1971’s Sticky Fingers represented a lot of things for both The Rolling Stones and the culture in which they were interwoven at the time. Although the album was recorded through a series of sessions that began in March of 1970, Sticky Fingers captures the band in their raunchy, sleazy, ragged glory in a way that some feel hasn’t been replicated in such capacity since. The album’s opening cut, the now classic “Brown Sugar” attacks with a primal groove and an intro emphasizing Keith Richards riff-style, but also at the same time displays a loss of innocence. This can be said in part with the songs lyrical content, but also in The Rolling Stones universe in 1970/1971. This album marked the first release in which The Stones were no longer associated with their manager and Decca records and it was also the first album in which Mick Taylor was a full force as a member of The Rolling Stones. Previously Taylor appeared on 1969’s Let It Bleed, but only the tracks "Country Honk" and "Live With Me". Also at the same time, the culture was breaking out of the 60’s mindset and Sticky Fingers addresses things in certain ways, while at the same time seeming to pay homage to the band’s earlier roots and influences that were dominate on their early recordings.
“Sway” comes in as the second of ten tracks on Sticky Fingers. This song swoons with a feeling as Jagger sings of abandonment emphasizing a sense of debauchery, but one that oozes with sentiment. The lyrics “Its just that demon that life has got me in its sway” all add to the soundscape created on this track. Although this song contains the elements that people identify with as The Rolling Stones sound, Keith Richards does not actually play guitar on this track, Mick Jagger provides the rhythm guitar as Mick Taylor plays lead. Keith does however add backing vocals, along with a few other guests. “Wild Horses” is a country ballad with folk elements. The song features 12-string guitar combined with Nashville tuning and once again tapped into the Jagger/Richards songwriting formula as well as a feeling that Richards stated in 1993 as “not wanting to be on the road, being a million miles from where you want to be”. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” slides in with crunchy guitar as Charlie Watts provides a rhythmic swing on the drums in conjunction with Bill Wyman on bass. Lyrics, compared to the music featured here, seem secondary, but they do however take the listener into a seemingly seedy underworld. Musically the song features a long instrumental outro, which delves into elements of jazz, funk and blues with Latin sounding rhythms. This was apparently not planned, the band kept playing after approximately the 2:30 mark. The result was one of the longest songs in the band’s catalog and one that featured equal parts raunchiness and experimentation.
“Dead Flowers” brings The Stones foray into country back into the spotlight at track nine on this album. The band’s country influence began due to the friendship struck up by Keith Richards and country-rock musician Gram Parsons and can be heard on songs such as “Dead Flowers”, “Far Away Eyes” and “Sweet Virginia” for example. On “Dead Flowers”, The Rolling Stones provide cool and breezy country sounds contrasted with lyrics that tell the story of broken hearts, upper class socialites and drug addiction. The song’s title takes on several meanings as the chorus hits portraying both a reflection of a broken relationship and heroin addiction, but also features many elements that can take on universal meaning. “Moonlight Mile” ends Sticky Fingers. The song is a ballad that is illuminated with lyrics and music that portray the paradoxes and loneliness of being on the road. The song features a string arrangement by Paul Buckmaster, perhaps best known for working with Elton John and piano by Jim Price, not Ian Stewart. His absence from this track is said to be due to his dislike of songs with minor chords. As Sticky Fingers fades out, the album exudes a feeling that is difficult to pinpoint. The balance between the bands sleazy swagger and atmosphere created on Sticky Fingers sweats with anticipation. The Rolling Stones would take their sound further into the 70s next with the eighteen-song album Exile On Main St., but with Sticky Fingers The Rolling Stones drift away from the decade that was the 60s and onward to their own exile.
Saturday Night Playlist:
1. The Rolling Stones - Can't You Hear Me Knocking (Alternate Version)
2. The Rolling Stones - Sway
3. The Routes - At The Bottom
4. The Black Angels - Twisted Light
5. Breakker - Faze Game
6. Super Visas - What I Can
7. Pere Ubu - Humor Me (Live)
8. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - I Been Sleeping On It
9. The Beatles - I Saw Her Standing There (Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg, Germany 1962)
10. Thirsty Souls - Don’t Know What I Don’t Know (Yeah!)
11. Buddy Selfish - It’s Only Make Believe
12. Bloodshot Bill - Don’t Bug Me Baby
13. Bloodshot Bill - Come Back To Me
14. The Rolling Stones - You Gotta Move
15. The Rolling Stones - Dead Flowers (Alternate Version)
16. Wilco - Random Name Generator
17. Shotgun Jimmie - Summer Sound
18. Mick Futures - Tentative Issue
19. Grounders - Bloor Street And Pressure
20. Meat Puppets - Leaves
21. Martha Wainwright - When The Day Is Short
22. The Mighty Swells - Runaway
23. New York Dolls - Don’t Mess With Cupid (Demo)
24. Television - Friction
25. Cowboy Junkies - Dead Flowers (Live)
26. Shotgun Jummie - Impossible Popcycle
27. The Rolling Stones - Moonlight Mile
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