Exile on Main Street holds a place in rock 'n' roll folklore.' />

The making of The Rolling Stones' 1972 masterpiece Exile on Main Street holds a place in rock 'n' roll folklore. Tales of debauchery in the south of France, where the Stones had reluctantly decamped, are now almost as famous as the record itself. And the documentary The Rolling Stones in Exile reveals why.

"I remember vividly; late afternoon, early evening one meal a day, we'd all sit at this long, long table. We would all smoke joints and hash in between courses. It was a whole new La Dolce Vita Fellini-esque lifestyle," recounts producer Marshall Chess.

Chess is just one of many who add their voices to the BBC-commissioned documentary, alongside Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman.

The 60-minute film begins with an ageing Jagger and Watts returning to Olympic Studios in London, where recording for the album started.

"There wasn't a master plan, we accumulated material knowing that we'd use it one day," says Jagger.

The London recordings halted when the Stones had to leave England for tax purposes.

"There was a feeling you were being edged out of your own country," recalls Richards. "The British Government was scared by the number of fans we had, I suppose."

The most riveting viewing is of the long, hot days of decadence, which descended into steamy nights of drug-taking in Richards' luxurious villa, Nelcote, near Nice.

Black-and-white footage, pictures by French music photographer Dominique Tarle and voice-overs from the band tell the story.
But it is the stories told through the eyes of others - the Stones' tribe of record execs, technicians, girlfriends, friends and children - that are perhaps the most compelling.

The technical mayhem with which Exile was recorded, Richards' heroin abuse and Jagger's blooming relationship with Bianca, paint a picture of a band on the verge of imploding.

It is a good thing 40 years on we know that there is a happy ending.

* The DVD Rolling Stones in Exile and the reissued album, Exile on Main Street, which features 10 extra tracks, is out now.