The Rolling Stones become Tax Exiles

The Rolling Stones should have been rolling in money, Sticky Fingers had recently been released and was to be the biggest selling Rolling Stones album. They had also just signed a new record deal with Atlantic Records for a large fee.

The Rolling Stones Prepare to Leave England

However by April 5th, 1971, British taxes were due and The Rolling Stones owed taxes…..a lot of them! Soon those that could afford to leave were heading leaving to become tax-exiles, however, The Rolling Stones were the first to do this en-masse. As Mick Jagger said to Roy Carter of the NME shortly before the release of “Exile on Main Street”

So after working for eight years I discovered at the end that nobody had ever paid my taxes and I owed a fortune. So then you have to leave the country. So I said fuck it and left the country.

At the time the tax rate in the UK for higher earners was astronomical. Remember the lyric from The Beatles’ “Tax Man” of “One for you, nineteen for me”? Well, the truth was not far from this, the rate was 83% for earned income and 98% for unearned income!

The Rolling Stones had also become the focus of much-unwanted attention, with several drug busts and near misses with jail. Under the constant glare of the tabloid newspapers and with several members of London’s Metropolitan Police Force making a good income from busting musicians and pocketing the bribes (before sending them to court anyway) being a Rolling Stone was not the most comfortable thing to be.

On top of this, The Rolling Stones were embroiled in legal wrangles. In the wild west of the early days of the Rock Music industry, most artists found themselves entwined in a maze of legal contracts. Only the successful ones had the means to fight them and even they struggled and this was the situation The Rolling Stones found themselves in.

The largest legal action was against Allen Klein. Allan Klein was the man Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had picked to rescue The Rolling Stones from their Andrew Loog Oldham/Eric Easton management. However things had gone very sour and by now The Rolling Stones believed that Alla Klein owed them somewhere in the region of $17 million….a number well north of $100 million in today’s money. He also controls the masters to The Rolling Stones back catalog.

On top of this, a large amount of their money had been frozen by a receiver due to a suit being brought by Eric Easton against his former partner and ex-Rolling Stones manager, Andrew Loog-Oldham for breach of contract. On top of this Andrew Loog-Oldham was in court fighting with Allan Klein.

By the time The Rolling Stones were preparing to leave the UK, a memo from Jo Bergman, their office manager, stated that The Rolling Stones number 3 account is overdrawn and they need over $7000 to pay the most pressing debts and they do not have enough cash to keep the office running.

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On top of this, all the band’s personal accounts were overdrawn and each of the Stones owed almost a quarter of a million dollars in taxes – allowing for inflation this would be approaching ten times that sum in today’s money. In short, The Rolling Stones were utterly broke.

Prince Rupert Ludwig Ferdinand zu Loewenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg

The man that cooked up the plan to exile The Rolling Stones was Prince Rupert Ludwig Ferdinand zu Loewenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg or Prince Rupert as we shall now call him. Prince Rupert, a descendant of the Bavarian Royal Family, founded the Merchant Bank, Leopold Joseph with Jonathan Guinness and is its managing director.

Prince Rupert had met Mick Jagger and been persuaded to get involved with The Rolling Stones finances. Bill Wyman said that he thought this was for

The pleasant duty of investing surplus funds for a highly successful pop group

but found that

their assets did not cover their debts, mortgage payments or daily expenses

Allan Klein had set up a separate branch of The Rolling Stones publishing in New York under his sole control, which meant he is the gatekeeper to much of The Rolling Stones money. Allan Klein also has them under contract so they cannot take their music anywhere else and he was very reticent to distribute their funds, only ever offering to lend them money, never give them money.

At the time the French tax regime allowed The Rolling Stones to pay no French taxes on what they earn as long as they reside in France for at least a year and spend at least $500 000 a year – nothing too onerous for a Rolling Stone! So Prince Rupert came up with the plan to dump Allan Klein and decamp The Stones to the Cote d’Azur in the South of France while setting up companies in Amsterdam and The Dutch Antilles to protect and shelter their assets.

They knew they were very unlikely to get all their money back from Klein let alone get back control of their back-catalog. However, they had to do this to allow them to effectively start again, at least from a financial standpoint. Bill Wyman described this as –

A heavy gamble but the only way, for Klein would certainly not willingly give us our freedom

The Rolling Stones had just come off the back of their most successful ever record in the shape of Sticky Fingers and made a huge amount during their last tour of the USA. Since they could not tour without a record and Atlantic, having just paid them a big advance for their signatures and to set up Rolling Stones Records, were also keen to get something out there. So it was decided that The Stones needed to get back into the studio as soon as possible.

So 1971 would see the band all leave the UK to set up in France and record an album. However, we are talking about The Rolling Stones and things are never that easy.

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Exiles on The Cote d’Azur

Charlie Watts and his wife Shirley were the first to go, staying in a hotel in Cannes before finding a rented house in La Borie in Thorais, near Arles. On April 1st, 1971, Bill Wyman, his long time lover Astrid Lundstrom, Mick Taylor, his girlfriend Rose Miller and their 3-month-old daughter, Chloe board a chartered flight to Nice. Mick Taylor, as the new boy in The Rolling Stones, has not made the money of the others and so does not need to go into exile. Had he been in possession of a crystal ball, he may well have stayed at home.

Of the Glimmer Twins, Mick Jagger was now very much “with” Bianca. Bianca Pérez-Mora Macías, the former girlfriend of Michael Caine and French playboy and record producer Eddie Barclay, was pregnant with Jade Jagger and would soon become Mrs. Bianca Jagger.

Keith Richards was “with” Anita Pallenberg, the mother of his 18-month-old son Marlon and the former lover of Brian Jones and Mick Jagger. Anita Pallenberg had been around The Rolling Stones since meeting Brian Jones at a gig in Germany. Even among The Rolling Stones, she was the center of attention – glamorous, beautiful and insatiable in both narcotic intake and sex.

Mick Jagger’s previous girlfriend, Marianne Faithful had always got on well with Anita Pallenberg (they are still good friends to this day) but Bianca….Bianca was a threat to her position as number one female in The Rolling Stones clique. So with both Mick and Keef’s long-standing rivalry added to this brewing rivalry between their significant others, the internal politics were already rampant.

Added to this was Keith and Anita’s drug habits. Since returning to the UK after the last US tour and fateful events at Altamont, Keith had taken it badly. His heroin usage had spiraled and it was reported that he could barely play on parts of Sticky Fingers and Anita was right there with him. So before they could leave for France they needed to get clean, both on legal grounds and because they did not have contacts in France that could score them heroin (although this would change during the summer….and then some!)

Keef had agreed to get clean first and Anita would go in after him. They decided not to go into rehab together so that one of them could look after Marlon while the other was away. Keef was the one who had earned the money and hence the one that had to leave the country by the April 5th deadline, so he went into Bowden House, a private hospital in North London, first.

Keef, came out clean and Anita went into Bowden House. Anita found detox hard going and made several trips outside Bowden House and when that failed she called Keith to bring her some Heroin. Keith and Michael Cooper, both drunk and with plenty of cocaine running through his system, writes off his pink Bentley on their way to see Anita. The pair makes a hasty getaway, leaving the steaming heap of Bentley impaled on some railings and look for somewhere to hide their stash before the police arrive. They remember they are near Nicky Hopkins house (he had been playing with The Stones as a session musician for years) and decide to bury their stash in his garden only to be discovered by Nicky Hopkins….who invites them in for tea!

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As April 5th draws near, Keith appears no closer to leaving and Keith is not a man to be rushed (he did not make a single gig on time on the last tour). Jo Bergman and the others at Rolling Stones HQ are beginning to wonder if he will ever leave. As the team arrives at Keith’s Cheyene Walk house in Chelsea on April 5th to pack his stuff, they are relieved to find he is ready to leave. Dressed in one of Anita’s cardigans and floral flares, he and son Marlon board the plane to Nice with Jo Bergman and Shirley Arnold (another member of The Rolling Stones staff)

When they arrive in the spring sun on the Cote d’Azur, Jo Bergman takes Keef to see his potential new house, Villa Nellcôte, which would play a starring role in the summer’s escapades. She had originally earmarked the house for Mick Jagger and Bianca, but Bianca had not liked it as it was too public. Keith on the other hand loved it, much to Jo Bergman’s relief.

With all the Stones now living in the South of France, this only left Mick and Bianca. They are in France but staying in the Plaza Authenee Hotel in Paris where Bianca had studied political science. Since nothing can happen without Mick being there, this means the recording is put on hold until after he has got married, had a honeymoon and found a place in the South of France.

During this time the other Stones looked for a studio to record in. After looking around they did not find anything they liked in France, so it was eventually decided to bring their mobile studio down from London and record in the basement of Nellcote. This would mean that Keef, one of the glimmer twins that were essential to the recording of a new Rolling Stones album, would be close at hand at all times.

It would Mick and Bianca several months before they would finally settle on a place in the South and when they did it was in Biot, Alpes-Maritimes. Biot is an ancient walled town overlooking the Mediterranean and home to many artisans and the Musée Fernand Léger, and significantly, a good distance from Nellcote.

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