Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones

Sticky Fingers, complete with working zipper!

If you are lucky enough to own an original vinyl copy of this album, you know that it is the coolest thing about this album.  My mother has one, and I grew up fascinated by pulling down the zipper to reveal the bulge staring back at me from those tighty whities!  It was a pretty badass thing to do back in 1971, and it’s something you could never get from a CD or digital download.  Viva le vinyl!

In addition to the fantastic cover there is some amazing music on this album.  I have always been a Stones fan, and was lucky enough to grow up knowing that they had songs other than “Satisfaction.”  “Honky Tonk Woman” was my favorite when I was a kid.  I first listened to Sticky Fingers when I was in elementary school, and I really didn’t know what to make of it.  I think it was too heavy for me at the time.  There are a lot of drug references and depressing shit like that, but the whole tone of the album just wasn’t what I was into.  Yet.


Fast-forward to 8th grade.  I had become fascinated with Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and other movie stars too fucked up to live.  I began to relate to them, to become more introspective than I already was, more of a hot mess—and I reveled in it!  There were three albums I constantly listened to in 8th and 9th grades: Sticky Fingers, Janis Joplin’s Pearl, and Strange Days by The Doors.  Actually, for some reason I really only played the second sides of these albums.  I mean, I loved each album in its entirety, but the stuff on side two of each just really said it all for me.  Sticky Fingers spoke to me on a different level, I think.


Enter a boy I called Face, love of my life starting in 9th grade.  I thought this boy was God Himself, heaven on Earth, perfection.  I didn’t know how truly fucked up he was, but when I found out about all the drugs and drinking and stealing—well, let me tell you, I was beside myself with sadness and shock.  I heard a lot of disturbing stories about him from a good friend of mine who was also friends with him, and I just couldn’t believe it.  Whenever I hear “Sister Morphine” I am almost paralyzed, not even really thinking about Face, but about who I was back then, how messed up and unfocused, how truly pitiful and dramatic.  For a very long time I just could not bear to listen to that song.  I used to have visions of Face as the druggie in the hospital bed looking for just one last fix, of him ODing somewhere, of my life without him in it—not that he was really in it anyway, for he was one of the many unrequited loves   I have admired from afar over my nearly four decades on this planet.  Still, no matter whether I had a relationship with him or not, he did belong to me, and I could not stand the thought of him destroying himself like that—unless, of course, I were to join him.  If we did it together it would be different.  Completely stupid.


So this is my Face album, and it never fails to upset me.  All these years later I still feel like that idiotic little girl lusting after the fucked up little boy I will never have.  It takes me back to that in an instant.  Amazing what music can do.


“Bitch” is cool.  Love is a bitch, life is a bitch, I am a bitch, so get over it.  I love the whole idea of this song, the way Mick says bitch, the opening chords.  I love how the song that follows is completely demoralizing and bluesy.  I think of the band competition I went to in the spring of 9th grade, just days after I found out about all of Face’s bad habits, and I remember how devastated I was, how determined I was to stay miserable over it for the rest of my life.  My friend who told me all of these horrible things had been trying all week to cheer me up, and I would have none of it.  Face came to the competition with dark glasses on—I assumed he was hung over.  That just made things worse.  I took everything very personally.


When I wrote the first draft of this essay I wondered where Face was.  I hoped he was well.  I had not seen him since about three or four years after our high school graduation, and I thought he looked pretty ridiculous with his whole grunge look that just did not suit him.  It made me wonder what I ever saw in him in the first place.  I knew I was over him by that point anyway, but I was glad to have put myself though that bullshit for so many years.  It was stupid, and I am annoyed that I was ever so week and girly, but there you are.  I was always a loudmouth bitch, but there is a weak side to even the strongest cunt.  As the song says, “Well, it just goes to show/Things are not what they seem.”  I lived that for a very long time.  I did see Face at our 20th high school reunion (he did not attend the 10th), and he came right up to me, excited to see me.  It was a very strange experience.  He never spoke to me from 9th grade through graduation, but all of a sudden he wanted to be around me.  I told him about all the crazy stalker stuff I did in school, and he seemed to think it was cute that I was confessing that all these years later. 


“Dead Flowers” is a morbid love song, sort of like Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”  It appeals to the Dorothy Parker in me.  It sounds like something I would do for my ex-best friend, send him dead flowers to his wedding knowing he wouldn’t be offended.  Everything between us was completely understood.  He would think it was cool, as would I.


Sticky Fingers is one of those perfect albums that ends with the perfect song.  “Moonlight Mile” is so languid and dreamy, and it makes all the trauma and balls of the other stuff pale in comparison.  It is a totally different kind of song, a whole different idea, but there is no other song that could end this album.  I was always so emotionally drained by the time this album was finished.  I always cried and worried and wallowed—and I wrote a lot while I listened to it, and it came to a logical resolution with “Moonlight Mile.”  I loved feeling like I was really affected by it, like I had just been put through it, and I rarely listen to this album because of that.  In my 20s I often drank while I listened to it.  I just couldn’t take it!  There was this persistent need for me to damage myself in some way when I listened to it, and that is why I was drawn to it over and over.  I couldn’t imagine not being affected by it in that way.

7 thoughts on “Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones

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