This is the story of how a bunch of kids who appreciated the Beatles, the Stones, and the Stooges, but came of age after they left the scene. These kiThis is the story of how a bunch of kids who appreciated the Beatles, the Stones, and the Stooges, but came of age after they left the scene. These kids became alienated with new mainstream bands like Aerosmith, the Eagles, and Genesis but then the Ramones put out a record and these kids found solace and a sense of identity in the music of the Clash, Television, and Talking Heads. They took these new ideas and formed great bands like the Minutemen, the Replacements, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, the Meat Puppets, Husker Dü. These bands would in turn inspire younger bands like Pavement, Sleater-Kinney, Superchunk, and Neutral Milk Hotel who would dominate college radio for much of the '90s. They also inspired this kinda white-trashy kid from Aberdeen, WA who borrowed their ideas and mixed it with a dose of late '70s cock-rock and an instinctive knack for pop song-craft and eventually put together an album that presented the previous decade's underground ideas in an accessible but not too dumbed-down manner, sold a bajillion copies, and made it briefly appear that the underground could make the mainstream adopt to their culture. 1964 -> 1977 -> 1991. Of course that kid from Aberdeen decided it was better to burn out three years later, and his main musical legacy appears to be with bands that never grasped the underground structure underlying those songs, and thought they could get by with growling vocals over power riffs. The legacy of punk's first "break" in 1977 dominated a significant facet of the musical culture for the next two decades and the aftershocks are still being felt. The legacy of 1991 were some of the worst rock bands of all time - Nickleback, 3 Doors Down, Limp Bizcuit.
Once you're gone you can never go back. Now even bad traditional rock music is almost completely absent from the Top 40 scene. Even on the indie scene, whatever that means, traditional guitars and percussion rock seems to play an increasing smaller, less-relevant and fragmented part. The Beatles -> Big Star -> The Replacements -> Pixies - > Nirvana -> Creed -> crickets and I'm not talking about Buddy Holley. So it goes. We'll always have Let It Be though (both of 'em). Same goes with Daydream Nation. And Double Nickels on the Dime, Zen Arcade, Signals, Calls and Marches, Repeater, You're Living All Over Me, Songs About Fucking, and quite a few others. Azerrad's book enhanced my appreciation for quite a few of these. It gave me an excuse to listen to others of them again, which is a service in itself. It didn't get me to start liking Black Flag, but it made me glad they existed.
Who knows? Maybe this very night there's some perpetually pissed off and sex-deprived teenaged kid living in the middle of nowhere who's about to stumble onto "I Wanna Be Your Dog" on Spotify for the first time, launching an inevitable chain of events leading to the next new thing. The king's long gone, but he's still not forgotten. Hey, hey, my, my......more
Exile on Main St. might not be the greatest album of all time*, but it is, without a doubt the greatest rock 'n' roll album of all time. Note that IExile on Main St. might not be the greatest album of all time*, but it is, without a doubt the greatest rock 'n' roll album of all time. Note that I don't include any qualifier on the preceding sentence limiting it to my opinion. That's because it's an incontrovertible fact. Exile is the Great American Record**, the inevitable culmination of Berry, Charles, Richard, Lewis, ect. ect. Tom Waits put it best when he said that the album was "a tree of life...the watering hole."
I've read about ten of these 33 1/3 books and generally they're quick and entertaining reads that enhances enjoyment of records. The volume on Exile is no exception. Bill Janovitz, of the band Buffalo Tom, isn't a writer, and this both helps and hurts the book. So much of the making of the album is enshrined in legend to aficionados. Exile is one of those albums, perhaps sterling example, where the recording process is almost inseparable from the album itself. The whole, "hey let's take the band and our closest friends, move to a house, do a lot of drugs, and make some incredible music," has been often imitated but never duplicated. When Janovitz covers this it often sounds book reporty.
Where Janovitz really shines is when he starts examining the record song-by-song. I like to read these books while listening to the album, and Janovitz gives an excellent "listening tour" to Exile. He gives you the details of the recordings, who subbed in for Charlie on this track, which parts were overdubbed in L.A., which tracks Gram Parsons allegedly sung harmonies on, ect. But he's studio experience helps you notice things you might have missed after dozens of close listenings. For instance, Janowitz directing me towards Jimmy Miller's piano part on "Ventilator Blues" has forever changed the track for me. Also, I never noticed that Mick drops the C bomb in "Rocks Off."
It's hard to separate the album and the book in determining a rating. In truth the book, using the goodreads star system, is a three star book, but it makes a six star album a seven star one, so it gets a bonus star.
* But then again, it might be.
** Possible disputants: Highway 61, The Basement Tapes,Songs in the Key of Life? Any ideas?