Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No. 63: Sticky Fingers

Band: The Rolling Stones
Album: Sticky Fingers
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Known as much for the Warhol-designed cover as for the actual songs, "Sticky Fingers" is considered a pop culture icon of a record. It was released during the Stones' most critically acclaimed period and remains a favorite of many.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It doesn't live up to the hype. Armed with a grand total of two good songs, the record is just more boring blues-based rock that the Stones did well, but did over and over and over and over.
Best song: "Brown Sugar" and "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" are the two best.
Worst song: "Moonlight Mile" is awful. Any time a band does a song about how hard it is on the road, I turn the record off.
Is it awesome?: Probably not, though it's decent.

I love Andy Warhol's art. I think it's strangely evocative in a post-modern way. His art just screamed "rock and roll," hence this particular cover (complete with working zipper!).


It's fitting that "Sticky Fingers" is close to "Appetite For Destruction" on this list, as they're both drenched in drugs/alcohol. "Brown Sugar" has the triple meaning of race, drugs and, uh, confections, while "Wild Horses," "Sister Morphine" and "Dead Flowers" are pretty clearly about heroin. "Moonlight Mile" is an earlier version of "Turn the Page," a pimple on the ass of music.

For the millionth time, I'm not a huge Stones guy, but I do enjoy this album. Despite all the drug references, the lyrics are solid and interesting, if not brilliant. The blues riffs vary in style and length, from the slow Delta of "Sway" to the more honky tonk-ness of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking."

"Brown Sugar" is probably the most well-known song from "Sticky Fingers" and it should be. It's the smartest song on the record and the wordplay of interracial love is among the smartest lyrics he's ever written. An indictment of the slave trade (yes, a 100-year-old reference), the opening verse is sarcastic and clever:

Gold Coast slaveship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver know he's doin' alright
Hear him whip the women just around midnight

Never mind that this was 1970. Never mind that the term "brown sugar" is also a euphemism for heroin. Just taken as a criticism of the country that was second-to-last to outlaw slavery, the lyric is great.

"Sticky Fingers" is a Stones record, meaning it has a couple of great songs and a whole lot of quasi blues rock. That's fine and the highs (specifically, "Brown Sugar") are pretty high.


fft said...

I respect you for the fact that you don't like the Stones and will stand up and say it. That said, to me they defined Rock and Roll more than even the Beatles.

Unlike a lot of stuff on this list that I will admit is "awesome" but still sever listen to, I find myself listening to these classic Stones albums a lot (by this I mean Beggars Banquet through Exile). And I like the albums as a whole, not just the singles. This is stuff I can listen to regularly today, and dont seem to get tired of. Well, I have gotten tired of them from time to time, but then I put it down for a year or so and when I pick it up again its fresh.

Anonymous said...

You got it wrong with "Moonlight Mile" I'm suspicious of Road Songs and songs with "funky" or "soul" in the title, but there are plenty of good ones, too.

"Bitch" and "Sway" are way ahead of "Can't you hear me knocking" ...which is pretty damned good.