Is Strong and Doom And Gloom – knocked out in a Paris studio over a couple of days – still deliver the goods as far as Rolling Stones songs go.

You could say that for half their careers, the Rolling Stones have faced calls to quit on the grounds that they’re too old. Keith Richards, at 69, may be today a more avuncular version of his former self, with his clean living and throaty, bronchial laugh (not to mention his parodic turn as Captain Jack Sparrow’s father in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise – with Johnny Depp happy to admit Sparrow was based on Richards), but he and his ageing band have endured.

That endurance has come from tampering little with the brand: The Beatles started out as rock and rollers before discovering psychedelia and inventing progressive rock; The Who applied a rock edge to Tamla Motown; Led Zeppelin deconstructed and then reconstructed the blues; but the Stones are and have always been the Coca-Cola of rock.

Classic Stones

Sure, like Coke (Classic anyone?) they’ve taken a few ill-advised diversions, but today the Stones remain, pretty much, the same thing enjoyed by each generation that has come across them. Snobs blame this absence of variety on a fairly limited musical spectrum, but much of this is down to Keith. It is, mostly, his songs and riffs that have dictated the Rolling Stones musically.

Richards might have willingly – and at times, to his patent regret – left the running of the band to Jagger, but the spirit of the Stones, the heart and soul of the Stones belongs to him. It was Keith, not Brian Jones who found the triangulation point between the Mississippi Delta, Chicago and London. It was Jagger who then took the concoction and turned it into something more exotic, more 5th Avenue than Dartford High Street, like Levi-Strauss turning workwear into the most enduring fashion item of modern history.

But that’s why we love Keith. If he has pretensions and delusions of grandeur, he keeps them well hidden. He has amassed a fortune, and his properties display copious evidence of his wealth, but unlike the apparent airs and graces of his writing partner, Richards doesn’t overplay the finer things in his life.

To see him on stage today, earnestly toiling away on his collection of Telecasters and other luthiered exotica, is to see a master craftsman at work. He may never be a virtuoso in the manner of a Clapton, a Beck or a Page, but I don’t think he particularly cares. And nor should you. Happy Birthday Keith.

Images PA

Article originally published here.

Mick and Keith - US tour 1975

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Picture 1 of 8


The case for the Live album – and which is the best one ever?

By Stefano on December 17th, 2012

Simon Poulter of What Would David Bowie do? Puts the case for the live album…

You’ve bought the singles, bought the album, bought the concert ticket, bought the T-shirt, bought your bus ticket home and now you’re being asked to buy it all over again as a live album of the show you’ve only just returned from. And, yes, you will buy it.

If you were at Newark’s Prudential Center this week, I’m sure, soon, there will be a live CD/DVD/Blu-ray Disc package of this or one of the three other gigs in the Rolling Stones’ run of 50th anniversary shows – two in London, two in New Jersey.

Over their fifty years as a band, they’ve released no less than 22 live performance albums. Such is their relentless self-merchandising under tireless CEO Mick Jagger (eight of the 22 albums are archive releases, brought out since the Stones’ last full tour), that you wouldn’t bet against a 23rd.

Stones live albums have, generally, caught the band in their natural musical habitat and, if you’re prepared to work your way through the 22, you come notice just how much they have evolved, even if you hold some deep-seated prejudice about the band from London’s suburbs who adopted the Chicago blues and went on to become easily the greatest rock and roll band in the world.

You should, then, start with the apostrophe-abusing Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, released in September 1970 (and re-released in 2010 as highly recommended 40th anniversary box set) captured the band in two shows in New York and Baltimore just as they were in the midst of, arguably, their most creative period, with Let It Bleed already recorded and Sticky Fingers about to go into production.

It captures a band in subtle transformation from boisterous, God-help-us-if-your-daughter-brought-them-home British beat and blues merchants into louche, 70s rock monsters.

The Beatles were, it appeared, on the way out, and new, heavier rivals like Humble Pie and Led Zeppelin were emerging from the 60s. Woodstock, Monterey and Isle Of Wight had set the bar for rock performances for the next few years, as had Jimi Hendrix, who died just three weeks after the Stones released Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! to acclaim, with critics hailing it the best live album ever.

Fast forward to 1978 and The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live, which was released last year along with the repackaging of Some Girls, and you get the full-on Stones in the 1970s, Keith Richards now clearly out of it on whatever laboratory he was living from, Ron Wood enjoying life as the ‘new’ Stone.

Musically, though, the ‘weaving’ of Richards and Wood’s guitar is already starting to become more evident on Some Girls Live. Critics have suggested that the junkie Richards became a lazier guitarist, contributing rudimentary riffs to live performances while the more accomplished soloist Wood made all the effort. Not so: on Some Girls Live you can hear a distinct new Rolling Stones emerge, with Charlie Watts – solid to this day – at the back, Bill Wyman’s often under-rated bass playing holding it together strongly, Richards and Wood over the top of it all with their guitar fabric, and Jagger out front, camping it up for England like Andy Pandy.

Fast forward again to 2004 and the Live Licks album, recorded on their 40th anniversary greatest hits tour and you have the corporate Stones, a polished, sports stadium band who, like some giant human jukebox, pick and choose their set lists on a night-to-night basis and can command guest appearances from Sheryl Crow (on Honky Tonk Woman) and Solomon Burke on their cover of his song, Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.

There may, inevitably, be some dross in the Stones’ 22 live albums, but there are some gems too. But 22 live albums in 50 years: compare that to their great rivals, The Beatles, who barely lasted four years after their first hit record before they gave up touring altogether. The only evidence that The Beatles ever played live at all are the clips of news footage of performances drowned out by pre-pubescent screaming, or the somewhat tired and strained vibe of their 1969 Savile Row rooftop performance. If only someone had only recorded them at Hamburg’s Star Club in 1960, or at the Cavern on their triumphant return to Liverpool two years later.

The case for the Live album

The live album has been one of the music industry’s most contested products, regarded as either cynical plundering of the over-benevolent punter’s bread, man, or pointless filler between studio albums. As the Rolling Stones have frequently demonstrated, the live album has – and continues to be – fittingly reflective of their supreme stagecraft.

Paul Weller, for example, can be similarly compared, having been responsible for some brilliant in-concert releases over the years, from music press front cover flexidiscs (I still own – somewhere – a Style Council EP from Sounds featuring a blistering version of Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up) to numerous plugged and unplugged sets on his own. And I haven’t felt short changed or ripped off by any of them.

While it is true that some live releases are little more than greatest hits collections with added theatrical ambiance, many are deservedly landmark records in their own right. Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison relaunched his career, capturing a raw and emotional performance in front of inmates at California’s Folsom penitentiary, and coming on the back of the legendary country singer’s struggle with drugs.

With this context, a song like Cocaine Blues becomes more than just ironic, and when you hear a tannoy in the background ordering an inmate to report in somewhere, you have a live album as thrillingly unpolished as possible.

Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert In Central Park was another landmark, mostly for the fact it brought the warring duo back together again. The concert wasn’t so much meant to be a reunion as a benefit show for New York’s Central Park itself.

Despite being in the midst of some of Manhattan’s wealthiest real estate, the park was in a state of disrepair. So, apparently, the idea of half a million people traipsing through it for a pop concert seemed to be the answer… Concert In Central Park could be seen as a live greatest hits album of Simon & Garfunkel, which is includes some of their own solo material. It’s rough-round-the-edges (Garfunkel is said to have been unhappy with his vocals), but it superbly reminds you what made them folk-rock’s superstars.

Rough-round-the-edges, on the other hand, is what you want from The Who. Their Live At Leeds album, with its brown paper cover art, epitomises The Who live throughout their entire career – what you see (and hear) is what you get.

A loud – even on an album – run through their late ’60s ‘standard’ set, with hard core performances of Young Man Blues, Substitute, Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues, and a 14-minute assault on My Generation, it has been hailed as the best live rock album ever, but that’s always going to a subjective viewpoint.

There are, obviously plenty of live albums to remind us that some acts are no more exciting live as they were in the studio, which will thankfully explain the absence of One Direction Live From The Budokan in your record collections any time soon.

Gems you may have missed

Other live releases early on in careers, however, give fascinating insight in greatness to come. David Bowie’s Live In Santa Monica ’72 is possibly the greatest example.

It had been available for many years as a bootleg, but in being released as a limited edition CD four years ago, Bowie fans finally had their hands on an official version of a performance by the Dame in the midst of his Ziggy Stardust persona, with guitarist Mick Ronson at his absolute best, with the pair (and the other Spiders) romping through Rock’N’Roll Suicide, Life on Mars, Queen Bitch, John, I’m Only Dancing, The Jean Genie and Suffragette City, the latter presenting punk a full two years before anyone in New York had the idea of getting grungy with rock and roll.

Some live albums have built reputations as notable as many of the greatest studio albums. Frampton Comes Alive! has probably become more famous than any other album in the canon of Pete Frampton, the former Bromley schoolmate of David Bowie and Humble Pie founder.

Released in 1976 it provide to be another contradiction to the era of punk. While, elsewhere, some of Frampton’s own contemporaries were spitting their way through the punk explosion (he’s only a two years older than Joe Strummer…), here was this frizzy blond-haired pretty boy producing one of the biggest-selling albums of the 1970s, a live double album to boot, and one containing extended guitar solos.

Today, Comes Alive! comes across as somewhat pedestrian, the result of endless spins of the album’s Show Me The Way, Baby I Love Your Way and Do You Feel Like I Do America’s myriad classic rock radio stations. But there was a time when virtually every record collection featured that blue-spined double disc package with its distinct full-frame cover shot of Frampton looming out.

Another live album of genuine note is Seconds Out by Genesis. Recorded during their 1976 and 1977 tours for their A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering records, it presented a band in transition.

After Peter Gabriel left in 1975, and Phil Collins stepped forward to become their new lead singer, the band started shifting towards more accessible material. Genesis were still telling stories, rather than performing pop songs (their first ‘love song’, Follow You, Follow Me wouldn’t appear for another year), but Collins had clearly replaced Gabriel’s somewhat aloof theatricality with his own impish, stage school-based cheeky-chappiness, which you can on the likes of Robbery, Assault And Battery and what was, then, their only hit single to date, I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).

Seconds Out is a brilliant live album for its production quality. Plenty of bands have regarded live albums as well-intentioned ‘gifts’ for their hard-core fans, a souvenir of a memorable night, an acclaimed tour or simply a must-have for the collection with extended jams and unreleased cover versions capturing the band in their pomp and prime. Others have regarded them as official mitigations of bootleg recordings. Seconds Out is, even today, a live album I love for its authentic capture of the acoustic atmosphere of a big gig – the crowd’s roar as a band breaks into its opening number, and complicated and intricate songs that fill up the entire soundstage of your home stereo system to the extent you easily replicate the experience of being there at home. Without the beer-sticky floor of course.

But as album sales dwindle (and, perversely mainstream bands make more money these days from live shows), there is a proportionate decline in live album releases too, presumably because there are marketing people advising that “core demographics” no longer go in for them.

It remains, so it would seem, for the old guard to keep the live album flame lit. Like Led Zeppelin. For a band that didn’t really go in for releasing anything other than studio albums in their prime, they have been relatively prolific since their demise, with the awful The Song Remains The Same and How The West Was Won, not to mention Page and Plant’s No Quarter ‘unplugged’ entry. By old, I mean either those old enough to have been on the original Woodstock or Monterey line-ups, or those who wished they’d been old enough to be there.

Led Zeppellin weren’t at either Woodstock or Monterey, but then it’s arguable that by the time they took hold, they’d have been too big for either festival.

It is ironic that the Zepp have released more live material since they folded than was ever available during their career, with the recently-released multi-format Celebration Day capturing their one-off 2007 show at London’s 02 arena in honour of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun.

It was, by all accounts of those who were there, a memorable show. But memorable for what? Probably seeing Page, Plant and Jones together again, with John Bonham’s son Jason providing uncannily similar chops to his late dad on drums.

Is it a classic Zeppelin show? Probably not, but this is where the fan’s compromise comes to effect: you know it won’t be quite like Led Zep were at one of their legendary Los Angeles gigs in the early 1970s, at a time when they were the ultimate rock bad boys on the road, but Celebration Day still goes to demonstrate why Jimmy Page has been one of the greatest rock guitarists since he was a teenage session player from Epsom, Surrey, playing on songs by Lulu, Marianne Faithful and, believe it or not, the Rolling Stones and The Who.

This year’s London 2012 Olympics, with its opening and closing ceremonies, perhaps suggested that the big stadium filling acts are in decline. Bruce Springsteen, U2 and their protégés Coldplay are amongst the few truly ‘big’ stadium bands left for whom you might want to buy a live album afterwards. Coldplay are certainly making the most of their elongated greatest hits show at the London 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony, by releasing Mylo Xyloto Live 2012, which captures the junior pomp rockers in their most arena-packing filling, U2 crown-usurping majesty.

The golden age of live albums was, however, without doubt the late 60s into the early 1980s. Hardly anyone who played Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore in San Francisco, or its sibling Fillmore East in New York during the 70s failed to release a live album on the back of such shows. The Fillmore East’s unique acoustics even made for a more pristine recording that captured the hall’s legendary ambience.

And thus, between the two venues, there is an enormous list of live releases from the likes of Henrix, The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Otis Redding, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, The Doors, Cream (and other Clapton vehicles), The Byrds, Carlos Santana, The Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Pink Floyd. Indeed, there was a time when if you hadn’t released an album with at least one of the Fillmore venues in the title, you really weren’t anything.

Today, do we need them? The live album harks back to an era before everyone carried a recording studio around in their pockets, as they do today. Live albums were meant to prevent bootleggers sneaking shoebox-sized cassette recorders into gigs and making off with second-rate bootlegs.

Today, however, the concert experience is a gymnastic exercise in craning through a sea of smartphones recording shaky but high(ish) definition clips for YouTube and posterity. And often, by the time you’ve caught the bus home, much of the show you’ve just seen will have already been posted online, with reasonably good quality picture and sound.

The only thing you don’t get on a professionally recorded live album is the noise of people next to the iPhone owner, yakking on about their recurring flare-up of cystitis, or arguing about whose round it is…

Article originally appeared here. Stones pic from PA


Sitar frenzy – how Ravi Shankar (along with The Byrds and The Beatles) created Psychedelia

By Stefano on December 12th, 2012

Like everyone I am sad to hear of the death of Ravi Shankar this morning. The Indian sitar player, who was arguably the first World Music (as we understand it now) star, wowed them at the Woodstock Festival, was chummy with The Beatles and much of pop’s aristocracy, and did much to popularise Indian arts and music at a time when few Western ears ears and eyes had experienced it.

From a pop fan’s perspective though it wasn’t so much Ravi’s own music that changed the world, but the way in which the young turks who heard him and tried to emulate him had a seismic influence on the development of contemporary pop. The key moment in the history of the sitar was when The Byrds’ guitar player Roger McGuinn introduced the George Harrison to Shankar’s sitar music at a party in in 1965. As legend has it both men were tripping on LSD at the time and McGuinn believes the experience inspired Harrison to travel to India where they met Shankar and took sitar lessons from him.

Harrison first played the sitar on Norwegian Wood on The Beatles Rubber Soul album. After that it was open season on the instrument with every young guitarist in both the US or UK either aspiring to play the sitar or more likely using Vox wah wah pedals to make their guitar sound like a sitar.

Here then are five great pop moments that wouldn’t exist had it not been for Ravi Shankar

1 The Byrds – Eight Miles High

Allegedly inspired by a jaunt to London, but quite often held up as an LSD trip set to music, Eight Miles High was an attempt to marry the Shankar sound (using guitars) with the free 60s jazz of John Coltrane, all wrapped up in a killer pop song. There is a pretty strong case that this was first psychedelic single ever coming as it did in late 1965 a good six months their rivals began to experiment with the new musical sound.

2 Traffic – Paper Sun

One of the best ever psychedelic singles – this was debut from the super group of sorts Traffic which featured a very young Stevie Winwood on vocals. Few would ever manage to combine soul-esque beats with a sitar driven psych tune in quite the same way.

3 The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black

Never slow to copy from The Beatles the Stones added a sitar to this classic 1966 single, which was perhaps their first and best brush with psychedelia (though Citadel on Their Satanic Majesties album and Jumping Jack Flash’s B side Child Of The Moon run it close). Brian Jones was a huge fan of the sitar and it lead to him explore the unique sounds of many other eastern instruments.

4 Genesis – I Know What I Like

Genesis were one of the few bands to use the sitar in the 70os. Here it is used to very good effect on their classic 1973 single I Know What I Like – a kind of psych song that was recorded five years too late

5 Lord Sitar – I Can see For Miles

During 1967 many record companies issued cash in albums featuring sitar versions of the day’s hits. Many were terrible. The album from Lord Sitar though was inspired and this sitar-driven, dance floor friendly version of The Who’s I Can See For Miles was a big indie club staple in the 1990.

And here’s that Electric Prunes Vox Wah Wah ad


Rolling Stones Week – a pilgrimage to the home of ‘Exile on Main Street’ – Nellcote in France

By Stefano on November 27th, 2012

Apparently some seventy something geezers are playing the O2 this week. Their first show on Sunday was according to our spies, really rather good. So to celebrate the Stones we have already brought you Mick Jagger’s top ten crimes against fashion and the top five under rated Stones albums. Here Stones uber fan Victoria Shortt (who even named her company after a Stones track) goes on a pilgrimage to Nellcote – the legendary villa in the south of France where the band recorded their seismic double album Exile On Main Street

My obsession with Nellcote began after reading Robert Greenfields, “Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones”. This book tells the story of the shocking, decadent, madness behind the making of the seminal double album.

The recording took place during the blazing-hot summer of 1971 in the basement of the Keith Richards’ owned palatial mansion, Nellcote.  The book freezes forever in time a moment when the Stones and their counterculture audience found themselves at a crossroads. The author was at the time a groundbreaking music journalist and he was there to witness the debauchery night after night for weeks on end of wives, girlfriends and a crew of assorted hangers-on smoking marijuana and hashish, snorting cocaine and injecting themselves with heroin, whilst the Stones descended like coal miners to the infamous dank, humid basement to lay down tracks.

As the Stones were writing the songs that eventually made up “Exile”, a variety of celebrities, among them John and Yoko Ono and Gram Parsons, descended on the villa, and so did a sinister band of local drug dealers known to one and all as “les cowboys”. While the work of recording any album is rarely joyful and the Stones themselves were already known to be perfectionists in the studio, the process that brought “Exile on Main Street” into the world became a display of extreme group dynamics unparalleled even in their own tortured history. Literally and figuratively, this was a record made in hell.

Now when you put it like that how could you not become obsessed?! As a lifelong fan of the intense relationship between Keith and his common-law wife Miss Anita Pallenberg the book is a treat as it documents their crazed reign as the King and Queen of Nellcote.

A couple of years back my enthusiasm was ignited once again when Dominique Tarle’s beautiful photos of Nelocote and its inhabitants were exhibited in London. His photos were hypnotising. There was Anita in all her lithe, European glory holding court with a young Marlon on her hip – the coolest Mother I’ve ever seen (excusing all her very naughty habits), Jagger sweating and pouting in the sweltering heat, Richards stretched out playing guitar in front of a huge fireplace, dwarfing Anita who sits at his feet. The photos are a visual feast for any Stones fan.

When planning our wedding I knew first off I wanted to hire a Villa for the wedding and invite all our friends. Which, is exactly what we did (see here) and also to convince my bloke we should visit Nellcote on our honeymoon. Well one of the skills imparted to me from God is persuasion and so my campaign began until he conceded.

Once we decided to do it we decided to do it in style so we hired an Alfa Romeo Spider Duetto from Rent a Car Classic.

So with a car promising to be an “Italian answer to the swinging London madness, it is the “Dolce Vita”! Even if the Spider Duetto is not in Fellini’s movie and will stay forever Dustin Hoffman’s car in “The Graduate”, the Spider Duetto incarnates wonderfully this “sweet life”, mixing classical style and unbridled creativity.” Oh you may laugh at the pigeon English but doesn’t it sound like fun?

On arrival on Nellcote (it’s now owned by a Russian businessman) – it is hidden down a road close to the sea but so easy to miss (and we did, several times), we saw a van just starting up to come out. I ran up to the man and begged him to let me in to take closer pictures. I explained I was a major Stones fan and he laughed and waved me through but indicated I should go no further than the lawn. I did as I was told. I then came back through the gates, he left and then like a sign from God the gates opened again!I lit up like a lightbulb but my bloke said no and now being a wifey I had to obey. He explained the consequences for trespass in France were grave and I had to settle for a few cheeky behind the gates shots.

However, to see Nellcote in all its glory you really need to see from the sea so the next day we headed down to the beach at Villefrance and worked out that we could swim around the headland to view it properly. I have never moved so fast. Clothes off, into the sea and bombed around the headland. I could see my bloke laughing on the beach. I didn’t care because as soon as I got around the headland and saw the balcony that Keith Richards had sat on and strummed his guitar while looking out to see it was all so worth it. Sad as it sounds it was the closest thing to a spiritual experience without actually being one that I’ve ever had. A moment in time suspended just for me to look at and gaze in awe.

Celeb style, features, Gallery, music

Mick Jagger’s top 10 crimes against fashion (and there are some corkers)

By Stefano on November 26th, 2012

There was a point somewhere in the 1960s when The Rolling Stones were arguably the best dressed band on the planet. They mixed traditional Saville Row threads with flamboyant shirts, cravats and scarves better than anyone. They were the epitome of pop art cool. Check here for evidence.

But then the coolest of the lot of them, Brian, went swimming, Keef got strung out on heroin and Bill grew his hair out. And from a sartorial point of view things went downhill.

Never mind though because there was always Mick. Trouble is that somewhere around 1969 Mick’s style compass completely went AWOL. Probably about the time he wore that white dress in Hyde Park (sadly our pic agency doesn’t have that image!). Throughout the 70s and well into the 80s, he strutted across the stadiums of the world wearing an increasingly bizarre series of onstage costumes. Maybe that’s the point, they were different, daring and bit camp – just like Mick. Sadly like most of the Stones 80s output they looked pretty crap too.

So please don’t get me wrong I really love the Stones and always will, but I still take great pleasure in presenting you with Mick Jagger’s top ten crimes against fashion. Enjoy. I only wish that we could have shared this one with you too.

And if you want to read about some under rated Stones albums go here. Pics copyright PA

Chessboard trousers

Picture 4 of 11
Picture 4 of 11

Also from the 70s. The trousers are ideal if Keef and Ronnie kick off on a long solo as Mick could team up with Bill for a quick game of chess.


The five most under-rated Rolling Stones albums – Some Girls, Satanic Majesties and more

By Stefano on July 13th, 2012

So The Stones are 50 this week. I must admit it always makes me chuckle when people say that The Stones were great at singles and rubbish at albums. Let’s be honest, The Beatles wiped the floor with them on both accounts. Besides there are some great Stones albums. I am sure you know all about Exile on Main Street, Aftermath and Sticky Fingers. But IMO there are a few more that need re-discovering.

1 Their Satanic Majesties Request – I really don’t understand why some Stones fans are still sniffy about this album. It more experimental, more ambitious and more entertaining than anything else they recorded in the 60s. So what if it wasn’t Sgt Pepper, pretty much everything recorded in the last 60 years is in the shadow of that masterpiece. It is a wonderful record with some very strong tunes, imaginative arrangements and some suitably silly interludes.

For Brit Psych, notoriously associated with flowers, folky guitars and all manner of tweeness it is also pretty rowdy too. In fact not much recorded in 67 sounds as tough as Citadel – that riff is as dirty as anything Keef would lay down over the coming years

For me The Stones died a little when Brian left. They lost a bit of exoticism, a bit of edge and they also went a little too Transatlantic. Which is a real shame as maybe they might have gone on a totally different, and perhaps more adventurous, musical journey.

2 Some Girls – This is also absolutely phenomenal. It was as if the band cocked an ear to what was happening in the late 70s – new wave, disco, err country etc – and shrugged their shoulders and decided to record an album that absorbed those influences but was better than almost anything that the young pretenders were offering. I guess I really like the way they send themselves up too. There’s not a huge amount of humour on those early 70s albums, Some Girls is gag central. In Miss You it also contains arguably their last truly magnificent pop song.

3 Flowers – Ok, so not strictly a proper album, but a round up of their finest baroque pop. Ruby Tuesday, Lady Jane and the inexplicably unreleased (until then) Sittin’ On A Fence. One for Left Banke fans.

4 Beggars Banquet – For me an atypical late 60s, early 70s Stones album. The highlights are incredible – Sympathy, Street Fighting Man, No Expectations etc but there’s plenty of filler too.

5 Emotional Rescue – Some Girls pt2 aka Emotional Rescue, is also great, especially the Sham 69-esque Where The Boys Go and She’s So Cold. They started getting dull again after that.

Clothing, Entertainment, Heroes and Celebrities, Polls

Yay or Nay?: Ronnie Wood and Girlfriend Go Matching!

By Will Reid on October 27th, 2008


Click Image To Enlarge

Ever since Ronnie Wood ran off with his 18-year old mistress Ekaterina Ivanova, I have been keeping my eye on the new couple’s outfits. Throughout history, scandals have been defined by fashion; Princess Diana’s tiger-print swimsuit, Heather Mills’ patchwork suit, Monica Lewinsky’s ‘Blue Dress.’

It struck me that Ronnie and Ivanova were often wearing outfits with a similar theme. On the left, we can see that one week, they both indulged in tie-dye print and during this week, they wore on-trend plaid/tartan jackets.

What do you think of couples in matching outfits? Yay or Nay?

Take our poll after the jump!

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Clothing, Designer Spotlight, News

Lad Musician coming to Blackbird

By admin on July 4th, 2008

lad musician.jpgThis is big. Bigger than finding out Liz Jones didn’t like Glastonbury (Shock Horror! A woman who calls cats ‘fur babies’ doesn’t like a muddy festival). I’m typing this so hard, I’m about to break my 3 year old Toshiba laptop. Lad Musician. Are. Coming. To. Blackbird. Read that sentence one more time and take it all in. I know, I can’t believe it either.

This means you can finally stop putting the Lad Musician site through the google translator – especially as it tends to hand back sentences like “The LAD original material for this season’s T-shirt material is nice and soft textures”. Blackbird are starting to stock Lad Musicians AW 2008/9 collection and it will show up in their online store from early August.

Heroes and Celebrities, Video

Keith Richards gives his top London tips for Louis Vuitton

By admin on April 30th, 2008

Louis Vuitton have made a nice little video with Keith Richards, who describes his favourite bits of London in his trademark 60-a-day voice. I like the way it’s quite loosely structured and informal, but I do think that when he says at the end “London…Yeah…Travelling.” he sounds like he’s lost the plot. That’s what a lifetime of hedonism’ll do to you…Don’t do it kids, just say no!


Designer Spotlight, T-shirts, Polos & Shirts

Lad Musician T-shirt – how far will you go for fashion?

By admin on April 29th, 2008

lad musician.jpgThere comes a point in every man’s life when he desires an item no one else has. An item that runs no risk of being worn by anyone else in the country. Would you go halfway across the world to obtain that item?

If you said yes then you’re in luck, because that’s the only way you’ll be able to get your hands on this Lad Musician T-shirt. If you said no, then say hello to a life of every third person wearing the same Debbie Harry Topman tee you just bought. So if you’re travelling to Japan anytime soon, you can pick up this tee for ¥9,450 (£45).

Heroes and Celebrities, News

Who’s the bigger style icon in the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards or Charlie Watt?

By admin on April 24th, 2008


Rolling Stones rocker Keith Richards may have recently fronted a major ad campaign for luxury label Louis Vuitton (and worn drainpipe jeans waaay before Kate Moss ever did), but he’s still pretty puzzled as to how he became the band’s major fashion icon.

Keef says bandmate Charlie Watts has always been “the most stylish member” of the group while he himself took to wearing his mam’s clothes…

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Entertainment, Heroes and Celebrities, News

Keith Richards for Louis Vuitton

By ShinyMedia on March 3rd, 2008

keith richards louis vuitton annie leibovitz.jpg

We heard the rumours way back in January and the pictures are here. Keith Richards has been snapped by Annie Liebovitz for Louis Vuitton’s latest ad campaign which will make an appearance in April.

Antoine Arnault, Vuitton’s head of communications said "The good thing about Keith is, he’s big just about everywhere. He speaks to the 20-year-old who’s into rock ‘n’ roll and the 65-year-olds who went to [a Rolling Stones] concert when they were 20." Keef picked himself a leather jacket from a Vuitton store the day before the shoot. Click on the thumbnail to see full image.

[Source: WWD]

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