The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger: Old 'Exile,' New Lyrics For the re-release of Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones went to the archive and searched through a trove of old tracks and outtakes. Some of the songs didn't even have lyrics, which allowed Mick Jagger to fashion new songs out of 40-year-old tunes.

Mick Jagger: Old 'Exile,' New Lyrics

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


We've been talking to The Rolling Stones about the reissue, today, of one of their classic albums, "Exile on Main Street." The exile began in 1971 when the band owed more taxes than it could pay in England, so they picked up and left the country.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Of course, it was The Rolling Stones, and that meant quite a luxurious exile, in a sprawling mansion in the south of France where much of the album was recorded down in a humid basement. I asked Mick Jagger about the goings on upstairs.

Part of the legend of the time spent in France...

Mr. MICK JAGGER (Singer, The Rolling Stones): Mm-hmm.

MONTAGNE: was that there was constant partying going on, a lot of decadence and, you know...

Mr. JAGGER: Decadent, degenerate behavior all around.


Mr. JAGGER: But the basement, people didnt used to come to the basement much. I don't think people found the basement very interesting. It was rather damp and not very pleasant. And it wasn't a kind of peanut gallery kind of studio - there was nowhere to see from. There wasn't a control room with nice glass and lots of soft drinks. And if people came down, they'd stay a couple minutes and go, euh, when are we leaving.

MONTAGNE: Mick Jagger has been looking and listening back to the songs recorded during that chaotic summer. For the re-release of "Exile on Main Street," The Rolling Stones went to the archives and searched through a trove of old tracks and outtakes. Some didn't even have lyrics, which allowed Mick Jagger basically to fashion new songs out of 40-year-old tunes, like this one, "Plundered My Soul," which is one of 10 bonus tracks.

(Soundbite of song "Plundered My Soul")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) Can you believe it? I won no medals in this love game...

Mr. JAGGER: When I started looking at this unreleased material, like the track "Plundered My Soul," you know, I was quite impressed by how together the band was on something that was actually an outtake. 'Cause on outtakes, quite often the thing about the stuff you haven't used, it's very unfinished, just a bit slovenly. So, though it was relatively undisciplined bunch of sessions, when we actually got into the sessions, I think the playing was quite disciplined.

(Soundbite of song "Plundered My Soul")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I thought you needed my loving but it's my heart that you stole. I thought you wanted my body but you plundered my soul.

MONTAGNE: In reworking this old material, my understanding was that you had to completely write new lyrics for "Following the River."

(Soundbite of song "Following the River")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) You'll probably forget me and Ill fade back in the fog...

MONTAGNE: The lyrics are quite reflective

Mr. JAGGER: Mm-hmm.

MONTAGNE: And, you know, you might not accept these adjectives but let me give them to you. A little, you know, wistful...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Even elegiac.

Mr. JAGGER: It's what they call, in the business, a kiss-off song.

MONTAGNE: Yeah, but it's so beautiful. I would love to be kissed-off like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JAGGER: Yes, it's a regretful good-bye. You know, it's not a nasty good-bye. It's saying goodbye, knowing you're going to miss her, you know.

(Soundbite of song "Following the River")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) I've been reaching for you lover. I've been calling out your name, calling out your name. Ill be following that river till it joins hands with the sea...

MONTAGNE: But you certainly have embodied on any number of classic songs the very non-regretful good-bye.

Mr. JAGGER: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: The very, you know, yesterday's papers sort of good-bye.

Mr. JAGGER: No, that's very kind of - thats very cut and dried, teenaged stuff.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. But Im wondering if this is a sort of bundle of emotions that, in these lyrics, or even in the way you sang the song, that you would have, or even could have, tapped back in 1971. Or does this...

Mr. JAGGER: Whether that being written...

MONTAGNE: Is this the sum of 40 more years?

Mr. JAGGER: Well, yeah. Obviously yes is the answer. That I was obviously writing from today's - I can only write from today. However, having said that, it's not that much different in sort of tonal thing from "Angie" in a way, which is another kiss-off song, actually. And I actually, you know, until we started talking about this just now, I never even thought of comparing them. But lyrically, I mean, I dont think musically it's anything like it, but I suppose a bit like it.

MONTAGNE: You know, just generally speaking, you know, this is called "Exile on Main Street," and there were tax issues there that you all were openly trying to get away from. But did you feel you were in exile in a real sense?

Mr. JAGGER: I think so. Yeah, because it was a bit of a wrench to give up our home lives in England. Though we didn't - at the time, it was all a bit of a laugh, you know, the first few months. But I think after a while, you realize that you, from a sort of comfortable English life, you'd moved into another kind of life.

I mean, musicians of every stripe tend to be cosmopolitan kind of people. Perhaps the musicians were almost the first cosmopolitan people. Even in the 18th century, they would move, you know, where the patronage was and so on. And so, in that way, it wasn't such a wrench as it might be for other people.

MONTAGNE: Although, as you say, in the liner notes, Mick Taylor, the guitarist who was...

Mr. JAGGER: Yeah. Yeah.

MONTAGNE: ...with you on this album, said something really funny. He said, you know: I'm not having any problem with the language here, because I don't speak French. Hmm.

Mr. JAGGER: And then Bill Wyman says in the documentary, you know, he - you know, you're in the sort of part of France where the food is - you know, people like the food, they even go there especially to eat it. And then he's complaining that you can't get the right kind of tea bags.

MONTAGNE: He sounded sad, too. He really...

Mr. JAGGER: So sad. Still after 40 years, he was still sad that he couldnt get the right kind of tea bags and the right kind of custard or something.

(Soundbite of song "Good Time Women")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) Yeah, you got me waiting on a big-boat line. Yes, it's down a bumpy road. I said now...

MONTAGNE: In working on the reissue of "Exile on Main Street," you basically spent half a year digging around in your own creative life from 40 years ago. In the liner notes, you say this album includes things you probably have second thoughts about putting out now, but you're glad you did. There's lots of stuff you really can't change, but would you have if you could have this time around?

Mr. JAGGER: Would I like to change the "Exile on Main Street," if I could?


Mr. JAGGER: I easily could have.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JAGGER: This is a good opportunity. No, I just wanted to add to it. I was asked by the record company, if there was anything else of interest. So I was trying to find things that I thought stood up, and I think we managed to find things that did hold up; things that gave it extra depth and I am quite pleased with them.

(Soundbite of song, "Good Time Women")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) Yeah, you got me waiting on a big-boat line. Yeah, you're going to feel all right...

MONTAGNE: Mick Jagger, thank you very much.

Mr. JAGGER: Thanks, Renee.

MONTAGNE: We also talked with Keith Richards about The Rolling Stones classic "Exile on Main Street." Hear that conversation along with producer Don Was at

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.


And Im Lynn Neary.

(Soundbite of song "Good Time Women")

Mr. JAGGER: (Singing) A red light women like to party. And red light women sure like to party. And red light woman, she's going to party all night...

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.