As a teenager Dominique Tarlé fell in love with the sound of the new wave of rhythm and blues
bands that were starting to dominate the popular music charts.
A photographer, he set about capturing their live performances. His favourites were The Rolling
Stones. Throughout the late sixties he devoted his time to following them, becoming friendly
enough with them to be invited on their 1970 ‘farewell’ tour of the UK.
In 1971 The Rolling Stones had to leave the UK. After years of financial mismanagement and
trouble with the law, they went into exile. Their destination was France, Dominique’s home.
Following his long association with the band, it was natural for Keith Richards to invite Dominique
to come and visit. Keith and Anita Pallenberg had set up home with their young son Marlon in a
house named Nellcote at Villefranche.
“… I realised that pictures are far more important than the photographers themselves… the whole
of the game was to remain invisible and to have the least possible impact on what was going on
around me.” -Dominque Tarlé, 1971
The long summer that followed has become one of the most celebrated in the history of modern
music. The myth and mystery of what occurred at Nellcote has been related in three ways, through
personal anecdote, through the music of Exile On Main St, and through the photographs that
Dominique Tarlé took. Of these, we can discount, or at least ‘adjust’ the validity and accuracy of the
anecdotal tales. Even those who were there cannot agree about matters as basic as who played on
what tracks, or even whether the tracks in question were recorded in Nellcote, Starggroves (Mick
Jagger’s country house in the UK) or LA. These anecdotes are the material of which the dreams
about Nellcote and Exile are made; and like dreams, they are indicative, extreme, hazy, unreal
Then there’s the music. The music doesn’t change… But then again, we hear of multiple versions,
hours and hours of jamming around a groove which becomes a series of versions, one of which
later became a song. And of course, in April 2010 we eagerly await the release of a new, extended
edition of Exile On Main St. next month, featuring more of those versions and some new songs
altogether. So there’s an argument that the music as a record of the summer of 1971 is not stable
or reliable, either.
That leaves the photographs of Dominique Tarlé. These are unchanging; and for all the wild tales
of excess and craziness amidst the making of the music, the images tell a story of sunlight, family
values, communal living, and the making of music by people who lived for little else.
The sunlight on the garden of the great house Nellcote, and within its fabulous rooms, has been
hardened by the process of chemical fixing to produce the photographs in Dominique’s collection;
but the sense of warmth and light that is generated by the pictures will never grow cold: he has
caged the minute within its net of gold in a way that ultimately forgives whatever other excesses
and dark deeds were done that summer.