Music CD Reviews: The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

by Mott the Dog

5 Stars

You want a Rock ‘n’ Roll album that’s got it all? Well, this is it. And considering it is, is quite a feat in itself. Let me firstly take you back to the situation as it was with “The Stones” in mid 1971, when this album was thrust out into the world. After having been written off as a spent force in 1967, after the release of their disastrous reply to “the Beatles” ‘Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ with their own album ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’, which the cleverest thing about was the arty 3D cover, their first flop single “We Love You” released to try and get them some much needed support after the first of their very public drug busts, which failed to even make the Top Ten either side of the Atlantic. Of course they bounced back, avoiding prison sentences.

The next two singles were superb, number ones all over the world (Jumpin Jack Flash and Honky Tonk Women). But even better they broke through properly, establishing themselves as a band capable of writing and recording classic Rock ‘n’ Roll albums in “Beggars Banquet” (1968) and the Phenomenal “Let It Bleed” (1969), both of which were again worldwide number ones. Then tragedy struck with Brian Jones, founder member and probably at one time the most musically talented Rolling Stone, leaving the band due to his increasing waywardness because of his Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle, making him destructive to himself and the band. He was found a week later drowned in his own swimming pool in most mysterious circumstances. This obviously had a very disabling effect on the band, but a replacement was found in a certain Mr. Mick Taylor, who had been wowing the blues world with his guitar playing for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. (Having been brought into the Bluesbreakers to replace Peter Green, who in turn had been brought in to replace a young Eric Clapton.)

So after some pretty heavy rehearsals and a very average free concert at London’s Hyde Park, the band set out on a huge tour of America, which was a triumph until the last concert, a free gig at the Altamonte Raceway, where for some reason best known to themselves, The Stones hired a chapter of the Hells Angels to run security. The end result was one fan beaten to death mere yards from where the Stones were playing. Only an on stage plea from Jagger himself and a quick dash to the waiting helicopters got the band out of the situation before anything else went wrong. A live album from the tour was released, “Get Your Ya Ya’s Out’’, which showed how much the band had improved as a live act with Taylor’s contributions, turning good stage numbers into real corkers. Have a listen to the guitar solo Taylor turns in from the Stones version of Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie” for evidence. “Get Your Ya Ya’s Out” is probably still the most complete and exciting live album the Stones ever released; you can almost hear the sweat running up and down the fret boards.

So the last three albums had been number ones and the last two singles the same, but that had been two years hence, and the last album had been released to finish their contract with Decca records, and now they were branching out on their own with their own record label. Would they survive on their own? What did they know about business? (Long Haired Layabouts) Would Taylor work in the studio? Was the magic still there?

Of course it was, if anything “Sticky Fingers” (the name Sticky Fingers was given to the band as a present by Mott The Hoople, who were going to call their second album that, but plumped for Mad Shadows instead) was even better than its two predecessors. As soon as opener Brown Sugar’s guitar riff comes belting through your speakers you know you are in for a frantic ride. Keith Richards has kept his unique guitar slinging style, but Taylor’s more fluid runs fitted in perfectly with the new songs.

Jagger’s voice had never been better, in fact as if knowing that this was such an important album artistically, Jagger’s singing throughout “Sticky Fingers” is at his very best. By the time the drums and bass come in, you cannot help but be tapping your feet. The saxophone solo in the middle of the song turned Bobby Keys from unknown session musician to probably the most famous Rock ‘n’ Roll saxophonist of his era (he still plays with the band live today recreating the same solos).

If ever you are having a party and things are falling a bit flat, put “Brown Sugar” on, that will get them all going again.

Next song up, “Sway” is equally as strong with some great Taylor guitar work and a real strong Stones style chorus that lots of other bands have tried to create but somehow never even come close. The electric piano has always been a very important part of the Stones sound, which is especially well shown here, which is strange in a way as although the Stones have always had a keyboard player, both in the studio and on stage, there has never been an official keyboard player in the band. In fact it wasn’t until the eighties that any keyboards or keyboard players were actually visible on stage, but on “Sticky Fingers” some of the finest keyboard tinklers of our time were used, such as Nicky Hopkins, Ian Stewart (who was with the Stones from the beginning until his untimely death in the nineties), Jack Nitzche, and J. Dickinson, who was responsible for the playing on the beautiful song “Wild Horses”, still today one of the best known Stones ballads with the band’s playing under pinning Jagger’s lament.

The filthy guitar riff that belts out to open up “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin” is such a contrast that it is a wonder that the same musicians can turn it on to such a degree, nobody can get down and dirty like the Stones. Then at the three minute mark the whole thing turns round into a bluesy jam giving room for both guitarists, Bobby Keys and Billy Preston on organ, to have a blow, almost sounding like a latter day Santana. Closing what would have been the end of side one in the good old days of vinyl is the only non-original on this collection written by Fred McDowell and the Rev Gary Davis. What can I say, “You Gotta Move.”

Then we get nearly four minutes of “Bitch”, a real Stones classic rocker which is like a blast of fresh air when you listen to this album in its entirety, as it is not as famous as its brother rocker “Brown Sugar” as it was never released as a single, therefore not as over played. (Some great songs are.... Well, great. But how many times can you hear “Stairway to Heaven”?) But again, on “Bitch” Mick Taylor’s guitar takes it to a rip-roaring climax.

“I Got The Blues” is the album’s only real blues, a lament for lost love with some remarkable playing from Billy Preston. “Sister Morphine” is the most harrowing anti-drug song ever written, with a co-writing credit given to Marianne Faithful. This is five and a half minutes of pain that shows that some of these people have been places that the rest of us just do not want to go. A genuinely scary piece of music.

Thankfully things then musically lighten up with the wonderful “Dead Flowers” with its rousing chorus and Country and Western feel, but still with its warning lyrics about the evil that can come to you through not taking care of yourself, and not being led down the road of temptation. The album closes with the reflective “Moonlight Mile” with a typical catchy Stones chorus with the band finishing off in fine style musically with the sound being bolstered by a rousing orchestral arrangement by Paul Buckmaster.

All in all a tremendous triumph for the Glimmer Twins and the Boys, of course they were going to even eclipse this with their next album, “Emotional Rescue” but that’s another story for another day.

The Rolling Stones Forty Licks Tour comes to The Impact Arena Bangkok on Tuesday 8th April, get yourself a copy of “Sticky Fingers”, have a listen, and then get yourself a ticket to go and listen to the real thing live.

The Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger - Vocals

Keith Richards - Guitars

Mick Taylor - Guitars

Bill Wyman - Bass

Charlie Watts - Drums


Brown Sugar


Wild Horses

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

You Gotta Move


I Got The Blues

Sister Morphine

Dead Flowers

Moonlight Mile

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]