Growing up I remember running through my father’s records looking for anything your average classic rock loving 5th grader would recognize. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton, anything the local rock radio station was playing. Although it took me time to truly understand the greatness of The Rolling Stones, I still stopped to look at the Sticky Fingers album during every perusal. The album-art was a close up shot of a tight-jeaned man covered from all angles, when you removed the liner notes from within the record the man was in cotton briefs, as if he had just removed his pants. Andy Warhol conceived the cover design and conducted the photo sessions. Many speculate that the cover model was the eccentric artist’s boyfriend at the time, others claim Warhol used a variety of models during the session and secretly chose the shots without crediting any of the men. The reason I stopped at this record was not the album art or the music, it was the fact that the album itself featured a working zipper on the front, something that set it apart from everything else in the mass of musty cardboard and dirty plastic sleeves. Little did I know that more than a decade after first recognition I would drunkenly battle Beatles fans in dark bars stating that The Rolling Stones are a better band. My weapon? Sticky Fingers
This record is dark, written with drug addiction, alcoholism, money and fame washing over Mick and Keith like a Pacific tsunami. The meter of the music was the only thing keeping an even keel. From rock, to blues and country, they weren’t afraid to test the limits. I equate Brown Sugar to a one night stand. Drunk, steady and dangerous, this is still an 8pm barroom staple. Wild Horses is a country song through and through right down to the crawl of the rhythm and cry of the pedal steel. Many artists would write about heroin, alcohol, sex and money, but The Stones didn’t have time to dress up their songs in pretty words disguising drugs as women, women as nature, nature as religion. They were raw. Sister Morphine (drugs), Brown Sugar (sex), Dead Flowers (social seclusion and heroin use) all told stories of pain and pleasure that could be understood blatantly and unmistakably across the board.
“Well, when you’re sitting back
In your rose pink Cadillac
Making bets on Kentucky derby day
Ill be in my basement room
With a needle and a spoon
And another girl to take my pain away”
I love the Beatles, but when it comes to experimenting with sound or lyrics, The Stones will always win.