Sevens :: I Just Want To See His Face


(Sevens, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, pays tribute to the art of the individual song.)

Due to storage, or the lack thereof here in my L.A. abode, the majority of my vinyl collection resides back in the Southeast. Over the past few years I have been bringing it out west, piecemeal, to L.A., one flight home at a time. As I can only fit, say, 10-15 LPs in my suitcase at a time, one must be judicious in the choosing of what comes with and what (for the time being) stays behind. This process has been known to take the better part of an hour.

Heading back to L.A. post-holidays, I grabbed a varied assortment, including the Stones Exile On Main Street – an album I’ve incidentally purchased twice on CD for the “improved” sound, though I assure you, neither matches the warmth nor the atmosphere of the original vinyl. Like many an album worth its salt, Exile, as a whole, is most definitely an acquired taste. A taste I did not come around to until mid-college, and only then after letting it seep in, often in the background, when I wasn’t expecting it. And this after having been a fan of the band for the better part of a decade. Exile is dirty, it’s nasty, it makes no excuses and gives no quarter. Some say, because of these qualities, it is therefore the perfect rock & roll record; a true testament to the genre. While not my favorite Stones album (that would be its predecessor Sticky Fingers), Exile is a close second. But perfect? No, but for what it accomplishes I would say it’s pretty damn close.

Myself and many others have written about the circumstances surrounding the album; the band’s self-imposed tax exile to France, the decadent Nellcî´te sessions at Keith’s rented villa, the hangers ons, the debauchery, etc., etc. While those are all great campfire stories, the real stories, the real stuff that always make my ears perk up are the tales of the ostensibly laissez-faire creative process. With primary recording and tracking having taken place in wine cellars, closets, bathrooms and dining rooms – at all hours of the day an night, and with all manner of musicians, the album takes on a ramshackle, almost lo-fi, muddy brilliance. While one could easily point to any number of tracks to exemplify this, it’s on “I Just Want To See His Face”, the second to last song on side three of the vinyl, that truly transcends. I’ll leave it at that for those of you who have yet to hear the track. Now pull out your headphones and plan on pressing repeat.

MP3: The Rolling Stones :: I Just Wanted To See His Face


Related: The other week we referenced the Stones “Memo From Turner” and its use in the 1970 film Performance. At the time I was under the impression there were only two recorded (studio) versions of the tune available. Not the case. High five to the AD reader who came through and shot me the following MP3 — a down and out juke laden version with an arrangement that adds yet additional nuance to the track.

MP3: The Rolling Stones :: Memo From Turner (alternate version)

23 thoughts on “Sevens :: I Just Want To See His Face

  1. Gram Parsons is present (to the right) in that photograph of Mick and Keith. He’s always cropped out…

  2. A number of years ago (early ’90s?), shortly after they signed with Virgin Records, a limited-edition (I think) set of remastered CDs were released of all of their albums from Sticky Fingers onward, complete with all of the original packaging (a working zipper on the Sticky Fingers cover, the postcards from Exile On Main Street, etc.).

    The sound quality was unbelievable! I, too, had bought CD copies of Exile which didn’t match the quality of the original vinyl, but this remastered CD exceeded even the original vinyl. I don’t know if it’s still available, but if it is I can’t recommend it highly enough. The best version of the best album ever.

  3. I have a good 2000 slabs of vinyl sitting in the closet at my Mom’s house, 3000 miles from where I live. Maybe we should find others who are in a similar situation, pool our resources and have them all trucked across country! Music Junkie @ Fusion 45

  4. While I have not listened to much of Exile, I immensly enjoy the Rolling Stones oeuvre. I unfornutately do not own Exile (will have to acquire it soon), but I recently came across and downloaded the Exile Outtakes (which I happen to be listening to). I highly suggest any Stones connosieur scout them out and give them a listen – they are phenomenal. The piece on exile is eloquent and 100 percent accurate, as the early 70s were the best time (musically) for the Rolling Stones.

  5. Two thought:

    1) Blind Boys version of this song is unexpectedly goo;

    2) Song is incredibly pure and lyric “Don’t want to walk or tlk about Jesus, just want to see if face,” is in a way tremendously spiritual and uplifting..

  6. Good call on “I Just Want To See His Face.” Its one of my favourite tracks on an album that is stunningly good. In fact I would call it perfect — some songs/sides are stronger than others but thats beside the point. The album as a whole is a great experience, perfectly sequenced and barely a dip anywhere (the Robert Johnson cover I would probably skip)

    Incidently you mentioned the romantic decadent image the album and the recording sessions have attained. I kind of fell for that image aswell and was a little disappointed to read that Bobby Whitlock recorded his organ part for that song later on in a studio in LA. Quite a bit of the album was recorded post-Exile. Ruins the image maybe, but not the music.

  7. Tumblin Dice is the definitive song from exile IMO…nasty, dirty messy blues rock. one of my favorite songs of all time and i still don’t know the lyrics.

    odd that they never felt like any of this stuff worked live since it was recorded in such a haphazard way. of all stones albums you would think it would be the EASIEST to work out on stage.

    does anyone have the house of blues “paint it blue” album with blues versions of stones songs? of course the Exile tracks are awesome, including

    gatemouth brown doing Ventilator & luther allison &derek trucks doing tumblin dice.

  8. i love how mick and keith are dressed in that first pic…i mean who dresses like that in public, let alone hanging out around the castle at the dinner table?

  9. Can’t say enough good things about this album. I got wind of this album around the time when Pussy Galore released their own version. I haven’t listened to PG’s version much but through the miracle of the Internet I see that it’s still around ( For anyone that hasn’t listened to the Stones version of the album much ‘Loving Cup’, ‘Torn and Frayed’, and ‘Let It Loose’ are incredible songs.

  10. Great post, on a band and an album that don’t necessarily need any further props, but a song that definitely does. “I Just Want To See His Face” is definitely the Exile-iest song on Exile, too: so swampy, muddy and grungy that you can barely identify the band, who sound like they’re channeling some kind of Pentacostal cough syrup ritual.

    I actually first acquired this album through the Columbia Record Club, if you can believe that. Blew my little high-school mind, for sure.

  11. Listening to this track just forced me to digitize the entire Exile album to my external drive. It’s been too long but I’ve just started to get back into the habit of listening to entire albums again. Thanks for the great post

  12. Perhaps the ultimate redundant Stones comment, but: Exile was the peak of a long climb the Stones made to produce an album of such power. This one stood on the shoulders of what proceeded in their canon. What followed Exile was a slow and worthy decline. I for one have found memories of Goat’s Head Soup, It’s Only Rock and Roll, and Black and Blue but clearly the Dark Angel that hovered over Exile was long gone. (I even bought into the hype at the time of Some Girls being a return to form. Not an easy album to listen to now. And as for the rest of ’em that followed: Fuggitaboutit.)

    My favorite moments on Exile: Turn It Loose and Rocks Off. What kind of idiotic chutzpah would it take to create a Rocks Off and make a classic out of it? Brilliant. The blues work outs–I Just Want to See His Face, Shake Your Hips, etc–was the band trying to prove that they could still rock the blues as well as anyone, despite the bubblegum hit legacy. And they were probably right.

  13. I Just Want To See His Face has been covered by the Blind Boys of Alabama – though it sounds like they’ve been playing it for years!

  14. Forgive my confusion on the Memo from Turner tracks. Was the one posted on 12/31 the Metamorphosis version or the soundtrack version? Trying to figure out which one I need to hunt down to have the complete set. Many thanks.

  15. I’m just getting into the Stones and I listened to Exile for the first time last week. I know I’ve heard “I Just Want to See His Face” on a tv show or in a movie or in a trailer or something, but I can’t remember what. Can anybody help me figure this out?

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