According to Keith Richards, “Sticky Fingers was never meant to be the title. It’s just what we called it while we were working on it. Usually, though, the working titles stick.” When Sticky Fingers was released in April 1971 it was hailed by everyone as a classic. The album’s title, of course, added to the mystique and the cover, with its working zip, was seen as genuinely groundbreaking album art. Not everybody agreed, however. Warhol’s work was banned in one country, forcing the Stones’ record label to change the cover.
The Rolling Stones paid Andy Warhol £15,000 for the cover of their album, a considerable amount of money 45 years ago (£150,000 or $200,000). Sticky Fingers is routinely lauded as one of the greatest record covers ever, and while Warhol was its instigator, it was actually designed by Craig Braun, who also worked on Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen and The Carpenters’ 1971 album.
The album was released around the world with the familiar cover, but in General Franco’s Spain it was classed as obscene and the record company had to change the sleeve. They did so with an image that some consider to be a far more obscene visual of sticky, treacle-covered, fingers gesticulating in a tin can. The new sleeve was designed by John Pasche (who designed the first tongue logo), and Phil Jude (who later photographed the goat’s head for the inner sleeve of Goats Head Soup). Not content with changing the image, the government also insisted that “Sister Morphine” was also dropped from the album. (It was replaced by a live version of Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock.”) All this meant that the album was not released in Spain until July 1971.
In the Soviet Union, meanwhile, the album was never actually released. It was only in 1992 that the record came out. The cover in Russia featured a similar treatment as the original cover, but with significant differences. It had Cyrillic lettering, a colorized photograph of blue jeans with a zipper, and a Soviet Army uniform belt buckle that showed a hammer and sickle inscribed in a star.