Exile on Main Street was a 1972 release (on Atlantic Records) by The Rolling Stones, with cover artwork & design by John Van Hamersveld. When the Rolling Stones released Exile in 1972 – a double album of songs representing the many different genres of music that shaped Stones music at the time – fans and critics found themselves having to spend a lot of time trying to “get it”. It required a number of listens to gain an appreciation of what, on the surface, often seemed to be a collection of studio out-takes and Richards/Taylor/Watts jams than a freshly-recorded musical offering.
Super rare promo poster featuring 3-Ball Charlie.
Rare Exile record store display and German Press Kit that includes the “Three Ball Charlie” Promo Poster.
Many critics of the era failed to appreciate the Stones’ explorations of R&B, Soul, Country and roots Rock that were spread over the 4 album sides. In fact, the record was comprised of a series of recordings done during the previous four years and, as such, they featured a variety of mixes (some better than others) and showed the band building on top of these influences in their own inimitable style to the point that, now over 35 years later, the package is considered by many to be the band’s most-authentic offering. It is always listed near the top of most of the “Best Of” and “Greatest” lists (#7 on the Rolling Stone Magazine 2003 list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, #22 on VH-1’s survey, and even impressed the younger generation enough to be ranked #11 on Pitchfork’s 2003 list of Best Albums of the 1970s).
In a similar fashion, when the buying public took their first look at the design and imagery of the sprawling record cover, most people admitted that they didn’t “get it”. Having just soaked in Warhol’s ultimately-iconic zipper cover for Sticky Fingers, fans should have been ready for anything, but John Van Hamersveld’s designs seemed to confound them, asking them to digest a rough, anti-establishment, punk-before-there-was-punk collage of images that may have, initially, combined with the unfamiliar musical stylings to impact sales (don’t worry, as the record was supported by the now-famous 1972 American concert tour and songs such as “Happy” and “Tumbling Dice” got some significant radio play, the record went on to top the charts in the U.S. and the U.K.).
And so when Van Hamersveld, who’d established his industry cred via his poster and package designs for Hendrix, The Beatles (Magical Mystery Tour), Jefferson Airplane (Crown of Creation) and others, was approached by the Rolling Stones (who were in a studio in LA putting the finishing touches on this new album) to work on the graphics and packaging for a songbook project the band wanted to release, an interesting series of events on the day of their initial meeting had a profound impact on the course of album art history.
A display card from the 1972 tour with merch prices on it.
Below is a rare printers proof of the 12 card set included in Exile double album, shot by famed South African photographer, Norman Seeff. Here he writes a note on the reverse of the card set to John Van H. expressing his displeasure with the quality of the reproduction.
The next two items might be two of my favorite Exile period pieces. Flyers for the lost live album. You can see the proposed design above.
These are two unused flyers of both Mick and Stevie Wonder printed on newsprint. The art is beautiful art deco 1920’s style.