Rocks Off

Album: Exile on Main St. (1972)

Songfacts®:

  • The lyrics contain lots of sexual content, but they are very hard to understand. The song is about the impending loss of sexual ability - there was no Viagra back then.
  • Andy Johns, who engineered the Exile on Main St. sessions, told Goldmine magazine in 2010: "It went on for ages. When Mick came back from Paris for the first time he seemed happy with the sound. And Keith would sit down stairs and at one point he sat there for 12 hours without getting out of his chair just playing the riff over and over and over.
    And then one night, it was very late, four or five in the morning, Keith says, 'Let me listen to that take again.' And he nods off while the tape is playing. I thought, 'Great. That's it. End of the night and I'm out of here.' So I go back to my place where I was staying. (Horn player/arranger) Jim Price and I had this villa. It was pretty spanky. I'm tellin' you. A half an hour drive. I walk in the front door and the phone is ringing. I pick it up and it's Keith. 'Where are you?' 'Well, I'm obviously here 'cause I answered the phone.' 'Well you better get back here, man, 'cause I have this guitar part. Come back!'"
  • This was the first of 18 songs on Exile on Main St. Most of the album was recorded at the Villa Nellcote, a place Keith Richards rented in the South of France. The Stones went there to have some fun and get away from England, where they were taxed heavily on their earnings.
  • This features Bobby Keys on sax and Jim Price on trumpet. They provided horns on albums and tours through the early '70s. Nicky Hopkins played piano on the track. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Keith Richards explained the title of the album in his autobiography Life (2010): "We could record from late in the afternoon until five or six in the morning, and suddenly the dawn comes up and I've got this boat... We'd just jump in, Bobby Keys, me, Mick, whoever was up for it... We'd pull into Monte Carlo for lunch. Have a chat with either Onassis's lot or Niarchos's, who had the big yachts there. You could almost see the guns pointed at each other. That's why we called it Exile On Main Street. When we first came up with the title it worked in American terms because everybody's got a Main Street. But our Main Street was that Riviera strip. And we were exiles, so it rang perfectly true and said everything we needed. The whole Mediterranean coast was an ancient connection of its own, a kind of Main Street without borders. I've hung in Marseilles, and it was all it was cracked up to be and I've no doubt it still is. It's like the capital that embraces the Spanish coast, the North African coast, the whole Mediterranean coast. It's basically a country all its own until a few miles inland." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France

Comments: 16

  • Tony from Middle America No more boy around
    This song comes out right after one of the biggest seizures of heroine in
    NYC
  • Steve from Toronto, CanadaAbsolutely the BEST lyric in any song - “the sunshine bores the daylights out of me”. If you think about what that means, how it meant something to most of us in our youth...it just captures that time & feeling SO WELL; very poignant line. They just do not write music like this anymore...the Stones could add all the swearing (“plug in, flush out and fire the f--kin feed”) and “dirty” lyrics they wanted and still produce an amazingly talented and meaningful song. Much different today when the desire for “shock lyrics” boils down to disgusting comments, generally about female genitalia, with zero correlation to the song/story, or even the hook of the music. Until some talented song writers meet up with equally talented musicians, songs of this caliber will remain a thing of the past, sadly! We have, as they say, effectively “killed music”.

    And BTW, agree with several others here who make sure to debunk the crazy comment below stating this song is about an affair Anita Pallenberg had with a 17 year old who committed suicide! That happened in 1979, this song, and the album Exile On Main Street were recorded LONG before that event, in 1972!! Get your facts before posting BS please, someone is going to end up believing and repeating that story.

    I long for writers like Richards/Jagger, Lennon/McCartney; somewhere is another duo just waiting to come to life!!
  • Jim from Long Beach, Ca"The sunshire bore the daylights out of me"...A lot of sex and drugs by the kings, The Stones. Great Song...
  • Matt from New York, Nythe best song to open an album. ever. period.
  • Chelsea from Atlanta, GeorgiaI agree with Grayson. "The sunshine bores the daylights out of me" is one of the greatest lines in rock & roll. It resonates the way great lyrics do. Of course, this moment is only great because the rest of the song is so great too. A perfect slice of rock & roll, and the Stones are always as much about being rock & roll as anything else.
  • Joe from Seattle, WaFilthy, dirty rock n' roll at its best.
  • Jean from Wichita, KsThis can't be about Anita Pallenberg and Scott Cantrell, the 17-year-old who committed suicide. That happend in 1979, 7 years after this song was recorded.
  • James from Portland, OrThis has always been one of my favorite Stones tunes, but the remastering of the original has allowed me to take the song apart and appreciate all that is going on below the surface. Just for kicks, listen in at the 3:30 mark, right after Keith blows his cue, he adds a line "socks don't come off, string em up, only take em off, take em off . . ."
  • Tim from Long Island, NyThis song is in the key of E.
  • Susan from Toronto, CanadaThe post below is incorrect. ROCKS OFF was recorded in 1972. Anita Pallengerg's 17-year-old friend (named Scott Cantrell) shot himself in 1979. Thus the song could in no way be about his suicide!
  • Marc from Frederick, Md"Hearing voices on the street" is a reference to Anita Pallenbergs' affair with an under age young man. He was unfortunatly, appearently found dead from a self inflicted gun shot wound. "What's a matter with your boy. He ain't coming round no more, is he checking out for sure?" While many Stones lyrics are started by Keith and finished by Mick, this song seems to discribe Keith's relationship with Anita Pallenberg, which included satanic worship and drug addiction. She kicked him like she kicked before and he couldn't feel the pain anymore, and Keith only got hid rocks off in his dreams.
  • Grayson from Cleveland, Ohone of the best lyrics in Rock history, "the sunshine bores the daylights out of me"
  • Steve from Wayne, PaOne of the greatest and most underrated songs of all time.
  • Ethan from Portland, Orrock n roll doesn't get any better
  • Dave from Le Mars, IaThe Stones at their best. Adding horns to rock and roll is always a tricky thing I think, but the horns really bring out this song.
  • Dave from London , CanadaThe lead track off "Exile On Main Street' which was recorded at Keith's villa in the south of France - in the basement - where it was so humid the guitars wouldnt stay in tune.
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