My Dad worked on the waterfront. He was always coming home with free stuff – some good, some useless.
For instance, one time he turns up with a couple of large cartons of pineapple juice. Having never tasted anything so exotic we proceed to drink pineapple juice at every available moment until even our sweat smells fruity. Eventually the inevitable – we glance at each other and realise, if we even look at another pineapple juice can there’s going to be some serious regurgitation!
Anyway, that’s all irrelevant. The point is, sometimes the stuff my Dad brings home is pure gold. Like the day he turns up with a copy of The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album.
how my dad got sticky fingers
Having been a seaman himself, Dad had a number of sailor friends. He would catch up with them when they were in port.
On this particular occasion one of these mates produces the aforementioned album and says, “Maybe one of your boys would like this.”
Turns out it belonged to one of his sons. Back home, the kid had had it on high rotation. The family contracted a serious case of Stones’ aversion. So, when his ship set sail, my Dad’s mate takes the album with him just to give the rest of the family a break!
my dad’s assessment
There are two things my Dad wasn’t. He wasn’t a great lover of music. Neither, quite obviously, was he a prophet. I recall vividly his reaction when he hears the album. He stands at the door to our bedroom and declares, “This jungle music will never last. You wait, give it a year and these guys will be forgotten.”
That was 1971.
My brother and I decided the album contained the most exciting, punchy, music we’d ever heard. And Brown Sugar is typical of that high-energy rock ‘n’ roll.
brown sugar – how come you taste so good
Brown Sugar is the first track on the album. It’s not necessarily the best track (Wild Horses) but stands out because it’s typical of so many Stones hit songs. Like (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Paint It Black, Start Me Up, and so many others, there is a guitar intro. that is both uniquely distinctive and yet, immediately recognisable.
I used to joke that The Rolling Stones had just one song which they kept re-releasing with different lyrics. And, it’s true, there are similarities between so many of their songs, but they are compelling, draw-you-in, high octane rock ‘n’ roll – that cannot be denied. Brown Sugar is classic Stones magic.
Of course, what we didn’t know was the explicit undertones lying behind the lyrics – nor did our Mum or I’m sure it would have been confiscated.
my one sticky finger disappointment
Our album cover didn’t have a working zipper. The original covers, designed by Andy Warhol, had a zip that could be pulled down to reveal a pair of white cotton underwear. Our album was obviously a later edition and featured a photograph only.
brown sugar fax
- On Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Brown Sugar is listed at #490.
- The song was sung as part of the Stones’ set at the infamous Altamont concert in 1969 although it was not released on vinyl until April 1971.
- While Jagger and Richards are credited with writing Brown Sugar, it was essentially a Mick Jagger solo composition.
- In 2003 The Rolling Stones were planning to play a gig in China. This was one of four songs they had to agree not to play because of the lyric content.
- Brown sugar lyrics.
a note for guitar players
Many guitar players struggle to work out how to play songs by The Rolling Stones. This is because many songs, such as Brown Sugar, are played in Open G tuning. That is, instead of the strings being tuned EADGBE, they are tuned DGDGBG. Then, to complicate matters, Keith Richards often removed the bottom string from his Telecaster when he played – strange but true.