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Music / Sticky Fingers

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"It's just that demon life has got me in its sway."
Click to see alternate Spanish cover 

Sticky Fingers is the ninth studio album (eleventh American album) by The Rolling Stones, released in 1971. The album is notable for its cover, designed by painter Andy Warhol. Historically, it is important for being the first release on Rolling Stone Records, and completing the transition between the Stones' Jones era and Taylor era, which was first coming to fruition on their previous album Let It Bleed. Hits and fan favorites include "Brown Sugar", "Wild Horses", "Sway", "Dead Flowers", "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", "Bitch", and "Sister Morphine".


Side One

  1. "Brown Sugar" (3:48)
  2. "Sway" (3:50)
  3. "Wild Horses" (5:42)
  4. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" (7:14)
  5. "You Gotta Move" (2:32)

Side Two

  1. "Bitch" (3:38)
  2. "I Got the Blues" (3:54)
  3. "Sister Morphine" (5:31)note 
  4. "Dead Flowers" (4:03)
  5. "Moonlight Mile" (5:56)

Principal Members:

Wild tropes couldn't drag me away:

  • Alliterative Title: "Moonlight Mile".
  • Alternate Album Cover: The normal artwork used for the album features the crotch of jeans close up. On the original release, the zipper worked and would expose briefs. Later releases would not use the working zipper, such as the Mobile Fidelity Half Speed Master, which used a shiny embossing to represent the missing zipper. In Spain, the Franco Regime censored the artwork so it was replaced with a can of treacle with a hand reaching out of it.
  • Anthropomorphic Vice: "Sister Morphine", which is actually a song about lying in a hospital bed drugged up:
    Here I lie in my hospital bed
    Tell me, Sister Morphine, when are you coming round again?
  • Anti-Love Song: "Dead Flowers" is about a girl named little Susie, whom the protagonist clearly despises:
    Take me down, little Susie, take me down
    I know you think you're the queen of the underground
    And you can send me dead flowers every morning
    Send me dead flowers by the mail
    Send me dead flowers to my wedding
    And I won't forget to put roses on your grave
  • Badass Boast: "Sway"
    It's just that demon life has got me in its sway
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: "Brown Sugar". It was written with Mick Jagger's secret girlfriend, Marsha Hunt in mind, who was also the mother of his first child Karis. The song describes a black girl of slave origin who is described as "brown sugar, tasting good as a black girl should".
  • Blues: "You Gotta Move", a stylistically very faithful blues cover.
  • Break-Up Song: "I Got the Blues"
    Every night you've been away
    I've sat down and I have prayed
    That you're safe in the arms of a guy
    Who will bring you alive
    Won't drag you down with abuse
    In the silk sheet of time
  • Cover Version:
    • "You Gotta Move", a negro spiritual song—most famously covered by Mississippi Fred McDowell and Gary Davis in 1965.
    • "Sister Morphine" is technically a cover too, since Marianne Faithfull released her version in 1969, although since the songwriting is credited to Faithfull/Jagger/Richards, this is something of a Zig-Zagged Trope. Faithfull's version isn't that well known, not at all helped by Decca Records withdrawing the UK single it was pressed on due to the drug reference in its title after only about 500 copies had been pressed. (It remained in print in some other countries, however.)
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover was designed by Andy Warhol and the artists at the Factory. On the original LP (and some re-releases), a real zipper could be pulled down.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Despite the Ode to Intoxication nature of the song, "Sister Morphine" also notes that the narrator will be dead in the morning.
  • Epic Rocking: "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" is over seven minutes, and "Moonlight Mile" very nearly qualifies at just a hair under six.
  • Grief Song: "You Gotta Move", which informs us that everyone has to die eventually.
  • Improv: Reportedly, the entire second half of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" was made up on the spot. Mick Taylor said he "just felt like carrying on playing" when everyone was putting their instruments down, but the other musicians liked what he was playing and picked up their instruments again. According to Richards, they didn't even know the tape was still rolling until later. It resulted in one of the most acclaimed songs on the album.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Bitch".
  • Intercourse with You: "Bitch", "Brown Sugar", "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" are all lustful songs.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: "I Got the Blues" has elements of this.
    Every night you've been away
    I've sat down and I have prayed
    That you're safe in the arms of a guy
    Who will bring you alive
    Won't drag you down with abuse
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Brown Sugar", an upbeat song about slave rape on American cotton plantations.
  • Made a Slave: "Brown Sugar"
    Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
    Sold in a market down in New Orleans
    Scarred old slaver knows he's doing alright
    Hear him whip the women just around midnight
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: A close-up of a pair of jeans around the crotch.
  • Misogyny Song:
    • "Brown Sugar", about a black woman who apparently was of slave origin too.
      Brown, sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
      Ah, brown sugar just like a young girl should, yeah
    • "Bitch" is often thought to be one, also because it's about a woman, but its title actually comes from this line, making it much more of an Anti-Love Song:
      Yeah, you got to mix it child
      You got to fix it, but love
      It's a bitch!
  • Obsession Song: "Can't You Hear Me Knocking?", where the protagonist is asking somebody if they can hear him knockin'.
    Can't you hear me knockin', yeah, throw me down the keys
    Alright now
    Hear me ringing big bell tolls
    Hear me singing soft and low
    I've been begging on my knees
    I've been kickin', help me please
    Hear me prowlin'
  • Ode to Intoxication:
    • "Moonlight Mile" references cocaine.
      With a head full of snow
    • "Dead Flowers" references heroin.
      Well, when you're sitting back in your rose pink Cadillac
      Making bets on Kentucky Derby Day
      Ah, I'll be in my basement room with a needle and a spoon
    • "Sister Morphine"
      Please, Sister Morphine, turn my nightmares into dreams
      Oh, can't you see I'm fading fast?
      And that this shot will be my last
      Sweet Cousin Cocaine, lay your cool, cool hand on my head
      Ah, come on, Sister Morphine, you better make up my bed
      'Cause you know and I know in the morning I'll be dead
  • One-Woman Song: "Sister Morphine", "Bitch"
  • One-Word Title: "Bitch", "Sway".
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The cover looks like a pair of pants, complete with a real zipper on the original LP.
  • Product Placement: "Dead Flowers" mentions a rose pink Cadillac.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Reportedly, "Wild horses couldn't drag me away" were the first words Marianne Faithfull spoke after recovering from a near-fatal heroin overdose. ("Horse" is a slang term for heroin.) However, although it is sometimes interpreted as a Break Up Song, Jagger himself has said, "Everyone always says it was written about Marianne, but I don't think it was; that was all well over by then."
  • Sex Slave: "Brown Sugar" is about the rape of slaves in the antebellum Deep South — all to an incongruously upbeat tune that makes the whole song even more disturbing.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Bitch" has the line "I salivate like a Pavlov dog", which is a reference to the experiments of Ivan Pavlov who tested conditioned reflexes, by ringing a bell every time the dogs were fed. At a certain point, ringing the bell was enough to make the dogs salivate, even when there was no food given to them.
  • Something Blues: "I Got The Blues".
  • Song Style Shift: "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" transitions from a straight-up hard rock song to a Latin jazz groove around 2:43.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Stones evidently intended "Dead Flowers" to sound like a drunken singalong, which it definitely does. Quite a contrast to the album's other country song, "Wild Horses", which is played completely sincerely.