The Rolling Stones Mobile 

  Exile on Main Street





"I just didn't think about (taxes). And no manager I ever had thought about it, even though they said they were going to make sure my taxes were paid. So, after working for seven years, I discovered nothing had been paid and I owed a fortune... "  Mick Jagger.


Over a period of weeks during the spring of 1971, The Rolling Stones entourage of band, family, employees, friends and hangers on gradually moved out of England and set up camp in the south of France.  Having discovered that their finances were in disarray and to avoid the 93% tax rate set for high earners by the   government, the band had become reluctant tax exiles They had to be out of the country early April, the beginning of the new tax year to avoid being hit with a massive tax bill. Despite their earnings over the previous years, they found themselves in a position of being broke.


With suitable accommodation sorted for the various members of the band and crew they had less success with the French studio scene. The south of France offered very little in the way of top facilities, actually it offered very little in the way of any facilities. It was decided to use the Mobile and find a venue to produce a similar  set up to the one at Starsgrove, which although not built as a studio had worked well. Country manor houses in England, with their vast wooden clad rooms, high ceilings and hall ways filled with various odd shaped artifacts actually did produce reasonable acoustics and pleasant working environments.


On June 3 1971, engineer Andy Johns and Ian Stewart set out from England on the four day drive to the French Riviera in the mobile.



It was eventually decided to build the makeshift studio in the Basement of Nellecote, in Villefrance -Sur-Mer, the house that had been found for Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg.


 This was no Starsgrove or Headly Grange. Although equally as beautiful in design and surroundings, these houses were designed to keep the heat out, with sparse plastered walls and  stone floors.  The available space was in the cavernous basement area, a space of uncontrolled temperature and acoustics. To try and make it more controlled, Ian Stewart lined the walls and ceiling with the heaviest carpet he could find locally, probably the first thing in the 'not to do' list in any home studio acoustics articles. It was not a great location to record but the one plus factor was that Keith would always be on hand to record. Or so the theory went!


The recording of the album that would eventually be titled, 'Exile on Main Street' has been well documented and can be best summed up by saying that Keith Richards got back into Heroin at this point. The effect of this brought about a chaos not only to the recording, but on the whole entourage who enjoyed the hospitality of the Stones throughout the Summer and Autumn of 1971, a time that could be described as one long hedonistic party or alternatively, as Robert Greenfield entitled his 2006 book, 'A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones'


"I remember it was like trying to make a record in the Führerbunker. It was that sort of feeling you know - it was very Germanic down there for some reason. Swastikas on the staircase. And also, like all basements, it had never been used for anything.   Keith Richards, 2010


 "I remember it was like trying to make a record in the Führerbunker. It was that sort of feeling you know - it was very Germanic down there for some reason. Swastikas on the staircase. And also, like all basements, it had never been used for anything. 


" So basically it was a dirt floor and some concrete. It somebody got lost, there'd be a little trail of dust in the darkness... It was a labyrinth, in actual fact. It was a concrete labyrinth, subdivided here and there, and we would go around testing to see which one had the best echo or was the best sound for a particular instrument. That sort of thing. But it was also sort of like the netherworld.

 Upstairs it was fantastic. Like Versailles. The south of France in the summer - la, la, la. Beautiful. Who could ask for anything more? But down there, it was another thing. It was Dante's Inferno... I was living on top of the factory. It saved the trips to the parties - you just went upstairs! You didn't have to worry about going from the studio and saying, Where are we going to hang now? You went upstairs and there it was - a great French villa, people are passing by, and everybody's jolly. It's a breath of fresh air, to go up and have a drink. It was a wird feeling going up from the basement and into this very beautiful sort of villa. It was a piece of work, that place."     - Keith Richards, 2010



Once The Stones had departed France for America, the mobile was packed up and headed over the Swiss border for a trip that would name it in  rock history ...Next



Rolling Stones Mobile : Part 1

Rolling Stones Mobile : Part 2  - At Headley Grange with Led Zeppelin

Rolling Stones Mobile : Part 4
Rolling Stones Mobile : Part 5






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