By In Stuff

Exile On Cannon Dr.

Brilliant Reader and friend Brian Hyland offers a fun way to look at Urban Meyer’s amazing coaching job in 2012.

You know how many fans will say that “Exile on Main St.” is the Rolling Stones’ best album? Rolling Stone, the magazine, ranked it seventh on their all-time rock and roll album list … other hip arbiters of rock and roll rate “Exile” very high as well. There are circles in the world where if you DO NOT call “Exile on Main St.” your favorite Stones album, you are looked at as a bit of a poseur.

What makes this interesting is this: “Exile” does not have a single hit on it. Eighteen songs, and the only song that a marginal music fan MIGHT know is “Tumbling Dice.” They also might not know it. The casual fan might have heard “Let It Loose” somewhere along the way, but probably could not place it. The song “Plundered My Soul” — which was part of the 2010 re-release — might have been a more successful single than any song on the album itself.

“Exile” is an album Stones fans love not just because it’s great, but because in part — I would argue — it’s an album Stones fans own in some deeper way. It hasn’t been corrupted by popularity or annexed by car commercials or overplayed to its very roots. It hasn’t become public domain like the album “Some Girls,” with all its hits on it — “Beast of Burden” and “Shattered” and “Miss You” and “Respectable” and the rest. “Exile” is, in some ways, still a real connection between the band and the people who love them most.

This sort of connection really exists only among the truest fans. No self-respecting Springsteen fan would ever say that Springsteen’s best album was “Born in the U.S.A.” even thought it was, by far, his most popular. “Born in the U.S.A.” had seven Top 10 hits in the U.S.A. — three of them also reached the Top 10 in Great Britain. Do you know how many other Top 10 hits Springsteen had in both the U.S. and Great Britain? One. “Streets of Philadelphia.” That’s it.

“Born in the U.S.A.” is a crazy outlier in popularity for Springsteen. It’s like Norm Cash’s 1961 season. And yet, as mentioned, any Springsteen fan who ranked it in his or her Top 5 Springsteen albums — heck, Top 10 — would be viewed with wariness. A much more correct answer would be “The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle,” a much rawer album which didn’t have any hits (the much beloved “Rosalita” didn’t chart) and didn’t sell squat. Or “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” which is so dark that it actually has the word “Darkness” in the title.

This is what it is to be a fan. Your deeper knowledge separates. You dig beyond the obvious. Beatles fans might pick “Revolver” as the band’s best album — none of the Beatles’ mega-hits are on there. Ask a huge Martin Scorsese fan to pick a favorite movie, and you can all but guarantee they would never choose one of the best-selling ones — “The Departed,” “Shutter Island,” “The Aviator” or “Cape Fear.” Not a chance. It would be “Mean Streets” or “Goodfellas” or “Raging Bull” or “The King of Comedy.” I’ve had J.D. Salinger fans explain to me why “Franny and Zooey” is much better than “Catcher in the Rye.” Kansas City Royals fans will tell you their best team was not the World Series winner of 1985 or the pennant winner of 1980, but the 1977 team that lost to the Yankees in the playoffs. A good friend who is a Chicago Bears fan always tells me that 1986 Bears defense was significantly better than the 1985 Bears defense — he often points out that in 1986, they held teams to two touchdowns or less in 13 of their 16 games (it was 10 of 16 in 1985).

All of which leads Brian to say: For real Urban Meyer observers, THIS SEASON probably will be his “Exile on Main St.”

This will be the one that will be the legendary year — more than anything he has done before, more than anything he will ever do again.

It’s a fascinating thought. Meyer’s career is already absurdly brilliant. He took over a Bowling Green team that was, well, Bowling Green — 2-9 the year before he arrived — and promptly led them to eight-win and nine-win seasons. He went  to Utah, promptly led the Utes to their second ever 10-win season, then an undefeated 12-0 year, and along the way he concocts this new kind of offense that, many believe, was this off-brand version of the spread offense that every team in America would soon run.

Then he went to Florida and, despite health issues and uncertainty issues and burnout tendencies, led the Gators to two national championships and went 13-1 three times. Then he left for a year off and some time with family.

Now he’s at Ohio State, where you would expect the Buckeyes to be a dominant force for as long as he decides to stay.

And yet — I suspect this year will stand out as Urban Mayer’s masterpiece among the aficionados. This is in part because the Buckeyes are on probation, so we will never see how they might have fared against Alabama or Notre Dame or any of the other national title contenders. The fact that the Buckeyes will not win any trophies this year adds to the mystery and intrigue of their undefeated season.

It’s also in part because of just how magical this season really was for Ohio State. Look:

• Braxton Miller and Devin Smith connect on 72-yard touchdown pass with three minutes left and held on with a last-minute interception to beat California.

• Miller and Smith connect on 63-yard touchdown pass to take the lead on Michigan State and run out the clock in the final three minutes for a one-point victory.

• Ohio State withstands an absurd and furious Indiana comeback — the Hoosiers score with 1:40 left, recover the onside kick, score with 1:05 left and nearly recover ANOTHER onside kick. Buckeyes win by three.

• Ohio State scores a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion with three seconds left against Purdue, even though its star quarterback, Miller, has been knocked out of the game. Backup Kenny Guiton also leads the Buckeyes to an overtime touchdown and a victory.

• At Wisconsin, Ohio State forces a Montee Ball fumble at the goal line with about three minutes left in the game and wins in overtime again. “A team that refuses to be beat won’t be beat,” Meyer tells reporters.

• On Saturday, the Buckeyes overcome two separate four-point deficits in the second quarter, take the lead midway through the third quarter and shut out rival Michigan for a five-point victory. Michigan had 60 yards of total offense in the second half.

There’s another thing: These Buckeyes are being punished for violations committed by Jim Tressel and players on previous teams. Meyer and these players had nothing to do with it. There’s a sense of unfairness about that. And so, every victory for this Ohio State team carried a little bit more emphasis. Every victory was, in some way, a strike against authority. The Buckeyes’ undefeated season was defiance against powers beyond their control — that’s a story people cannot get enough of.

In 1988 and 1989, an unknown assistant coach from North Carolina, Roy Williams, took over as the coach of Kansas. The team was on probation after winning the national title and the fleeing of coach Larry Brown. Williams led that team to a 19-win season. In time, Williams’ teams would reach seven Final Fours, win two national championships, and win almost 700 games (he should pass 700 this year). But I think there are many longtime Williams fans who would say that he never coached better than he did that first year, when everything was against them.

I don’t have any idea how this Ohio State team would fare against Meyer’s best Florida teams — probably not well. And I suspect that, with Meyer firmly in place, the Buckeyes will have amazing teams in the years ahead. But I think this is the one that will be seen as his tour de force.

35 Responses to Exile On Cannon Dr.

  1. Scott says:

    I totally disagree with your theory that this is a great season. It’s an excellent season in many ways, but because Ohio St. never had a championship or bowl game on the line, they never had to rise to the occasion in a truly clutch situation. This isn’t the first probation team that went on a huge tear. But a bunch of wins by a team with nothing on the line is kind of like a hot hitting streak in April—-sure it’s good, but let’s see it when it really matters. Unfortunately, in Ohio States case we will never find out.

  2. ggnore says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The real question is, will the AP voters have the integrity to vote Ohio State as the true #1 ahead of a one-loss BCS champion SEC team (if there is one)?

    • drunyon says:

      So if you view Alabama as better than Ohio State, even though they have one loss, and vote accordingly, you have no “integrity”? Okay.

    • Frank says:

      I can only laugh at an OSU defender’s “integrity” assertion. I am not a particular fan of the SEC, but OSU’s season is now over. If an SEC / BCS champion emerges, it will have won two additional games against the two next best teams in college football. OSU eliminated itself from this opportunity to prove itself against further competition on the field. This is wholly due to OSU’s failure of “integrity.”

  4. Geoff McKay says:

    Hard to take anything seriously that refers to Rolling Stone magazine as “hip”.

  5. Joel says:

    Nice post. Very special year for Ohio State, but how … relieved … is the BCS, the Big Ten, and Ohio State that they are on probation? We don’t have the debate about whether a 12-1 SEC Champ is more or less “deserving” than a 13-0 Big Ten champ, even though most folks are pretty sure Alabama would make mincemeat of Ohio State. (Just ask the Wolverines.) Instead, we congratulate OSU on a perfect season, avoid shutting out the SEC from the championship (the South would secede if we matched Notre Dame and Ohio State) and send the Irish off to be sacrificial lambs to the Tide in yet another game of the century in Miami.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Presuming that Alabama is going to beat Georgia in a de facto home game, in Atlanta, is pretty presumptuous. I know Alabama is riding high and will be favored, despite shatting the bed against A&M, but I wouldn’t make that assumption.

  6. Phil says:

    I don’t know anything about football, and I can’t tell where Brian Hyland (not the singer, I assume) ends and Joe P. begins, but you’re starting with a somewhat shaky premise. 1) Exile did produce hits: “Tumbling Dice” made Top 10, “Happy” Top 25; 2) the album itself, like most Rolling Stones albums in the ’60s and ’70s, made #1–it’s hardly a cult record; 3) wouldn’t most Michael Jackson fans name Thriller as his best album? 4) in almost any poll of Scorsese fans, Taxi Driver would finish first, and it’s his most famous film (and the one that has been most “corrupted” by the mainstream via De Niro’s “You talkin’ to me?” monologue); 5) I could go on citing counter-examples for a long time…So while I understand your general point, I don’t think it holds up very well when you get down to specific cases.

    • Scott says:

      Before I saw Taxi Driver I associated it with the “You talking to me?” bit. After watching it I associate it with the weird lighting and eerie soundtrack building a constant feeling of nervous tension and dislocation. But that’s a lot tougher to fit onto a tee shirt than “you talking to me?”

    • Reagan says:

      I hate to pile on, but Phil here is correct. Tumbling Dice made it to #5 on the US charts. That’s a hit – it’s just not one of their smash hits. What Tumbling Dice lacks (and this is the case of all the songs on Exile) is a catchy bubble-gum pop lyric for the chorus.

    • frightwig says:

      Both “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy” also are included on the Stones’ Forty Licks hits compilation. But, if the label had made it a 30-track collection, would either song have made the cut? Maybe not.

      There might be better examples of a hipster connoisseur’s favorite Stones album (the UK version of Between the Buttons had no hit singles, as “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Ruby Tuesday” were released there only as a double A-side 45), but I think Exile works well enough. Apart from the shortage of “smash hits,” Exile is a double album of lo-fi tracks (it’s famous for its bad sound) that present such a consistency of tone throughout that the individual songs don’t easily distinguish from one another. To really appreciate the album takes some special attention and work.

    • Phil says:

      As I say, I understand the basic point, and I could come up with examples that support it. I just don’t think Exile is a very good one–personal preference, I realize, but I can think of a dozen reasons why Exile is a better album than Some Girls, none of which have anything to do with commercial popularity. Ditto the Scorsese examples cited: the four films listed second are simply much, much better films. (Did Shutter Island really make more money than Goodfellas? I’d be surprised if that’s true.)

    • clashfan says:

      According to Wikipedia, Shutter Island made over $128m box office. Goodfellas made under $50m box office. (Both totals domestic only.) This does *not* take inflation into account; they were made twenty years apart.

    • Rob Smith says:

      It is true, however, that rock snobs always go with “Exile” as the best Stones song. They were influenced by Rolling Stone magazine who told them that they should think Exile was the best. That’s the way it is with rock and rock snobs.

    • Phil says:

      Well…If people had been influenced by Lenny Kaye’s original 1972 RS review, the album wouldn’t be so revered–he was rather mixed on it. It was Robert Christgau’s rave that is most associated with the album. Anyway, you hardly have to be a rock snob to consider it far superior to Some Girls.

    • Unknown says:

      Yeah, “Tumbling Dice” was a big hit, any way you slice it. Certainly way bigger than “Respectable”! At the same time, though, no song from Exile is ubiquitous the way “Satisfaction” or “Brown Sugar” or “Start Me Up” is, so Joe does have something of a point.

      And a lot of MJ fans, myself included, think Off The Wall is a better album than Thriller. (Then again, Revolver has “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine” on it, and those are pretty much mega-hits even by Beatles standards!)

    • There is no way that Taxi Driver is Martin Scorsese’s most famous film. By a country mile, it is Goodfellas. I think Taxi Driver is probably 4th, being also behind Raging Bull and Casino, but being that The Departed finally won him the Oscars, you could make a case that Taxi Driver is his 5th most famous film.

      But seriously, in terms of fame, I think the distance between Goodfellas and Scorsee’s next most famous film is something like the distance between Jerry Rice and whoever you think the second-greatest WR of all time is. It’s a chasm.

  7. Reagan says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. El Angelo says:

    Your best parallel — which I’m surprised you missed — was Rick Pitino’s first season at Kentucky, where I believe they went 14-14 while on probate and having few scholarship players left, thanks to Eddie Sutton’s violations.

  9. Mattsullivan says:

    Sticky Fingers…Greetings…Rubber Soul…Raise High the Roofbeams and The Last Waltz.

    Just saying

  10. KHAZAD says:

    It’s kind of too bad that the Buckeyes are on probation. It would be a fitting epitaph for the BCS for Ohio State to play Notre Dame in the championship while 6 teams that would probably beat both of them watch on TV.

  11. Rob Smith says:

    Winning at Ohio State is his best job ever? Look, first of all, the Big 10 is laughably weak this year. There are no really good teams in the league right now. Wisconsin and Nebraska are decent, but that’s about it. Also, if OSU is so great this year, why did they struggle to beat Indiana and Purdue? The Big 10 is so bad that Penn State lost several starting players over the Sandusky affair and they still are having a good season. Second, OSU has been a power house for 50-60 years. They have access to all the talent anyone could want. Now, the sanctions. Those will hurt the team down the road when the Freshman they don’t have this year, which don’t hurt them this year, would have been juniors or seniors. No, no, no. Winning at Utah and almost getting to the National Championship game has to be the best accomplishment. That opened up the Florida and OSU jobs, where he can get almost any player he wants.

  12. Jeff Witmer says:

    “I don’t have any idea how this Ohio State team would fare against Meyer’s best Florida teams — probably not well.” If you think that Ohio State would probably not fare well against Meyer’s best Florida teams, doesn’t that mean that you DO have an idea? Why has America decided that “I have no idea” means the same thing as “I’m not 100% sure”? And why would a writer of your talent, Joe, use (or misuse) such an empty, stock phrase?

    • Rob Smith says:

      Ohio State is not an elite team. They struggle against mediocre Big 10 teams. They would be destroyed by the Top tier teams and certainly would be massacred by the Tim Tebow Florida teams. It would be much like the Oklahoma teams that went undefeated a few years back and ended up being destroyed in BCS games. Their record was the product of a weak schedule in a weak conference, just like OSU.

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  17. It is true, however, that rock snobs always go with “Exile” as the best Stones song. They were influenced by Rolling Stone magazine who told them that they should think Exile was the best. That’s the way it is with rock and rock snobs.


  18. somnus11258 says:

    What makes this interesting is this: “Exile” does not have a single hit on it. Eighteen songs, and the only song that a marginal music fan MIGHT know is “Tumbling Dice.” They also might not know it.You can learn more: China tour packages | China travel packages | China Travel Agency

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