Band on the Run


Stones in Exile DVD (Eagle Records)

Time passing creates a tremendous sense of reverence, but at the time, the exit of the Rolling Stones from Britain to the south of France wasn't seen as a sublime act of creative integrity, but one of supreme betrayal, the petulant flouncing of the newly spoilt rich of rock. It was also a move of extreme expediency, escaping the trappings of tremendous success, appalling mismanagement of their affairs, and a massive tax bill. They really were the original band on the run. Nellcote was Keith Richard's mansion, and after a fruitless search of empty theaters, recording studios, and halls, none of which proved suitable, it was decided to take root there to record a new album. The film is dizzying, at times confusing, a flickering shuffle of the past and the present. The forty-years-later faces blend with their younger selves, and a profound sense of a new pack of cards being mixed with the old, except in this case the new faces are the older ones, and the youthful ones have an air of ghostliness, suspended in monochrome. Yet their state of exile meant a strange consolidation of disparate strands, a chance to focus on everything that brought them to this point of departure and arrival. Curious and leisurely vibes seeped into the creative process, resulting in a labor of languid love entwined with bourbon, coke, and dope. As the darkness of decadence played out in perfect sunlight, a sinuous American vibe crept into the songs, a mixture of Gram Parsons' countrified melancholia, and a bluesy, black, sensual virility. As Autumn unfolded, the slow series of departures began, hastened by the casual robbery of many guitars and a saxophone. The band relocated to L.A. and began the monumental task of assembling a record from their plethora of songs. Jagger recalls that "Tumbling Dice" came about after a conversation with the housekeeper about gambling; the William Burroughs cut-up technique came in useful for others. The album initially met with critical scepticism; it seemed too slinky, too unexpected. But with the incredible success it achieved, down the years it has rightly become the bench mark, the touchstone, the album Primal Scream seemed destined to emulate but not better. It proved the subliminal transcendent confection, the real wages of sin and introspection, and although the film has a certain sense of sadness at a moment achieved that everyone knew would not be theirs again, strangely it reaches down the decades to beguile, and to make you shudder in admiration, awe, and envy. This documentary has already achieved success at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where Jagger introduced it as crowds queued outside the Palais Stephanie Hotel movie theater, blocking the street. Again time was playing tricks, catching up and catching out, and proving that if you've done it this well once, you own it forever.