On April 23, 1971, "The Rolling Stones" released one of the greatest works of their glorious career and also one of rock's greatest albums - "Sticky Fingers".
It is hard to believe, but this album that sounds today as one complete and perfect piece, actually consists of an eclectic collection of outtakes and recordings made during different sessions, in different locations, from March 1969 to October 1970. Moreover, this album was recorded during one of the band's hardest times.
On July 3, 1969, the band was announced of Brian Jones, the band's founding guitarist, death. It happened just one month after Keith Richards and Mick Jagger showed him the door out of the band. On December 6, 1969, a brown-skinned fan was stabbed to death during the band's performance at the Altamont Festival. The murder was committed by members of the "Hells Angels" biker gang, who were hired to secure the festival that the Rolling Stones were its organizers. The members of the band had a hard time dealing with this tragedy that also marked the end of the 1960s innocence. And if all that was not enough, then during this challenging period, Mick Jagger broke up with whoever was his girlfriend for 4 years - singer Marianne Faithfull and the band members, especially Keith Richards, were deeply involved in drugs and heroin.
As we shall see below, it is the tragedies and difficulties described above, which are what ultimately led to one of Rock's greatest albums, just like the creation after the chaos.
It is the band's 11th album in the US and ninth in the UK, which was also the first released on its private label named - "Rolling Stones". It is the album with the biggest gap between all the band's albums released up to that point. The Stones, who were used to releasing two or even three albums a year, had to wait a bit this time to release the album.
It is also the band's first full album with guitarist Mick Taylor, who joined the Rolling Stones after guitarist Brian Jones's dismissal, in June 1969. Taylor was then called by Keith Richard and Mick Jagger to the studio and was pretty sure he was coming to record with them as a guest session guitarist. However, the very next day the members of the band informed him that he had been accepted into the band. It turned out that Taylor recorded 4 songs destined for the album "Let It Bleed" while Brian Jones played the rest.
Taylor who was previously a member of "John Mayall's Bluesbreakers" and in the first line-up of "Fleetwood Mac" with Peter Green, brought the blues spirit with him. It is known that the band's roots were deeply in the blues. Even its name (Rolling Stones) was influenced from the bluesist Muddy Waters' song from 1948. Over the years and with the changes in the music world, the Stones entered psychedelic and experimental rock, but with Brian Jones' death and replacement by Mick Taylor, the band has returned to its origins and to the roots of its much-loved genre that flows strongly in the veins of its members.
This album was praised by critics and audiences, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was included in glorious lists such as Rolling Stone Magazine's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", Q Magazine's "Best British Albums" List, "All Time Top 1000 Albums" List - and more and more.
The album opens with "Brown Sugar" and with one of the band's greatest riffs. This is one of the first songs written for the album back in December 1969. Opinions are divided on the subject of the song that Mick Jagger co-wrote with his dark-skinned girlfriend, then-Marsha Hunt. The lyrics seem to deal with slaves who came from Africa, sold in New Orleans and raped by their white masters, but the song was apparently influenced by Jagger's relationship with Marsha Hunt. Another version says that the song was written about heroin and the brown color of the spoon after it was heated, which looked like brown sugar. It is interesting since anyways about half of the album's songs deal with the subject of drugs and/or mention it.
Jagger addressed this in 1993 and from his words, it can be understood that the song subject is a combination of the two versions mentioned above. And so he noted:
"The lyric was all to do with the dual combination of drugs and girls. This song was a very instant thing, a definite high point".
Whatever the real subject will be, it's one of the band's great songs, and all in all, a bouncy rock 'n' roll groove with a simple and ingenious riff and a huge tenor saxophone solo by Bobby Keys.
It is no surprise that this timeless song has been included in Rolling Stone Magazine's "all-time top 500 songs" list, as well as that magazine's "100 greatest guitar songs of all time".
Immediately after that comes the bluesy "Sway" which is really reminiscent of "The Band". A great piece that enjoys Nicky Hopkins' wonderful piano melody and Paul Buckmaster's string arrangement which blends in amazingly with the rough guitar sound of Mick Jagger's rhythm guitar (Keith Richard is credited here for background vocals only). Mick Taylor is revealed here in his most greatness with the little guitar touches, the amazing solo, and slide guitar. Interestingly, other well-known artists are featured in this song. Pete Townshend, Ronnie Lane and Billy Nichols provided background vocals, but did not receive credit for this due to a record company limitation.
The third track "Wild Horses" is without a doubt one of the band's most touching. Keith Richard noted that this is a song meant to express the band's difficulties on the road, away from home and loved ones. He began writing the song after the birth of his son Marlon and Mick Jagger rewrote his lyrics leaving only the chorus. Mick Jagger ruled out the possibility that it was written about Marianne Faithfull since he claimed they were no longer together at the time, but apparently, the lyrics were influenced by this relationship. Faithfull, on the other hand, noted that the sentence "Wild horses could not drag me away" was said by her to Jagger when she awoke from a coma. Richards, who received credit for the writing, noted that the melody was a joint work of him and Mick Taylor who incorporates folk and country influences here and uses an unconventional guitar tune called "Nashville tuning". It is a pity that Taylor did not receive credit for his many contributions on this album and in general, which would eventually lead to his great frustration and his departure from the band in 1974. Interestingly, the song was first released by Gram Parsons' Flying Burrito Brothers in 1970, since the Stones waited with the release of the album until the end of their commitment to the previous record company. Parsons was at the time a friend of Richards and influenced the country and folk style that blended into the album. Jim Dickinson plays the piano here since Ian Stewart, the band's regular pianist refused to play in this song because he hated the minor chords included in it.
The track "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" is one of the most complex and interesting on the album. A blues piece that stretches over more than 7 minutes and includes jam and improvisations of guitar solo and saxophone. The segment began with an impromptu riff that Richards played in the studio and the rest of the friends joined him. The jam session at the end of the song includes Rocky Dijon's percussions and Billy Preston keyboards. He is very reminiscent of the band Santana, but Richard noted that the band did not intend to sound like Santana. They finished playing the song and then continued on to Jam not aware that the recording was going on. What an amazing solo by Mick Taylor proving once again what a great guitarist he is.
The track "You Gotta Move" is the only one on the album that was not written by any of the band members. It is a popular African-American song recorded by a number of gospel singers, beginning in the 1940s.
The other side of the vinyl opens with "Bitch" an uncharacteristic word for that period. A groovy rock 'n' roll song with a catchy riff that never goes out of your head. Jagger wrote the song about ending a relationship, apparently the one he had with Marianne Faithfull.
If we already mentioned Marian Faithfull, then the song "Sister Morphine" was written by Jagger and her. In fact, Marianne Faithfull was the first to release the song back in 1969 as a sideline for the single "Something Better". Needless to say, this is one of the first songs to explicitly mention the drug issue. Faithfull, who wrote the lyrics, said she was influenced by the combination of the songs "Sister Ray" and "Heroin" written by Lou Reed, which leaves no room for doubt about the subject of the writing. According to her, Jagger wrote the music on an acoustic guitar while the two were in Rome in 1968. It is one of the first songs recorded for the album and is, therefore, the only one of which Mick Taylor does not play. The one who replaced Brian Jones here and issuing the slide guitar solo is Ry Cooder.
Marian Faithfull is an integral part of this album as the song "I Got the Blues" was also written by Jagger following their breakup. Awesome blues piece !, amazing and sweeping with an instructive organ solo by Billy Preston and an unforgettable saxophone playing by Bobby Keys. The string arrangements are provided here by Jim Price who also plays the trumpet.
The song "Dead Flowers" also deals directly with the subject of drugs in general and heroin in particular, and includes the line: "I'll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon". Mick Jagger turns in a song to a girl named "Susie" and informs her that she is invited to send him dead flowers every morning, but he will lay roses on her grave ... . Mick Taylor and Keith Richard provide the short honky-tonk guitar sentences that add to the song's rustic vibe.
The album ends with "Moonlight Mile" which was also the last to be recorded for the album at the end of a grueling and cocaine-filled session day. Keith Richards was already "finished" and did not participate in the recording, so all the guitars in the song are performed by Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger who plays the acoustic guitar here. It's a magical and special song that undoubtedly finishes this album perfectly. The arrangements of the strings here are amazing and contribute to the ending of this masterful album in a simply epic way.
And it is impossible to end the coverage without referring to the special cover with the famous zipper designed by none other than Andy Warhol. Interestingly, the original release really included a zipper that could be opened.
The album "Sticky Fingers" put the Rolling Stones a bit late into the '70s, but it did so in a big storm. It was and remains a masterpiece album - a timeless classic that has not lost its shine even after five decades.
To listen to the album: Click Here.