Friday, April 23, 1971

The Rolling Stones released Sticky Fingers: April 23, 1971

Originally posted April 23, 2012.

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Release date: 23 April 1971
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Brown Sugar (4/26/71, #1 US, #1 UK) / Sway / Wild Horses (6/19/71, #28 US) / Can't You Hear Me Knocking / You Gotta Move / Bitch / I Got the Blues / Sister Morphine / Dead Flowers / Moonlight Mile

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, -- UK, 7.5 world

Peak: 14 US, 15 UK


Review: After the experimental outing with Their Satanic Majesties Request and the Altamont disaster, “the Rolling Stones came back nastier and more assured than ever…[it] became their biggest seller to date.” TL “The key to the album…[is] the utter weariness of the songs” AMG betraying the struggles the members were enduring, from the aftermath of the Altamont disaster to singer Mick Jagger’s breakup with Marianne Faithfull and guitarist Keith Richards’ worries about his newborn son Marlon. CDU

“It’s a weary, drug-laden album – well over half the songs explicitly mention drug use, while the others merely allude to it.” AMG The album, which was recorded in part at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, CDU is marked by “a loose, ramshackle ambience.” AMG It is “a slow, bluesy affair, with a few country touches thrown in for good measure.” AMG

“The laid-back tone of the album gives ample room for new lead guitarist Mick Taylor to stretch out, particularly on the extended coda” AMG of “the near-dangerous electrified Can’t You Hear Me KnockingCDU Also “added to the brew are the spicy horn arrangements of saxophonist Bobby Keys and trumpet player Jim Price. The use of horns in the Stones’ repertoire seemed inevitable – when they kick in during ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Bitch,’ it’s as if Keith’s guitar is rebirthed in brass.” CDU

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

“As if to prove their minds were still as dirty as their music,” AZ “the classic opener, Brown Sugar [is] a gleeful tune about slavery, interracial sex, and lost virginity, not necessarily in that order.” AMG The song “begins with some magical raunch chords…in the tradition of…[The Kinks’] ‘All Day and All of the Night,’ [and the Stones’ own] ‘Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown,’ and ‘Satisfaction.’” RS

Brown Sugar

Sway is pure terror,” TL a “midtempo rocker that would sound orchestral even without Paul Buckmaster’s climactic string arrangement.” AZ “The sound is characteristic Rolling Stones messiness…[but] lacks intensity…it remains a series of riffs whose lack of content is obscured by prolonged and indifferent guitar semi-solos and a fine string arrangement that suddenly enters towards the end.” RS

Wild Horses is their first non-ironic stab at a country song, and it is a beautiful, heart-tugging masterpiece;” AMG it “is as tender as the Stones can get.” TL “The longing of the song’s lyrics coupled with its ultimate hope constitute as much of a theme as there is on this record.” RS

Wild Horses

"Mick Taylor’s electric slide guitar is absolutely exquisite” RS on You Gotta Move. “Combined with Richard’s fine work on the acoustic they create one of the album’s few real moments. Charlie Watts’ bass drum holds it together perfectly, while Richard’s harmony smoothes off the more outrageous edges of Jagger’s lead vocal. In the end, all the pieces fit. A small but important triumph.” RS

On the “mean-spirted” AMG “rocker Bitch,” AZ Jagger assumes “one of his most popular poses: demonic. here he flaunts naughty words and naughty thoughts as if he still thought they were naughty. The arrangement is straight-ahead. The horns sound great here as they are used primarily for purposes of syncopation and rhythm. The bass and drums…burns like a bitch.” RS


“In the tradition of the earlier R&B imitations,” RSI Got the Blues is a ravished, late-night classic that ranks among their very best blues.” AMG “This is the first time they actually added Stax horns.” RS

“The terrifyingly spare Sister MorphineCDU is “one of the most vivid, horrifying songs about drug abuse ever recorded” AZ while “the countryish Dead FlowersAZ is “a definitive comedy of decadence.” TL

“The gorgeous…Moonlight MileAMG is “sad, yearning, drug-addled, and beautiful.” AMG “Grandiose strings” AMG “push the intensity level constantly upwards…The energy becomes unmistakably erotic.” RS “There is something soulful here, something deeply felt.” RS It is Jagger’s “best performance on the album – the only thing that compares with his singing of ‘Gimme Shelter.’” It “is a perfect closure” AMG – “a masterpiece.” RS

Moonlight Mile

Sticky Fingers proved that the endless summer of the 1960s was over, but that the Stones would rock just as hard in the following decade.” CDU “It doesn’t have the sprawl and mood of their next release, Exile on Main Street, but Sticky Fingers truly captures the Stones at the peak of their game.” TL

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