1971, on Rolling Stones Records
Mick Jagger - lead vocals, guitar, percussion
Keith Richards – lead and rhythm guitars, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Mick Taylor – lead and rhythm guitars, acoustic and slide guitar
Charlie Watts – drums.
Bill Wyman – bass, piano
Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys, Billy Preston, Jim Price, Rocky Dijon, Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzche, Paul Buckmaster, Ian Stewart, Jim Dickenson
The Rolling Stones' album Sticky Fingers, released in 1971, is significant in many respects. The Beatles had fallen apart a year before, leaving the Stones without any serious rivals. Indeed, Sticky Fingers, which is widely acknowledged as one of their best albums, opened the 1970s with a bang and reasserted their supremacy.
Sticky Fingers was the first album released on the new Rolling Stones record label and introduced the infamous lips and tongue logo which has become almost as widely recognised around the world as Coca-Cola.
Sticky Fingers was also the first album in which the young blues guitarist Mick Taylor appeared as one of the Rolling Stones. This infusion of new blood is evident in the unmistakable R&B flavour of the record. One of the constants throughout the album is the brilliant interplay between the two guitarists, Mick Taylor and Keith Richards.
The mysterious death of former lead guitarist Brian Jones and the gory Altamont fiasco in 1969 had painted the Stones in a rather unfavourable light. As a result, they moved away from the dark, devil-worshipping image of the 1960s towards the sex imaging that would be the mainstay for the rest of their career. The original vinyl record came in a double sleeve; the outer sleeve featured a zipper which opened up to a pair of jeans to reveal a pair of underpants underneath. This caused much consternation at the time.
Sticky Fingers opens with the vigorous abandon of 'Brown Sugar', one of two from the album to make it to the newly released Stones compilation Forty Licks (which, at the time this article was written, recently passed the quadruple platinum mark in sales). Predictably, this song provoked accusations of sexism, racism, and who knows what else from individuals and organisations united in their hatred of 'the bad boys of rock 'n' roll'. Nevertheless, 'Brown Sugar' remains a classic.
Next comes 'Sway', a great rocker featuring a Mick Taylor guitar solo at the end that deserves much more fame that it got.
'Wild Horses' is simply one of the great rock ballads of all time; it also made it to Forty Licks. An interesting fact: Keith wrote 'Wild Horses' as a lullaby for his son Marlon after being away from him on the road.
'Can't You Hear Me Knocking' is a long (7.14 minutes) and intricate song that showcases the remarkable talent of every musician involved. It starts off with a blast of raw, energising guitar and red-hot Jagger vocals. The second half of the song is instrumental, more mellow and controlled. Bobby Keys showcases his bluesy saxophone and Keith and Mick Taylor jam on guitar while Charlie keeps the show on the road with a jazzman's swinging percussion.
'You Gotta Move' is the only song on Sticky Fingers that does not quite live up to the rest of the album. It has the feel of a song composed on a hot, sweaty day while floating down the sluggish Mississippi river on a barge. Some clearly love that type of song, but this Researcher does not.
'Bitch' is the perfect example of a song with the right amount of rock and the right amount of roll (with a cool horn section thrown in on the side).
'I Got The Blues' is a soulfully charged slow song with a nice organ solo, but it is unremarkable compared to other songs on the record.
Track eight, 'Sister Morphine', is a haunting song about the hopeless and helpless state of a drug addict and car wreck victim. Jagger and Richards originally composed it during the 1960s for release by Marianne Faithful. It is musically and lyrically excellent but is too much of a downer for top marks.
'Dead Flowers' is a raunchy, country-style song most remarkable for Jagger's assumed American accent – definitely a classic.
The album ends with 'Moonlight Mile', a beautiful, romantic song with a strong backbone that goes down smoothly. Possibly one of the greatest finales to a rock album.
In conclusion, Sticky Fingers deserves its towering reputation. It makes for particularly interesting listening when one puts it in the context of the Rolling Stones' long, varied, successful, and continuing career.