“Some of my most outrageous nights– I can only believe actually happened because of corroborating evidence. No wonder I’m famous for partying! The ultimate party– if it’s any good– you can’t remember it.” –Keith Richards
Keith Richards & Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones on stage, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell
The Rolling Stones embarked on their 1972 American tour to support the release of Exile on Main Street— which in and of itself was a push into new territory for the band, both musically and commercially. What followed rewrote the game for The Stones and the music industry, and basically set the stage for a decade of big, balls-out tours that went from being simple promotional vehicles the pop culture events. Nothing like this had been done in Rock ‘n’ Roll prior and all subsequent tours would follow the ’72 tour blueprint for scale, attempted musicality, logistics, legal entanglements, drugs, women, hilarity, hangers-on, and general debauchery.
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on the STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell
In the summer of ’71, The Rolling Stones, seeking shelter from their UK tax woes, exiled to the South of France. Keith Richards set up house with Anita Pallenberg and their son Marlon in Villa Nellcôte— a 16 room waterfront mansion that once served as Gestapo headquarters for the Nazis during WWII. The infamy continued with it now best remembered among rock fans as the grand flop-house where Exile On Main Street was recorded.
French photographer Dominique Tarle chronicled perhaps the most notorious house party ever, and had full access to goings-on over a period of six crazy months. He later recounted to the New York Times– ”They built a studio in the basement of Keith’s house because the band knew it would be easiest for Keith,” says Dominique Tarlé, who had an all-access pass inside the villa for six months. “Engineers and technicians slept over, illegal power lines from the French railway system juiced their instruments, and when the temperature hit 100, they rehearsed with their pants off. A carnival of characters paraded through– Terry Southern, Gram Parsons, John Lennon, even a tribal band from Bengal… dope dealers from Marseille; petty thieves, who stole most of the drugs and half the furniture; and hangers-on, all of them there to witness what was happening.”
Keith Richards & Gram Parsons