What does it sound like?:
Released in 1971, Sticky Fingers is the third of a trilogy of albums that established The Rolling Stones as the greatest rock band in the world, shifting huge numbers of units and enabling them to sell out stadiums across the globe.
It actually follows the blueprint of Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed, albeit juggling the sequencing. There is the smutty rocker (Stray Cat Blues -> Live With Me -> Bitch), the ancient blue’s cover (Prodigal Son -> Love In Vain -> You Gotta Move), the one with the stretched-out musical interlude (Sympathy For The Devil -> Midnight Rambler -> Can You Hear Me Knocking), the country song (Dear Doctor -> Country Honk -> Dead Flowers), the clunky social verité (Jigsaw Puzzle -> You Can’t Always Get What You Want -> Sister Morphine) and the real jaw-dropper (Street Fighting Man -> Gimme Shelter -> Moonlight Mile). Brown Sugar should really be bracketed with the previous non-album singles, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Honky Tonk Women but they must have been short of quality material. Wild Horses is a first for The Stones, a genuinely emotional and vulnerable ballad.
The real difference is Mick Taylor. He is well bedded in at this stage and his fluid musicality enhances The Stones sound. He brings out the best in Keith, whose crunchy aggression compliments him perfectly, especially when playing an acoustic. Keith must be the finest exponent of rock acoustic guitar that has ever lived. It helps that the production is clean and polished. They honed these songs in the studio over many, many hours and it shows. The result is an album chock full of gloriously entangling guitars.
They lavished money on the cover, a Warhol concept attracting controversy for the zipper that chaffed neighbouring album covers, as much as the focus on a man’s crotch. The public assumed it was Jagger himself, confirming rumours of the size of his manhood. It is the definitive rock album cover.
Sticky Fingers also marks the point at which The Rolling Stones became a colossal money-making machine. It is the first on their own label, the first to feature the corporate tongue logo and the last before tax exile.
Here it is, in 2015, getting the super deluxe treatment. For twelve quid down at your local supermarket, you get the remastered album and a bonus CD featuring previously unreleased alternate takes and live performances. For seventy odd quid, add a ‘Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out’ CD, a DVD featuring 2 tracks from ‘Live At The Marquee’ and 7” vinyl of Brown Sugar and Wild Horses, a print, a poster, 4 postcard set, a mini replica of band cut out and a 120 page book, all housed in a presentation box with a real zip.
Personally, I eschewed the chance to read Nick Kent’s lavishly illustrated essay, printed in gold ink and the opportunity to play with cut out Rolling Stones. I forked out £18 for the download of album, bonus CD and the thirteen track Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out.
The ‘remaster’ sounds exactly like the 2009 one to me. There are only five bonus studio tracks. It appears most of the leftovers were hijacked and reworked for the deluxe Exile On Main Street. The main attraction is Eric Clapton playing slide on a version of Brown Sugar. In fact, Eric detracts rather than adds something and The Stones get overexcited producing something of a ragged shambles. The early version of Can You Hear Me Knocking, without the long instrumental coda, merely illustrates that it isn’t actually much of a song. Bitch is extended, allowing the twin guitars to flex and weave over an additional couple of minutes; always a pleasure, never a chore. The alternative versions of Wild Horses and Dead Flowers are not alternative enough to warrant many plays. The five songs recorded at The Roundhouse are perfectly fine but are only included to fill out the bonus CD.
The real gold is Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out. It must have been heaven to be a student at Leeds University in the early seventies. They witnessed The Who, John Martyn and The Rolling Stones at their live peak. Here, The Stones are accompanied by Jim Price on trumpet, Bobby Keys on sax and Nicky Hopkins on piano. Bill and Charlie sound delighted to be playing with Nicky. There is a real swing and roll to the rhythm section. Bobby Keys adds a meaty texture to the mix and those guitars are wonderful. The last six tracks rival the best live Stones I’ve heard, even the glittering Brussels Affair or side three of Love You Live. Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out is top drawer and may include the most focussed and malevolent Midnight Rambler but, I suspect, I’ll turn to Leeds frequently as time goes by.
I think the three disc download is where the value is.
What does it all *mean*?
The Rolling Stones ruthless money-making machine does its work and squeezes yet more cash from our bank accounts.
Goes well with…
It’s a pity Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out wasn’t released without the ‘remastered’ album and the bonus CD. It would be a must buy then.
Might suit people who like…
A complete collection. An empty wallet.
Personally, I can’t wait for the Goats Head Soup Deluxe. There should be enough outtakes from that to rival the bonus disc of Some Girls.