Thursday 28 September 2023

The Thursday Album No 1 - The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

A new feature. Something I've wanted to do for ages.This is a journey through my musical development and an opportunity to listen to some amazing music. The albums that I spent far too long spinning obsessively. 

We start with The Rolling Stones and Sticky Fingers. This was released in 1971 when I was eight years old. My sister Val had the album in theorginal sleeve, with the zipper. Up until then, I'd liked some music, not in an obsessive way, but around this time, my brother built a top grade stereo system for my Dad. The enormous speakers would put many a carnival sound system to shame. Dad bought some headphones, which meant I could listen in peace. As it meant I wasn't annoying them, my parents just let me get on with it. We didn't have many records, but with its naught cover, I remember Val bring it home and playing it. The first time I heard it, I don't really think it registered. The sleeve interested me more. I think my main concern was that they should have put proper underpants under the zipper. 

As we didn't have too many decent albums (we had tons of singles, but these were a pain to keep changing), I started listening to the album regularly. I was going through a difficult period. Mum was going through her cancer and there was a bit of turmoil at home. I believe my Dad suffered undiagnosed PTSD during WW2 and he was not really coping well with Mum's illness. The album proved to be a refuge from the world. I knew every track intimately. 

Here is my take on them.

Brown Sugar - This is the Stones. The riff, the attitude, the references that I didn't understand. In some ways, it may be the best song ever recorded by the Rolling Stones. If I was asked to select one track to sum up the Stones, this would without doubt be the one. I suspect it is the most covered Stones track by pub bands. I still love it.

Sway - Another great track with a wonderful intro. You can tell exactly who it is after 3 seconds. A real trademark early 70's Stones sound. Slower tempo than Brown Sugar, but more expressive. I love that. The song always reminds me of getting out of bed with a hangover. Clearly I didn't have hangovers when I was eight, but I was intrigued why someone would boast about an demon life having it it's sway. In my naive, pre-adolescent mind, I assumed they'd written it for my mum and her battle with cancer. 

Wild Horses - I've never really been a fan of slow ballads. Mostly because I thought that none stands up to this. It is just such a good song. Well produced and possibly the best vocal performance ever by Jagger. I'm not generally a big fan of slide guitar, but on this track it works so well. 

Can't you hear me knocking - This songs is 2 minutes long, with 5 minutes of the Stones jamming. I was never too keen on the first 2 minutes, but this is the song where I learned to appreciate good rock musicians jamming. 

You gotta move - One of two tracks on the album I'm not that keen on. This was usually where I put the kettle on and went to the loo. I don't really like ploddy blues.It sounded like Steptoe and Son had managed to purloin a track. Fortunately it was the last track in Side One, so I'd usually just turn the album over at this point. 

Bitch - Although I think Brown Sugar is the best Stones track ever, this was my personal favourite at the time. Of course I didn't get the drug and sex references, but I just loved the groove of the song. I probably liked it as I thought it was about dogs. I love the up tempo beat and the horn arrangement. 

I got the blues - The other track I'm none too keen on. It just doesn't float my boat. Doesn't really go anywhere

Sister Morphine - I used to find this track a bit disturbing and difficult, but really liked it. As mum had been on Morphine, I associated it with her cancer, I still do, but I realised it was a briliant track.

"Here I lie in my hospital bed Tell me, Sister Morphine, when are you coming round again? Oh, and I don't think I can wait that long Oh, you see that I'm not that strong "

It seemed to sum up my life at the time. Of course, I had no concept that the morphine was not being used medicinally. Sometimes a difficult track helps you realise that other people are going through the same thing. The concept that Mick Jagger was sympathetic to my pain was a great help. 

Dead Flowers - To me this was a sort of throwaway track, but a very good throwaway track. For a song about your life falling apart in a heroin induced stupor, it's remarkably upbeat and fun. I sort of twigged it was about stuff I didn't really understand.

Moonlight Mile - I have always loved the unusual chord changes and slightly weird sounds. For me it brought images of Fenella Fielding in Carry On Screaming. The scene where she is attempting to seduce Harry H. Probably the lyric

"I am just living to be lying by your side But I'm just about a moonlight mile on down the road"

 Corbett's hapless detective played havoc with my pre pubescent imagination.  I sort of imagined that was how naughty people, behaved at the end of the moonlight mile. Since then, I've never been 100% sure whether deep down I'm an angel who wants to be a devil or vice versa.  My brother Frank, who had a massive crush on Fenella Fielding as a result of the film let me watch it once and I don't think I've ever been completely right in the head since. Musically, I think this has the best intro of any slow Stones track. 

There are many albums that have had a massive effect on me, but this one was almost like a lifeline. For maybe two years, I listened to it every day. 

Why not have a listen?

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