Archive for Letter

Sticky Fingers

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on January 28, 2013 by greedycherry

Rolling Stones with Sticky Fingers album art

My creative work ethic seems to be sucking lately. In fact, the way I seem to be slacking, taking two months off between posts, I’m beginning to feel just like a member of Congress. I guess the only difference is that they get paid quite well for taking so much time off. Bleh.

Anyway, hello and happy 2013 to all of you! How was your holiday season and new year? Great, I hope. As you might have surmised, that whole Mayan calendar thing was just a bunch of crap. We’re all still here. Whether that’s fortunately or unfortunately is, I suppose, a matter of opinion….for now, I’ll put it in the “fortunately” column. Wouldn’t take much for me to change my mind, though….gotta be honest.

So, down to business. To slowly get back into the swing of things here in The Cherry Lounge, I’ll make this a short one (at least, that will be my intent as I begin this). It has to do with the story of an interesting letter I recently stumbled across.

In 1969, The Rolling Stones were riding high amid a string of successful albums. At almost a maddening pace – compared to today’s artists, anyway – they had been recording and releasing what amounted to one album a year for the previous few years, and all of them had charted quite highly. “Their Satanic Majesties Request” (an album Keith Richards later called “a load of crap”) came out in 1967 and charted in the UK at #3, followed the next year by “Beggars Banquet”, which achieved the same chart position and featured the classic “Sympathy For The Devil”. When 1969 rolled around, the Stones spent the year recording new material, and in December released “Let It Bleed”. On the strength of songs like “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, this album went straight to #1 in the UK, and it could be said that The Rolling Stones were reaching not only the commercial, but also the artistic peak of their career.

Of course, this would be the perfect time to have a potentially career-altering fork in the road show up. And so it did.

Decca Records, which had been the Stones’ home for their entire career to this point, had – with the release of “Let It Bleed” – reached the end of their contract with the band. Now it was up to The Rolling Stones to figure out whether to re-sign with the label or sign with another.

Make no mistake, Decca had been good to them. Their contract with the label had been quite generous, offering the band a royalty rate that was three times what any other new band was getting at the time, as well as full artistic control of the recordings and ownership of their recording masters. While one could argue that Decca was indeed being quite magnanimous with this deal, one could also argue that they were panicking. After all, they had passed on The Beatles, and all too soon realized their mistake. They weren’t about to let the “next big thing” get away from them again…..and I think there are plenty of instances to be found in this world of people who become extra-kind and giving when they want something from you. Decca wanted their own teen scream-inducing boy band, and they made sure that the Stones couldn’t say no. (Or at least that their manager couldn’t say no.)

So now, years later, their contract is up, and a decision has to be made. What do The Rolling Stones do? A): Re-sign with Decca, where they’ve had plenty of success? Or B): Try to find another label to give them a better deal?

As it turns out, the Stones were outside-the-box thinkers. The correct answer, for those of you scoring at home, was C): Create your own damn label.

In 1970, Rolling Stones Records was born, and, unbeknownst to the chaps at that time, their first band record on that new label, “Sticky Fingers”, was to be their biggest yet, reaching #1 in both the UK and the US and going multi-platinum three times over. Not bad for taking a chance, eh?

But back to that letter…..

As they were starting to put things together for “Sticky Fingers”, Mick Jagger sent a letter to an artist friend of his in New York City, pleased that he had agreed to provide artwork for their upcoming album. As everyone who bought the album when it came out in 1971 knows, the final packaging was something quite special to behold: a black and white portrait of the crotch of a man wearing jeans, with a functioning faux belt buckle and a real, honest-to-God functioning zipper, which came down to reveal cotton underwear (and also to scratch up more than a few copies of the vinyl album inside, much to the dismay of many fans who bought the LP).

Looks like Andy Warhol just couldn’t bring himself to heed Jagger’s warning…..

Letter From Mick Jagger To Andy Warhol