Sticky Fingers is the 11th studio album released by The Rolling Stones and walks on the edge of where the optimism of the sixties was met with the nihilism of the seventies. It is also the first album to be released on their own record label (Rolling Stones Records), the first appearance of the famous tongue and lips logo, the first full length album to feature guitarist Mick Taylor, the first album released after member Bryan Jones’ death, and the first album after the band’s show in Altamont, California where a fan was stabbed to death in front of the stage, ultimately marking the end of the of love and peace era.The content of the cover, designed by Andy Warhol, juxtaposes the content of the music. Lyrically, Sticky Fingers turns away from male dominance and leans more to show different sides of human vulnerability. The original vinyl release featured a real working zipper that inadvertently caused damage to the record itself.
Sticky Fingers was recorded over the course of two years and includes fan favorites as well as some of their most recognizable songs like “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses.” Guitarist Keith Richards was absent during many recording sessions, which left lead singer Mick Jagger and lead guitarist Mick Taylor to thrive in collaboration in songs like “Sway” and “Moonlight Mile.”
The album went 3x platinum (3 million copies) almost immediately upon release. Keith Richards open G tuned rhythm guitar rips through several tracks on Sticky Fingers but no more than its lead single, “Brown Sugar,” arguably the most morally vacant song to ever top the Billboard Charts. After possibly the most under appreciated Rolling Stones song ever, “Sway,” Sticky Fingers moves into “Wild Horses,” a fan favorite and maybe their best ballad. It features electric, acoustic, and 12-string acoustic guitar and reached No. 28 on the Billboard chart as the second single from the album. A highlight from Sticky Fingers is the Latin inspired jam at the end of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” Intended to fade out after Jagger ran out of lyrics, the band decided to keep playing which means the jam was all improvised.
Sticky Fingers was where the band started using horns more seriously; especially on songs like “Bitch” and “I Got the Blues.” The former of which manages to reference Ivan Pavlov’s dog experiment AND pull it off. “When you call my name I salivate like a Pavlov dog.” After passing through the heartbreaking “I Got the Blues” and the haunting “Sister Morphine,” Jagger does his best tongue-in- cheek country impression in the very revealing “Dead Flowers.”
Sticky Fingers wraps up with “Moonlight Mile,” a song written in an all night session between Jagger and Taylor. Lyrically, the song is a glimpse into the weariness and loneliness of Jagger’s life trying to keep up appearances as a sex -drugs-and- rock & roll star. Ultimately, Sticky Fingers moves through several genres and influences while having its own grit, giving the album a distinct sound. Sticky Fingers shows why the Rolling Stones is cemented as one of the all time great bands and very deserving of the title “greatest rock band in the world” in 1971.
If you like Sticky Fingers, you might also enjoy their other albums from that period like Beggars Banquet, Let it Bleed, Exile on Main St., and Goats Head Soup.