To be able to properly remember Sticky Fingers being released by The Rolling Stones, as their xx long playing record in April 1971, you are probably 58 years or older, maybe a little younger if you had older siblings who bought the album when it was released and indoctrinated you by playing it over and over again. But the fact is for countless Stones’ fans, many not even in their thirties, this album is a classic, among classics. It resonates with generations of fans that have grown used to hearing songs from the album played live by the band in the intervening 45 years.
Sticky Fingers was over 500 days in the making; from when recording began to when it was eventually released The anticipation had been heightened by a UK tour in March, the filming of a show at London’s legendary Marquee Club and by the fact that The Stones had announced that they were leaving Britain to to live in France.
Upon its original release the album was greeted with delight by fans and critics alike. As Rolling Stone magazine said, “It is the latest beautiful chapter in the continuing story of the greatest rock group in the world,” The reissue of Sticky Fingers has been over 16,000 days in the making, but has it been worth the wait? On 22 May 1971 It deposed Crosby Stills, Nash & Young's live album, 4 Way Street from the No.1 position on the Billboard album chart and then stayed there for the next month
Sticky Fingers is a perfect record. Great music, an album cover that’s iconic and the story around its making that has added to its legend. Many classic Stones’ records were recorded in America, at both RCA’s studio in Hollywood and at Chess Records in Chicago, but for Sticky Fingers the band chose a far less glamorous studio, one in the Southern States that only those in the musical-know had heard of – Muscle Shoals Sound in Sheffield, Alabama.
Having finished their tour of the US in December 1969 the Stones flew to Muscle Shoals where they recorded three songs that are at the very heart of the album – ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘You Gotta Move’. The band then flew from Muscle Shoals to San Francisco on 5 December, and 24 hours later they played their infamous free concert at Altamont.
Over the course of the next year the band worked on more recordings at London’s Olympic Studios and at Mick’s country house, Stargroves using the Stones Mobile, to capture the remainder of the tracks that make up the album.
But 1970 was not all about recording, far from it. There was a European tour and behind the scenes there was much changing. The Stones had decided to leave Decca Records at the end of their contract period and to start their own label that was to be funded by another record company; after much negotiation the band decided to go with Ahmet Ertegun and Atlantic Records.
Forming their own label meant coming up with a name and an identity – the name was simple, “Rolling Stones Records”, but the identity and the logo took a little longer. As we now all know it was the famous ‘tongue and lips’ that became that identity and has since become the most recognisable band logo in the world, as well as one of the most well known brands.
Given some of the issues that the band had faced with earlier record covers they were determined to have an album that looked they way they wanted it to look and so Mick and Charlie set about working with Andy Warhol to come up with a concept that the band loved. The album with its fully working zip on the original release is now one of the best-known LP covers in the world; at the time the New Musical Express was prompted to write, “Fame has spread from Mick Jagger’s lips to his zips.” It was all part of the single mindedness with which the Stones went about getting this record, just right.
By the time mixing was completed in early 1971 the band had two things on their collective minds. A short tour of the UK and a move to France, a tour to say farewell and a move necessitated by financial mismanagement over a long period that would have bankrupted the band had they stayed in Britain.
And so it was that on 16 April 1971 ‘Brown Sugar’ came out in the UK and a week later Sticky Fingers was released around the world. You can now download versions of Sticky Fingers by clicking the buttons below