Still Sticky After All These Years

Celebrating a half century of Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones

Sticky at 50 (Art: Ron Hart)

It was 50 years ago today when The Rolling Stones released Sticky Fingers, the album that doubled down on the band’s rule as the kings of “Eazy Sleazy” in AOR.

It was the first album to feature the iconic tongue-and-lips logo I’ve been drawing in the margins of notebooks since middle school.

From its opening ode to interracial love in “Brown Sugar” to closing out with one of their greatest ballads in “Moonlight Mile,” Sticky Fingers was Let It Bleed with more swagger as the Stones “returned to basics” as it says by twisting up their love for honky tonk and Memphis soul into an even knottier tangle. 

Alternate Sticky Fingers cover (Image: Discogs)

Yet the end result was indeed a richer, fuller feel that would come to define the Stones sound, with Mick Jagger (lead vocal, various percussion and rhythm guitar), Keith Richards (guitar and backing vocal), Mick Taylor (guitar), Bill Wyman (bass guitar), and Charlie Watts (drums) all playing sweeter and greasier than they ever had in their decade together to that point. Augmenting contributions were made by long-time Stones collaborators including saxophonist Bobby Keys and keyboardists Billy Preston, Jack Nitzsche, Ian Stewart, and Nicky Hopkins, and, once again, it was produced by Jimmy Miller.

“They take the roles of sexist buccaneers living high off the racial swamp of America, acting out a story too grossly vicious to accept at face value,” wrote renowned music critic Greil Marcus about Sticky Fingers at the time. “Their role-playing allows us to see a certain reality and its rejection, in a parody of their own familiar posturings and of our own new sensitivities. It’s a very neat inversion.”

But where Greil couldn’t seem to get beyond “Brown Sugar,” the fact that 50 years later Sticky Fingers universally remains a Top 3 Stones album is tantamount to its transcendence of time, space or context. It’s the music that lives on–so many of them considered to be pure golden Stones like “Wild Horses” and “Bitch,” which contains one of the all-time Keef riffs, while others continue to exist as deep cult favorites like “Sway” and “Sister Morphine,” cowritten by Jagger muse Marianne Faithfull. 

The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, Atlantic 1971

And lest we forget Andy Warhol’s unforgettable interactive album cover with the real working zipper and the underwear. You know Mick and the boys had at least one Velvet Underground tape on the tour bus, too.

Well, anyway, Happy 50th anniversary to Sticky Fingers.


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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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