Tox Tunes #19: Torn and Frayed (The Rolling Stones)

May 24, 2010, 1:21 am

I’ve ordered a copy of the new remastering of The Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” and am looking forward to hearing it — especially the previously unreleased material. Although some critics think that “Exile” is The Stones’ masterpiece, I do have to admit that I agree with the opinion expressed this morning by Ben Ratliff in The New York Times: the album is “good, but not great”, and it is distinctly inferior to at least two other Stones releases from the early 1970s — Sticky Fingers and the absolutely brilliant Let It Bleed, which is indeed one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

“Torn and Frayed” from Exile on Main Street is a good example of why the album is often so unsatisfying.  The song seems to go nowhere and has no compelling hook, beat, or lyric.  But it does have a drug reference:

Joe’s got a cough, sounds kind a rough,

Yeah, and the codeine to fix it.

Doctor prescribes, drug store supplies,

Who’s gonna help him to kick it


  1. Ted Toerne Says:

    Beggar’s is #1, no question – “Sympathy” is the peak of rock and roll. “Exile” #2. “Some Girls” and “Stones Now” are #3 and #4. #5 is debatable – maybe the protopunk of “Between the Buttons” or “Let it Bleed”. “Ya-Ya’s” with Mick Taylor’s pure guitar work is the by far the best live album. Drug-driven “Garden State ’78” is the best bootleg album. Side 2 of Tatoo You” is strong.

    How can you argue with side 1 of “Exile”, especially “Tumbling Dice” – one of their top 5 songs; most of side 3, especially “Happy”; and “All down the line” – easily one of their top 10-15 songs.

  2. Leon Says:

    Ted, I agree that “Sympathy for the Devil” is one monster rock’n’roll song — still powerful over 40 years after its release. Unfortunately, much of the rest of “Beggars’ Banquet” is boring or worse. Mick’s decadent sleaze in “Stray Cat Blues” was already tiresome, and foreshadowed worse to come. The deliberately ambivalent and manipulative “Street Fighting Man” was a pathetic (though catchy) response to John Lennon’s “Revolution”. And the faux “Just Folks” themes of “Factory Girl” and “Salt of the Earth” call for ondansetron — I may be missing the irony, but I doubt the Stones had too many ironies in the fire at that time.