Sticky Fingers is the ninth British and 11th American studio album by English rock band The Rolling Stones, released in April 1971. It is the band’s first album of the 1970s and its first release on the band’s newly formed label, Rolling Stones Records, after having been contracted since 1963 with Decca Records in the UK and London Records in the US. It is also Mick Taylor’s first full-length appearance on a Rolling Stones album, the first Rolling Stones album not to feature any contributions from guitarist and founder Brian Jones and the first one on which Mick Jagger is credited with playing guitar.
The album is often regarded as one of the Stones’ best, containing songs such as the chart-topping “Brown Sugar” and the folk-influenced “Wild Horses”, and achieving triple platinum certification in the US.
With the end of their Decca/London association at hand, The Rolling Stones would finally be free to release their albums (cover art and all) as they pleased. However, their leaving manager Allen Klein dealt the group a major blow when they discovered that they had inadvertently signed over their entire 1960s copyrights to Klein and his company ABKCO, which is how all of their material from 1963’s “Come On” to Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert has since come to be released by ABKCO Records. The band would remain incensed with Klein for decades over the act.
When Decca informed The Rolling Stones that they were owed one more single, they cheekily submitted a track called “Cocksucker Blues”, which was guaranteed to be refused. Instead, Decca released the two-year-old Beggars Banquet track “Street Fighting Man” while Klein would have dual copyright ownership, with The Rolling Stones, of “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses”.
The album’s artwork emphasizes the suggestive innuendo of the Sticky Fingers title, showing a close-up of a jeans-clad male crotch with the visible outline of a large penis; the cover of the original (vinyl) release featured a working zipper and mock belt buckle that opened to reveal cotton briefs. The vinyl release displayed the band’s name and album title along the image of the belt; behind the zipper the white briefs were seemingly rubber stamped in gold with the name of American pop artist Andy Warhol, below which read “THIS PHOTOGRAPH MAY NOT BE–ETC.”While the artwork was conceived by Warhol, photography was by Billy Name and design by Craig Braun.
The cover photo of a male model’s crotch clad in tight blue jeans was assumed by many fans to be an image of Mick Jagger, but the people actually involved at the time of the photo shoot claim that Warhol had several different men photographed (Jagger was not among them) and never revealed which shots he used. Among the candidates, Jed Johnson, Warhol’s lover at the time, denied it was his likeness, although his twin brother Jay is a possibility. Those closest to the shoot, and subsequent design, name Factory artist and designer Corey Tippin as the likeliest candidate. Warhol “superstar” Joe Dallesandro claims to have been the model.
After retailers complained that the zipper was causing damage to the vinyl (from stacked shipments of the record), the zipper was “unzipped” slightly to the middle of the record, where damage would be minimized.
The album features the first usage of the band’s “tongue & lips” logo, which was originally designed by Ernie Cefalu. Although Ernie’s version was used for much of the merchandising and was the design originally shown to the band by Craig Braun, the design used for the album was illustrated by John Pasche.
In 2003, the TV network VH1 named Sticky Fingers the “No. 1 Greatest Album Cover” of all time.
In Spain, the original cover was censored and replaced with a “Can of fingers” cover, and “Sister Morphine” was replaced by a live version of Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock”. This version was released on the compilation album Rarities 1971–2003 in 2005.
In 1992, the LP release of the album in Russia featured a similar treatment as the original cover; but with Cyrillic lettering for the band name and album name, a colourized photograph of blue jeans with a zipper, and a Soviet Army uniform belt buckle that shows a hammer and sickle inscribed in a star. The model appears to be female.
Sticky Fingers hit the number one spot on the British charts in May 1971, remaining there for four weeks before returning at number one for a further week in mid June. In the US, the album hit number one within days of release, and stayed there for four weeks. In Germany it was one of only two non-German albums to reach number one in 1971.
In 2003, Sticky Fingers was listed as #63 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In 1994 Sticky Fingers was remastered and reissued by Virgin Records, again in 2009 by Universal Music Enterprises, and once more in 2011 by Universal Music Enterprises in a Japanese-only SHM-SACD version.
All songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, except where noted.
|4.||“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”||7:14|
|5.||“You Gotta Move” (Fred McDowell/Gary Davis)||2:32|
|7.||“I Got the Blues”||3:54|
|8.||“Sister Morphine” (Jagger/Richards/Marianne Faithfull)||5:31|