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Friday, May 12, 2017

It Was 40 Years Ago Today: Recording 'Exile on Main Street'


"You don't get a take till Keith starts looking at Charlie and moving nearer to him, and then Bill gets up out of his chair and stands up. Then it transforms into the Rolling Stones," says Andy Johns, the engineer who recorded much of the Stones' Exile on Main Street almost four decades ago. 

"The rest of the time, it's just rubbish. But if Bill gets out of his chair, and Keith's looking at Charlie, you know you're getting pretty close. And it goes from 'What the hell is this?' to 'Fucking hell!' It's an off-planet experience." 

Though Johns' résumé as engineer and producer includes more than 200 projects, with Number One albums stretching all the way from Led Zeppelin IV to Godsmack's IV, he has never quite escaped that sweltering basement in the South of France, with Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts — still young and lithe, shirtless and sweating — grinding out limping, out-of-tune versions of songs in progress over and over and over again, until the Rolling Stones suddenly materialized. 

Then again, the Stones have never quite escaped it either.

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