Anyone who thinks heroin enhances musical performance should read "Exile on Main Street," Robert Greenfield's fly-on-the-syringe account of the making of the Rolling Stones' album of the same name.

Subtitled "A Season in Hell With the Rolling Stones," the book tells how, in 1971, the band retreated to Keith Richards' mansion on the French Riviera, Villa Nellcote. The estate was supposed to be a comfortable place to record (and escape the British tax system). But things didn't quite go according to plan.

Richards and Anita Pallenberg, the mother of his baby Marlon, arrived "clean," Greenfield writes. "This condition would not last long."

Not with guys like Jean de Breteuil, Janis Joplin's drug dealer and lover of Jim Morrison's wife, Pamela. He brought pink Thai heroin in women's powder compacts. One pal, Tommy Weber, brought a pound of coke through customs in money belts worn by his sons, ages 6 and 8, one of the now-grown boys told Greenfield.

Production was also slowed down by willing groupies and by Mick Jagger's needing to marry his pregnant fiancee, Bianca Perez Morena de Macias. Richards had arranged for a reception band that included guests Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills and Gram Parsons. They were tuning up when someone found Keith passed out on a balcony.

Session musicians grew so bored waiting to get into the villa's basement studio that they brought in a roulette wheel and poker tables. Whoever had the lowest hand "had to take four Quaaludes, or a tab of acid," recalls one player.

"Seven weeks went by, and we still hadn't cut the first track," producer Jimmy Miller recalled. "Every night, I would say, 'Has somebody got a song?'"

By then, tension had invaded the Jagger and Richards creative team. Days after Bianca delivered baby Jade, Pallenberg, who Greenfield claims was shooting heroin three times a day, discovered she was pregnant. She didn't want the child because "she thought it was Mick Jagger's kid," friend and villa guest Marshall Chess told Greenfield.

Eventually busted, Richards and Pallenberg got off with suspended sentences and $1,000 fines (after some French palms were greased), according to Greenfield. The band fled France. Richards and Pallenberg entered rehab in Switzerland, where Richards entertained himself by putting cigarettes into a catatonic patient's mouth, telling a friend, "That guy goes through two packs a day."

The band later reconvened in L.A. at Jagger's 30-room mansion, where, turning out tracks like "Rocks Off" and "Tumbling Dice," they produced one of the greatest albums of their career.

I love the comatose patient going through two packs a day...