By the spring of 1971 the Rolling Stones owed more in taxes than they could pay and the band left the UK before the government could seize their assets. Mick Jagger settled in Paris, and Keith Richards rented a villa, Nellcôte, in Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice. The other members of the band also setttled in the south of France. Eventually Keith's basement at Nellcôte became a makeshift studio to record, using the band's mobile recording truck.
In his autobiography, Life, Keith Richards recalls what happened: "We looked at studios in Cannes and elsewhere, reckoned up how much money the French were going to suck out of us. Nellcôte had a large basement and we had our own mobile studio. The Mighty Mobile, as we called it, was a truck with eight-track recording machines that Stu had helped to put together. We'd thought of it quite separately from any plan to move to France.
It was the only mobile recording unit around. We didn't realize when we put it together how rare it was - soon we were renting it out to the BBC and ITV because they had only one apiece. It was another one of those beautiful, graceful, fortuitous things that happened to the Stones. So one day in June it trundled through the gates and we parked it outside the front door and plugged in. I've never done any different since. When you've got the equipment and the right guys, you don't need anything else in terms of studios".
And so Nellcôte and the Mighty Mobile became the center of the Stones' 1971 Exile recordings. A lot has been written (and filmed) about this long hot summer in the south of France, but very little is known about Stu's whereabouts. For sure he, as managing director of the mobile unit, must have been around, but where did he live? And did he take part in any recording sessions, or was Nicky Hopkins the only piano player the band relied on at the time? Someone?
Adapted from the following source: Keith Richards, Life, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010.
Suggested further reading and viewing:
Bill Janovitz, The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St., Continuum, 2007.
Dominique Tarlé, Exile, Genesis Publications, 2001.
Stones In Exile, Eagle Rock Entertainment Ltd., 2010 (DVD).