Sticky Fingers

I grew up in a non-musical household. My parents are not the type of people that seek out music (in any form). Honestly, the only dose of live music I ever experienced when I was growing up was at weddings, sweet sixteens, and funerals (mariachi). Not only were my parents not the type to seek out live music, but they were also not the type of people to go out and spend money on buying albums. There were never any records for me to stumble onto or find tucked away in a closet. My folks never gave much thought to what was playing on the radio while driving. It was always just background music. In retrospect, I don’t think it was that they disliked music, they just had bigger fish to fry: Work, a failing marriage, two young boys, and more WORK. I’m sure when they were younger they had their moments with music, but parenthood came at a young age and sometimes life makes you drop some leisures to make room for responsibility.

Of course the backdrop to all this was a small town. And in my small town, the only window I had to the world of music, sadly, was whatever mainstream radio was playing at the time. There was no record store in town. Sure, the city library carried literature about gods like Zeus, but what about Iggy Pop? (I’ve always preferred music mythology over the Greek variety — Ozzy would have had his way with a Stymphalian Bird, the Greek’s version of a man-eating bird.) Of course, if you had cable, MTV could have been considered an avenue for discovering new music, but honestly, fuck MTV. At the time they just confused everybody — artists and listeners alike. Music is made to be listened to; suddenly there was visual barrier. Meanwhile, Mick Jagger was “Dancing in the Street.” Video didn’t kill the rock/radio star, but he sure seemed lost.

And so was I. Given my particular musical tastes, I don’t think I could have arrived at a worse time. I grew up in the ’80s, and fucking hated hair bands. Sure, I had Kill ‘em All, but that’s a whole other column. By the mid-90s when I was just starting high school, the radio waves were flooded with crap like “Boombastic” and our only real hope for musical salvation at the time had just fed himself a mouthful of buckshot. I was frustrated, hard, and full of piss and vinegar, to say the least.

Adolescence is a bitch. Adolescent behavior, on the other hand, can lead you to some interesting places. When you’re a teenager, the last place you want to be is home. So you find yourself hanging out at a friend’s house. In my case, that friend’s house was the Coleman residence, which is where a kid like me was lucky enough to find a wealth of knowledge about music — along with a killer record collection. That is where I first came to really know the Rolling Stones.

I cannot tell you how many hours I spent sitting on the Colemans’ living room floor listening and talking about music, reading the liner notes, gawking at cover art, and relentlessly listening to whole albums. Everything was new to me. And the catalogues were all there for me to indulge. Mr. Coleman seemed to know a LOT about music. I was all ears, soaking it up like a sponge. I’m sure I had heard the Stones before, but for the first time I was given the opportunity to really listen to them. And the one record I could not get enough of was their 1971 release, Sticky Fingers. As if the title wasn’t suggestive enough, the jacket looked like some dirty smut magazine. Naturally I wanted to know what was inside — not knowing that what I would find would change my relationship with music forever.

For the first time a record sounded just like the way I felt; obscene, hurt, horny, happy, lost, frustrated, drunk, hopeful, lonely, confused, and at times, focused. I had never heard anything like it. I was obsessed. Staccato, spring reverb, lipstick pickups, and PAF’s all trailing behind the beat. Surprisingly to me, it also incorporated a lot of acoustic guitar, although it still had a weight that was heavier than a led zeppelin. Almost always when it comes to obsession, it’s the fine details that kill ya, like the way the carefully thought-out absence of Charlie Watts on “Wild Horses” and “Sister Morphine” made his presence more profound. And Keith Richards’ perfect lead on “Wild Horses,” which he topples with an unforgettable open G intro to the following track, “Can You Hear Me Knocking” — allowing sax player Bobby Keys and guitarist Mick Taylor to take it home. And If Billy Preston’s organ solo on the Stax-influenced “I Got the Blues” doesn’t do anything for you, you might wanna check your pulse. All of that leads up to the album’s outro, “Moonlight Mile,” containing Taylor’s tension-building guitar riff that is matched with a perfect string arrangement and an equally unforgettable climactic vocal. As an album, it’s schizophrenic (jumping from fast to slow, confident to insecure). I could try and explain the mixture of genres, but it’s rock ’n’ roll, not a fucking lap dog. It goes where it pleases. That was when I first realized they’re were no boundaries, only music.

Lyrically it was also the first time I was really interested in what a singer was saying. It’s a big step when you begin to look past the melody and start appreciating lyrics. Once I opened myself up to that, other things started clicking. I started to take note of Jagger’s delivery. His “I’m gonna tear my hair out just for you …” confession at the end of “I Got the Blues” is belted with such candor you could visualize it. What he was saying was just as important as how he was saying it. I’ll take that lesson to the grave. It became an incredible insight for me, and would later become an outlet. In the end It all comes down to sincerity.

Sticky Fingers affected me deeply. It engaged me so much that it taught me how to listen. It laid a foundation of tones that I carry around with me today. It made me want to create my own music, write my own songs, and search for my own voice. But most importantly Sticky Fingers was a gateway drug. It exposed my ears to new sounds. Sounds that consumed me. And just like any other drug, with enough exposure certain things start to become second nature. Inevitably it’s not enough. Musical consumption becomes relentless. So you start digging deeper; trying to get to the root. I read, asked questions, and listened, trying to figure out where it all came from. And in a sense, trying to figure out where the music inside me comes from. I don’t know if I will ever get that answer. But what is clear is that those details don’t tend to matter too much to me anymore. What does matter is what I took from it. And what I am doing with it today.

Music and I have a love affair. It’s something I can’t shake, for better or worse, and I guess you could say Sticky Fingers was the first time we went a little too far.

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