Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

With only a brief break between album releases to thrust the (sometimes) great Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out live album into the maelstrom, the Stones returned with the Third in the Four Best Stones Records (in my opinion). Sticky Fingers is so much more than the album cover that stirred up all that talk. It’s a masterpiece, and possibly the best opening salvo a new decade (the 70’s) has ever heard.

By now the Stones were unquestionably Unto Themselves in every possible way (and had been, for some time). Everything about them was huge, worthy of a tale or three. Lesser mortals would have crumbled, withered and blown away in the fiercely competitive wind that constantly blows through rock and roll, let alone what their lifestyles were doing to them mentally and physically. So, we should all kneel down and give thanks that they somehow held on through their own personal hells to keep going. And going. And going…

Anyway, Sticky Fingers serves up a delicious opening round knock-out count with Brown Sugar, which in typical Stones fashion is about slavery and racial tension, sex and the loss of virginity, all with a delightful snarl and insouciance that is by now their trademark. Welcome to our new album, indeed. But unlike Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed before it, something else is afoot on this record. The blues are still prevalent (and worthy), as are their flirtations with country (Wild Horses is still one of my favourite Stones tracks ever) and their staple rock and roll. But…

This new element isn’t malaise or boredom, and it isn’t sheer exhaustion. No one could muster such performances if they were so apathetic or weary. No, I tend to think that what lurks behind every note of this record is a series of little glimpses into how the drugs had changed the landscape for the band. It’s obvious in the lyrics of most of these songs, but it’s in the feel of the record too. There’s something that tugs the corners down, makes everything that much more of an effort. Of course, the effort is entirely worth it.

Played on its own, this is a completely harrowing record. Taken in context with the albums made just before and after it, it makes a little more sense and it’s a natural lead-in to their next record (my favourite) Exile On Main St. It’s almost as though, listening to these records, what you are hearing is their autobiographies hidden in every note, which makes sense when you consider that albums like these don’t get made unless you pour your absolute heart and soul into every track.

Worth every penny.

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