Mick Jagger on ‘Sticky Fingers’ Zipper Damage: ‘We Were F—ed’
The artwork for the Rolling Stones’ 1971 album Sticky Fingers ranks among the most recognizable in rock history. Still, one design flaw with the LP's cover nearly derailed the release.
The artwork concept came from Andy Warhol, who was a friend of Mick Jagger’s at the time.
“I knew Andy really well. I gave him the title of the album and he came back with this really innovative design,” Jagger recalled in the new book The Rolling Stones: Unzipped. Warhol’s idea included the close-up shot of a man’s groin in jeans, complete with working zipper. Behind it, the image of a man in white briefs underwear would be added. Even with this additional layer, the zipper proved problematic.
“It is quite complicated because it’s got a lot of components: the outside crotch shot and the inside underwear, which is quite sexy. The cover’s got an actual zip,” Jagger explained. “The problem was shipping them. When we zipped up the cover, the weight of all the albums made a dent in the vinyl.”
As any committed vinyl-record fan knows, damage to vinyl permanently alters its sound. In the case of the early Sticky Fingers pressings, the dent was regularly causing the Side Two song "Sister Morphine" to be affected. It was Craig Braun, the designer charged with bringing the artwork idea to life, who swiftly thought up a solution.
“I got this idea that maybe, if the glue was dry enough, we could have the little old ladies at the end of the assembly line pull the zipper down far enough so that the round part would hit the center disc label,” he recalled to The New York Times in 2015. “It worked, and it was even better to see the zipper pulled halfway down.” Jagger called it “an amazing solution,” admitting that he “thought we were fucked, basically.”
Released in April 1971, Sticky Fingers sold more than 3 million copies in the U.S. More than 50 years later, it is still hailed as one of rock’s greatest albums. Likewise, the LP’s cover art remains iconic. In 2003, VH1 named it the greatest album cover of all time.
Due Oct. 26, The Rolling Stones: Unzipped includes more than 350 photos of the Rolling Stones' musical instruments, stage clothing and album cover designs. It also features new commentary from Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood.