NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Rolling Stones are revisiting their creative heights by releasing one of their greatest albums with 10 extra tracks, and reminiscing about their chaotic days in a grainy new documentary.
The British rockers have remastered “Exile on Main Street,” a 1972 double album that boasts such concert favorites as “Tumbling Dice” and “Rocks Off.” It comes out on Tuesday on the United States, and a day earlier everywhere else.
The new documentary, “Stones in Exile,” released on June 22, offers snapshots and voice-overs of current and former band members and friends from the time when the band left Britain and its crippling income taxes for France, and recorded in the dank basement of Richards’ French villa.
The period was rich with old material that was easily salvaged and turned into new songs, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards told Reuters in New York this week.
“We forgot about them,” Richards said, laughing about why the band had waited so long to dig up the material. “And answer B is when we did finally get them, we said, ‘We should finish them off,’... without touching the intrinsic sound of the tracks.”
The bonus new songs that keep the rhythmic mix of rock, blues, soul, gospel and country sounds the album was famed for include “Following the River,” “Dancing in the Light” and “Plundered My Soul,” — a song Rolling Stone magazine recently reviewed as “the real deal.”
Jagger explained the new songs had been in raw form.
“Most of them didn’t have any vocals, any top line melodies,” he said. “So I just put those tracks through the process that the old ones were put through.”
Richards said: “You don’t really have to change a thing in ‘Exile’, it’s already there,” he said. “It’s nice to find a song you have written about 40 years ago and totally forgotten about.”
The album will be available in three configurations: the original 18-track release; an edition with the bonus tracks; and a package that also includes a vinyl version, a 30-minute documentary DVD and a book.
“Stones in Exile” is more than an hour long, using old-black and-white footage and photographs from French music photographer Dominique Tarle, whose visit to the villa one afternoon turned into a 6 month stay.
He and others including Richards’ old girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, former bassist Bill Wyman and producer Marshall Chess recall the days where they drank whiskey and recorded in the basement with a mobile recording truck parked outside and parties raging above.
Richards and Jagger, both 66, downplayed legendary tales of drugs, sex and setting the house on fire.
“The first thing on your mind was the songs and the music, everything else was like gravy,” said Richards, who was also consumed at the time with a heroin addiction. He added that the south of France was “awash” with drugs at the time.
“Writing songs in the afternoon, recording them in the evening , you had no time for debauchery, even me,” he joked. “You had your breakfast, you had your dope.”
Richards did recall some memorable moments including after an entire night of recording, “whoever was left standing” would often jump in his speedboat and “zoom” past Monte Carlo and “go to Italy for breakfast, just for the fun of it... I don’t know how we didn’t sink.”
Reports that the villa was once used by the Gestapo was “garbage,” said Jagger.
In the end, Jagger said, he was relieved to move onto Los Angeles. “After a while it got a bit heavy-going,” he said.
Memories aside, are they worried about tarnishing the reputation of what has been remembered as one of their most creative triumphs?
“No, I think it’s up to people make up their mind what they think,” Jagger said. “And also you make these decisions very quickly as well, they may not always be the right decisions.”
Such is their confidence in the new material that Jagger said a tour based solely on the reissued album was possible. Richards said that while a tour this year was doubtful, next year was a real possibility for the band.
“I have a feeling that next year they won’t be able to stop scratching, because the itch comes on you, you’ve got to do it,” he said.
Additional reporting by Gemma Haines, editing by Jill Serjeant