Villa NellcÃ´te in the south of France was the exotic location where the Rolling Stones recorded Exile On Main Street.
Commissioned in 1854 by a businessman named Eugene Thomas, in 1971 Villa NellcÃ´te, in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the CÃ´te D’Azur was the temporary residence of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, his partner Anita Pallenberg and their son, Marlon. Upstairs, a beautiful entourage socialised, often illicitly. In NellcÃ´te’s many-roomed basement, The Rolling StonesÂ recorded material for what became their most storied album.
“It’s got a raw sound quality, and the reason for that is that the basement was very dingy and very damp,” says Mick Taylor, Stones lead guitarist for the five years between 1969 and 1974. “The roof leaked and there were power failures. We had to deal with all that, and go with the flow.”
The flow to which Taylor refers was the fragrant drifting in and out of some of the era’s most interesting characters. Musicians like Bobby Keys, the sax player who taught Keith Richards the pleasures of throwing furniture out of windows. Drug dealers like Tommy Weber, who arrived with his children, and a plentiful supply of cocaine. Glamorous friends like Stash Klossowski, son of the painter Balthus. There were record execs, family members, groupies, wasters and journalists.
For all the relaxed atmosphere at NellcÃ´te, it was, however, pragmatic business practice that had taken the Stones to the south of France. With the disaster of the 1969 Altamont free concert behind them, the band had spent the previous 18 months putting their affairs in order.
“It was an impressive house,” remembers Andy Johns, who engineered and mixed Exile. “Somewhat baroque. The heating vents on the floor were gold swastikas. Keith told me that it had been a Gestapo headquarters in the war. But he told me, ‘It’s OK. We’re here now.’
While the band continued their intermittent recording, the days at NellcÃ´te passed in a slow, dazed enchantment. To pass the time, Andy Johns and horn player Jim Price set up a casino in their own villa. A guy lived on the front lawn, in a tepee. “There wasn’t really any pattern, that wasn’t the way they rolled,” says Gretchen Carpenter. “If the kids wouldn’t sleep, we’d take them out in a speedboat ride to Monte Carlo. We’d have cocktails, and the kids would fall asleep on the way. It was the most perfect summer, but everything seemed to go wrong after that.”
Today, the most famous house in Villfranche-sur-Mer remains cloaked in mystery. While making the documentary Stones In Exile, director Stephen Kijak asked to visit NellcÃ´te, but the current owners declined to let their property be filmed. In a way, it’s a fitting end to this chapter in the Exile On Main St story. Everyone has their own take on what one might be going on inside. The truth, though, is behind closed doors.
source: The Guardian
Post by Coco Pastis