November 25, 2011
The Rolling Stones
The Cote d’Azur may have become renowned for being a popular spot for aristocrats to muse the days away, but when the legendary rock n roller’s The Rolling Stones found refuge here in the summer of 1971, the region was catapulted into a sanctuary for legendary yet somewhat anguished stars.
Exactly 40 years ago, The Rolling Stones, battling with drug addiction, constant harassment by the British authorities and financial problems, went into exile in the South of France.
The troubled rock band spent the summer at Villa Nellcote, a sixteen-room mansion on the waterfront of Villefranche-Sur-Meron on the Cote d’Azur. It was during their time at Villa Nellcote, that the group recorded sessions in the basement of the villa, for their classic 1972 album ‘Exile on Main Street’.
The Rolling Stones are reported to have been inspired immensely by their temporary residence on the Cote d’Azur. Their stay at Villa Nellcote, granted reciprocal notoriety for both the Stones and the venue itself, the former for producing arguably their most celebrated and storied album, and the latter for becoming a practically world-known venue almost overnight.
Villa Nellcote was built in the late 1890s by Eugene Thomas, a former banker. The villa was built imposingly, decorated elaborately framed by iconic columns made from marble. In 1919, the “Amicitia Castle” as it had become known, was rechristened as “Nellcote”.
This almost baroque house on the Cote d’Azur provided the perfect solution for the band to avoid having to pay 93% income tax if they had stayed in the UK. The ingenious solution was thought up by the Rolling Stone’s financial advisor, Prince Rupert Lowenstein.
But asides from being a pragmatic ‘business’ reason that saw the Stones say ‘goodbye’ to London and ‘bonjour’ to the south of France, the British rock band had a relaxing, peaceful and stunningly beautiful spot to write and record what was arguably their most legendary album.
Reminiscing about the summer the Stones had spent on the Cote d’Azur 40 years ago, Andy Johns, who engineered and mixed Exile on Main Street’ said:
“It was an impressive house, 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.’”