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Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones

3.33  ·  Rating Details  ·  645 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
Recorded during the blazing summer of 1971 at Villa Nellcote, Keith Richards’ seaside mansion in the south of France, Exile on Main St. has been hailed as one of the Rolling Stones’ best albums-and one of the greatest rock records of all time. Yet its improbable creation was difficult, torturous...and at times nothing short of dangerous.In self-imposed exile, the Stones-al ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 9th 2006 by Da Capo Press (first published September 19th 2006)
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Best Non Fiction About Music
178th out of 875 books — 794 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,047)
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Tom Choi
Feb 08, 2011 Tom Choi rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: sixth graders
Utterly fatuous... is it not possible to give zero stars? Greenfield's book on the Stones and the making of the great "Exile on Main St."is littered with hearsay, clichés, and pretentious literary allusions in occasionally quoting from the likes of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde--the writer actually structures this story as a tragedy in Three Acts... didn't Mr. Greenfield know that Shakespeare wrote tragedies in Five Acts?. Greenfield revels in retelling what we already know: in deep financial cris ...more
Will I ever gain back the 48 or so hours it took me to read Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield? I'm afraid the answer to that would be a resounding no. However, by typing this review for the world to see, I can prevent others from wasting their time on a grocery store tabloid that was 254 pages too long.

When I bought this book, I was really excited. I had read the back and assumed it would be about the actual making of Exile on Main Street-- not
Sep 03, 2013 Tamara rated it did not like it
I am obsessed with "Exile on Main Street". It's one of my all time, desert island favorites albums. And though i am fascinated by the subject, this book is written in such a stilted, pretentious way as to be unreadable. Why would you constantly refer to Mick Jagger as "Michael Phillip Jagger"? Why must you repeatedly make hackneyed asides to the reader- like "on to the action!" And "we shall see in due time"? It reads like a gossipy old lady's account of something she doesn't quite understand. I ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Aug 30, 2009 Patrick O'Neil rated it really liked it
Excess. It's all about excess, and waste, and craziness. A friend of mine summed it up saying he had doubts whether he wanted to read Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones. "Who wants to read about a bunch a rich guys doing tons of drugs in the south of France?" he said. But then we both agreed it was the Rolling Stones. It was going to be interesting. Keith Richards is one of my heroes. Not like a role model hero. More like, "wow, Keith's still alive."

Robert Greenfield wr
Jared Busch
May 18, 2008 Jared Busch rated it it was ok
Once in a while you start reading a book and you get the feeling it's garbage, and then you look at some Amazon reviews and you find out that's the general consensus, and then you're pissed that you even bothered reading 100 pages of it.
I'm glad someone else on there noticed that after spending a half page trashing the authors of two other Stones books, on the NEXT page Greenfield says that "Jumping Jack Flash" is on the Sticky Fingers album, which it is not. And I don't think that's being nit-
Feb 12, 2008 Alex rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those afflicted with the ventilator blues, chris ryan, jenn romolini
the best book about the rolling stones trying to make "exile on main street" in the villa nellcote, keith richards' tax-exile mansion in the south of france, is still dominique tarle's photo collection "exile," because it's very beautiful, and very heavy, and costs like $2,000, and is in general the type of object the circa-1974 rolling stones would have blithely purchased, then left lying around the villa where some unstable member of their ragged company-- a guy named spanish tony sweating out ...more
Paul Secor
Sep 27, 2012 Paul Secor rated it did not like it
Over the years, I've kept only two of the Stones recordings I've bought. Exile on Main Street is one of those two. I picked up this book at my local library thinking that I'd get some insights into the music or some information on the making of the music.
Instead, I got a book filled with b.s.: hearsay and gossip - "No one can say for certain; conjecture - "In all likelihood"; and unattributed quotes - "A Stones insider who was there clearly remembers".
If Goodreads allowed negative stars to be gi
Wray Finks
Jun 01, 2015 Wray Finks rated it it was ok
I was going to give this book three stars because it provided about what I expected when I bought it. This, of course, was sordid details about the goings on in France during the making of the album. A few others critiqued the book because it didn't have enough details about the making of the album itself or the recording process, etc. What did they want? Would "..and then Keith hit an A-minor chord and the song came together..." make for a better book? Not in my opinion. The author's style is p ...more
Jim Zubricky
Jan 20, 2014 Jim Zubricky rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To begin with, "Exile on Main Street" is one of my favorite albums of all time. I devoured Keith Richards' autobiography, and i was expecting to find out more about how this album was recorded, the parties, the drama, etc. Needless to say, I had very high hopes for this book.

The best way I can describe reading this book is with an anecdote. In a scene from the film "Amazon Women on the Moon," a bunch of comedians get together to roast a guy named Harvey at his own funeral. Henny Youngman, one o
Oct 16, 2007 Tosh rated it really liked it
A fun bathtub book regarding the Rolling Stones recording their so-called masterpiece 'Exile On Mainstreet." Lots of gossip with hysterical Keith stories - but I said 'so-called' because I really don't like the album. But on the other hand the stories are great.

Apr 15, 2015 Sharry rated it really liked it
Exile on Main Street had been sitting on my shelf for quite a while. Much earlier I had read Up and Down with the Rolling Stones by Tony Sanchez, and more recently A Day in the Life, also by Robert Greenfield. All three books focus on the early 70s period with the Stones and all three books are highly readable in their own right, although Robert Greenfield notes more than once in Exile on Main Street that Tony Sanchez's remembrances are to be taken with a grain of salt. (The Stones, most notably ...more
Tyler Overbey
Oct 10, 2015 Tyler Overbey rated it really liked it
Exile On Main Street: A Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield is a detailed novel on the Rolling Stones centered around their time spent in tax exile in the south of France recording their album “Exile On Main Street” over the course of the summer of 1972. The novel covers everything from who the Stones met, worked with, and came across along that summer at Keith Richard’s estate in the south of France, as well as dated and detailed events as to how the recording of the alb ...more
Jack Gattanella
Mar 17, 2014 Jack Gattanella rated it really liked it
read this years ago, enjoyed it quite a bit, especially in showcasing the respect but sometimes heavy friction between Mick and Keith, and stories from the recording process. I didn't get the vibe other people seem to have on the book here, it gives enough stories of both recording and what was a lot of time not recording at Nellcote, because ultimately they ended up 're recording several tracks layer in LA anyway (!) But the legend lives on and just this sliver of the Stones notorious history w ...more
Drew Geraci
Jan 29, 2016 Drew Geraci rated it it was amazing
Very very unsettling read. While making the celebrated album of the same name, Exile on Main Street is anything but glamorous as one would expect from a beloved, enduring rock band of global fame. Drugs and paranoia fueled the making of the album and the recounting was edgy, under-the-fingernails painful to read at times. Not from poor writing but from discomfort. Examining the human condition at a low ebb. Somehow the Stones had the genius to pull through where most bands would have broken up. ...more
Tom Jacobsen
Mar 10, 2008 Tom Jacobsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Makes you question how Keith Richards is still alive...
May 23, 2010 Mk100 rated it it was ok
This book provided an interesting diversion for several hours, nothing more. There is virtually nothing in the book about the writing of the material on Exile and the recording process itself, other than well-known material about how awful it was to record in the basement at Nellcote, Keith Richards' tax exile spectacular rental. What the book really is about is the stunning decadence and recklessness of Keith and Anita, and the circle of lost souls they surrounded themselves with over a period ...more
May 28, 2010 Dave rated it really liked it
With all of the talk around the re-release of "Exile on Main St.", I figured it was time that I read this book that had been sitting on my shelf. The chorus for "Loving Cup" has been playing in my head on a loop for the last few days, so it made a lot of sense to try to decipher what really happened that year in the south of France that the Rolling Stones seemed to be recording this album. I say "seemed" because this book isn't too much about the recording and it doesn't go much into how the alb ...more
Jun 28, 2011 Robert rated it did not like it
Wow, was that a complete waste of time. This book was recommended to me and I have to start taking book recommendations more seriously. I had just met a friend of a friend one night in a bar and as those conversations are apt to do (at least when I am involved) it eventually moved on to music. “Loving Cup”, a classic track off the Rolling Stones’ classic album, Exile on Main Street, had just come on in the background and it launched a full discussion of the album and its place in the Stones’ can ...more
Dean Moberly
Dec 27, 2007 Dean Moberly rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
One of those books for drug-porn tourists. Why must rock and roll get such shoddy treatment in print? Granted, the topic itself isn't one that lends iteslf easily to nobility, but that's no excuse to treat the subject like teen-mag tripe. Even dressed up like a cautionary trip into the darkside, Greenfield comes off like a tour guide through a kind of heaviness he himself can't understand. When nearly every chapter begins with a preface that nobody can really tell what is the truth or not in thi ...more
Al Young
Oct 06, 2013 Al Young rated it it was ok
I was looking for some light reading, so I picked up Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones

Well, it doesn't get much lighter than that.

It has the two hallmarks of a bad music book. 1) It reads like it was written by someone who had read other better books on the subject and 2) literary pretensions galore (as if the title and opening quote doesn't make it obvious, Greenfield makes sure its spelled out that Mick N Keef are the Rimbaud and Verlaine of our time.

Not to say, this
Nov 13, 2009 Spiros rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone wanting a blow by blow account of Keith's drug use
Greenfield's description, apparently culled from many named sources and unnamed "band insiders", of the sordid mayhem and fractured personal dynamics that characterized the Stones' exile in the French Riviera in 1971, which resulted in multiple drug addictions, a few deaths, and what I choose to regard as the greatest artifact in the history of Rock: in which Greenfield seems more concerned with setting the record straight from such previous accounts as "Spanish" Tony Sanchez's self serving and ...more
Wendi Baker
Feb 11, 2013 Wendi Baker rated it liked it
I liked this rendering of the notoriety surrounding the making of the Rolling Stones 'Exile on Main Street' but it offered up nothing new or insightful. It's still a guilty pleasure of a read...especially if the decadence and excess of early 70's rock and roll by those whom are the living personification of such decadence are what you're. Fun read. I will say to ignore the author's labels of 'hero' and 'anti-hero' and his injections of other labels that seem to be thrown into his tale only to cr ...more
Jun 08, 2015 Joel rated it did not like it
Man, this book is bad. I expect better from Greenfield, but it's like he didn't even want to write this. It is primarily secondary sources, and he spends much of the book nitpicking those. If he would have spent some of that energy fixing his own mistakes the book might have been worth something.
For example, while harping on one person's credibility he goes on to list "Jumping Jack Flash" as being off of Sticky Fingers. Then later in the book, he says it again. JJF predates SF by three years. I
Dan Radman
Feb 06, 2008 Dan Radman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
I am not a big fan of this book. The Author is way to concerned w/ appearing to have the "inside scoop", so he ends up telling three people's accounts of different stories, and then tells you why their idiots, and he knows the truth.

Also, he tries to tell you what you should think about each character. In the open he calls Kieth the "Hero/anti-hero" of our story, and calls Mick the villian. I read it much the opposite, and I wish he didn't keep trying to force those archetypes down my throat.

I t
Michael Huntone
Aug 13, 2008 Michael Huntone rated it did not like it
I got about 150 pages into this book and gave up. Exile on Main Street is one of favorite albums and I was really hoping for some real insights into the bands' influences at the time, and in general, the process they went through to create such a major record. Instead I got a story told in present tense (huh?) and every five pages was told, "and this is when things really got crazy." . . . Except they never did get crazy. Amateur at best, this book could probably be best described as a complete ...more
Sep 08, 2009 Brad rated it liked it
This book delves deep into the making of Exile on Main Street. Keith is the drug addled musical genius that Mick has to tolerate for the sake of the music. Up until this album Keith and Mick had pretty much relied on Mick Taylor for the musical genius part, and the pressure is obviously too much for him to bare. So he copes by slamming needles, driving drunk after people with guns, and sleeping with everything that moves, all in the beautiful setting of the French Riviera. Great album, good book ...more
Feb 23, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: enjoyed
Started up this Stonesaholic.
Bill Sweet
This book was strangely written, poorly edited, and reportedly wildly historically inaccurate, and I had a hard time putting it down. Not really a good record of the recording of the album, and it veers out of control as the author apparently loses interest and/or quotable sources. I didn't mind, as I was more interested in the decadence, drug-taking, and bed-hopping anyway. I never really was a Stones fan, but this book got me interested in listening to the album at least.
Jul 01, 2008 Jeffery rated it liked it
i have to say I was really looking forward to this book and though it was a quick and interesting read, I have to say I was wanting more of a story of the album and less about the rumored extracurricular activities that went on around the recording. Plus -- a lot of these stories aren't told by the principles, they're second-hand stories given by the hangers on around the band at the time. Overall an interesting book, but quite what I hoped for.
Tomato Nation
Jan 01, 2015 Tomato Nation rated it it was ok
Dull, superfluous, overly pleased with itself. And stop calling Mick "Michael Philip Jagger."
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