Displaying items by tag: saratoga ny

SARATOGA SPRINGS – City Mayor Meg Kelly on Tuesday night announced the formation of a mayoral commission to review and make changes to the existing city charter, with an eye on placing those recommended changes before voters in November. Those modifications will not include a change of the form of government.

A referendum that would have changed the city’s form of governing was narrowly defeated at the polls last November by a 4,458 - 4,448 margin.

Tuesday night, Mayor Kelly appointed city attorney Vince DeLeonardis as chairman of the review commission, and each of the five city deputies and four commissioners as members of the 10-person board.

During her 2017 campaign, Kelly was outspokenly in favor of making an outright change because, she said at the time, it would improve efficiency, raise productivity and that the function of the current commission form of government was “outdated and less efficient.”

“During my campaign - all of my fundraisers, every door I knocked on I said: I am for charter change, I am for the city manager form of government, that there are problems with the commission form of government - but that I can work in either form,” Kelly explained. “What I said was: if it doesn’t pass, I will bring a new referendum to update the current charter in the commission form of government.

“Although it was a very close vote, the proposed charter did not pass in November, however, I believed then and I do believe now we need to make changes to become more responsive and efficient as a city.”

Tuesday’s announcement was met with disapproval by some residents in favor of an outright change. One group had recently begun investigating procedures of initiating a petition drive to revisit the proposal in a public referendum in November. That will no longer possible.

“The mayoral established commission will be the only item on the ballot,” city attorney and review commission chairman Vince DeLeonardis elaborated, immediately following Tuesday night’s meeting at City Hall.

Kelly confirmed the commission will only be tasked with making recommendations to revise the city’s existing charter, with a goal of determining efficiencies and organizational improvements within the current government. It is anticipated the mayoral commission – which will meet separately from City Council meetings – will produce a charter proposal with changes, to city voters, for a referendum on Election Day in November.

Kelly said she didn’t want to include the potential of a form of government change in the current study because as deputy commissioner she had witnessed the “awful environment” and in-fighting that occurred among city employees divided on the issue and that she didn’t want to put city workers in a similar situation this time around.    


Published in News
Thursday, 08 March 2018 13:09

Donation Boxes Paying Off

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The nine boxes have stood their ground, mounted atop posts up-and-down Broadway, since the fall of 2016.

Placed in strategically deliberate locations, the program designed to aid the homeless is the brainchild of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Assessment District. Its purpose is to provide pedestrians a means of making monetary donations directly to services that benefit the local homeless community, as opposed to randomly handing money to someone panhandling on the street, where the end result of the donation wouldn’t be easily known. By all accounts, the caretakers of the program say it has been a success.

One hundred percent of the funds collected by the boxes are forwarded by the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce to Shelters of Saratoga, which provides assistance to people facing homelessness.

“It helps with our outreach program and we’re also able to get items and supplies we need,” says Michael Finocchi, executive director of Shelters of Saratoga, which provides care via through the Code Blue emergency shelter, its outreach program, drop-in centers, case managed shelter and affordable housing. “There’s also been a huge change downtown on Broadway. People aren’t hanging out like they did. They don’t have to sit downtown with a cup when we can get something for them.”

Twelve boxes were made, each decorated by a different artist via Saratoga Arts, and depict everything from a leaf-laden autumnal landscape, to a hamburger atop a classic red-and-white checkerboard tabletop and a long winding road zagging through a contemporary terrain. Nine were installed. The other three are still looking for a home where the collections could be easily managed.

In the first year of implementation, the boxes collected approximately $7,500, says Harvey Fox, chairman of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Assessment District, and one of the initiators of the donation box plan.

“We’ve collected twenties and fifties and donations of up to $100. The point is to help the less fortunate, to help provide opportunities through S.O.S. for safe shelter, training, and jobs. That’s what it’s all about,” says Fox, who adds he has seen the good the project does first-hand, having met folks who have been directly helped since the program was initiated. “It is working and when you talk to people and listen to their stories, it really is moving.”  

The “tamper-proof” boxes have lived up to their security expectations. Fox said there have been no incidents reported of attempts to burglarize the boxes. Other communities have not been as fortunate.  

In May 2015, The Positive Change Donation Program was implemented by the Downtown Berkeley Association in California. Donation boxes were installed throughout downtown Berkeley to encourage residents to give their spare change to those in need, with donations targeted to help fund social services that reduce homelessness.

“It was great in a lot of ways, but unfortunately we had to discontinue the program because people were using crowbars and breaking into them,” explains John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association. “Perhaps in Saratoga Springs you don’t have those kinds of issues. Here, it was very sad when we had to end it, because it was working.”

Locally, S.O.S. receives the funds on a quarterly basis and re-distributes it as is deemed most appropriate at that time. “We also started donating money back to other agencies that are dealing with same population,” says Finocchi, noting organizations such as the Franklin Community Center, Wellspring, and the Giving Circle – who operate a Thursday night program that provides a hot meal for the homeless population outside the Presbyterian Church – as being among local agencies whose programs have directly benefited from community donations.

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – One of the after-effects of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida is the staggering increase of school-based threats and incidents since the tragedy occurred.

Research conducted by Educator's School Safety Network - a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering educators with education-based school safety training and resources - typically finds approximately 10 school-based threats and incidents occur daily. Since Feb. 15, the organization says those numbers have spiked to more than 70 per day - the majority involving gun threats and the most common method of threat delivery being via social media.

Even before the events in Florida, the data specifically pointed to New York State as having experienced a dramatic increase in the number of threats and/or incidents during the first half of the 2017-2018 school year – up by 33.3 percent over the previous year – and ranking third nationally, behind only California and Pennsylvania as a “state of concern.”

The Florida incident has demonstrated substantially longer staying power in the public consciousness than displayed in the aftermath of previous incidents, says Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo,    

“This has really hit home, across the country and locally,” Zurlo says. “It’s been two weeks since Florida and usually when something happens (the attention) goes a day or two after and then everybody gets back to their normal business. But this has absolutely lasted longer than other instances. I’m getting calls and emails from parents who are asking: What do we do? How are you going to protect our kids?”

Saratoga County is home nearly 220,000 residents. There are 51 public schools, 33,000 students, 2,500 teachers and approximately 100 principals across the 815 square miles of the county.

“We’re doing a little bit of everything. I have a team of four deputies assigned to schools throughout the county who interact with students and touch base with the principals and superintendents,” Zurlo explained. “What I’ve also done now is, during day-shift and afternoon patrols, we’ll get out and do a walk-through at schools. In the mornings, when classes start, I’ve had patrols at the schools. And we’re going to continue having that presence.”

In Saratoga Springs, city police regularly conduct active shooter trainings. The department also has a school resource officer assigned to the Saratoga Springs School District.

Not all county schools have assigned SRO’s, however, and conversations have recently been initiated about the feasibility of making that happen.

“I’ve been approached by three (public) schools in the county that want more information about School Resource Officers, who do not currently have them. I’m also talking to county officials to see if we can come up with a plan for the school year, starting next year,” Zurlo said. “We’re in preliminary talks. It all comes down to money and we’re trying to work some different things out.” The amount of time involved in training practice would also play a role in the potential implementation of such a practice, he added.

On Feb. 26, the county Sheriff’s Department responded to a threatening text message allegedly made by a 14-year-old student at Corinth High School directed at a 13-year-old student as well as the school, and involved the threatened use of a firearm. The suspected author of the threat was subsequently charged with making a terroristic threat, and aggravated harassment and referred to Saratoga County Family Court for further action, according to authorities.  

“These threats need to be looked into and I take them seriously. It’s our job to make sure the students and staff are well protected. If these threats are criminal in nature, then these people are going to be arrested,” Zurlo said.

Earlier this week, city School District Superintendent of Schools Michael Patton penned a letter to school parents to reassure them that protocols are in place.

“Safety is an underlying theme in everything we do (and) we have continued to make improvements over the past several years,” Patton said.

Some of those improvements include having retired and current law enforcement on staff and surveillance cameras at all school buildings, secured entryways with double locked doors, ongoing training with district and school emergency response teams, and lockdown, lockout, shelter in place, and evacuation and relocation drills.

The Saratoga Springs City School District consists of 11 facilities in and around Saratoga Springs, including the high school, the middle school and six elementary schools. Building Emergency Response Teams are also assigned to each of the district’s buildings.


School Shooting Can’t Happen Here? It Already Has

Shortly before noon on a Friday in December 1975, 32-year-old George McCode fired four shots from his 22-cal. handgun into the playground at St. Peter’s Elementary School.

McCode, who a month earlier received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy, lived in the Gaslight apartment complex directly across the street from the playground.

Two 7-year-old girls were injured as a result of the gunfire; one was brought to Saratoga Hospital to remove a bullet from the heel of her foot, and the second wounded from a ricochet bullet which caught her in one of her feet.


Local Students May Take Part in National School Walkout on March 14

In response to gun violence and in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 Florida shooting, a 17-minute-long national school walkout effort initiated by Women's March Youth EMPOWER is slated to take place at 10 a.m. on March 14.

This week, Skidmore College issued a statement asserting that it values freedom of expression and encourages civic engagement and promised students they would not face any disciplinary action from the college should they choose to participate in a peaceful protest.

The Saratoga Springs School District is currently formulating a strategy regarding students who choose to participate in the March 14 walkout.

“We met this week with leaders of student government and we’re starting to develop a plan,” said Michael Patton, Saratoga Springs City School District Superintendent of Schools. “We think it’s an opportunity for students to be involved in civic engagement and that it’s a teachable moment, not anything politically, but something done respectfully and in a safe and orderly manner.”  


Published in News
Thursday, 22 February 2018 12:58

Charter Vote May Return in November

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Three times in the past 12 years, voters have cast ballots that challenge the city’s long-held form of government, with each successive referendum resulting in an ever-narrowing margin of difference to maintain the status quo. A group of residents advocating for charter change are considering a move to put the issue back in front of voters in November in the hope the fourth time will be the charm.

Last November, the proposition was defeated by a 4,458 - 4,448 margin, a difference of 10 votes out of the nearly 9,000 ballots cast.

“Everybody we have talked to since November said this was a dead heat, that the community should get another shot at it - and as soon as possible,” Gordon Boyd said this week. Boyd is a former member of the Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission, which disbanded on Election Day, as well as a contributor It's Time Saratoga! – a group that has advocated for charter change.

“Our core leadership group is investigating the legal, procedural and campaign dynamics of getting a petition drive going as allowed under the law, and how we can put the same exact proposal (as 2017) on the petition and placed on the ballot this coming November.”

The current Commission form of governing, the only type of governing the city of Saratoga Springs has known in its near 103-year history, relies on five elected part-time council members, each of whom are responsible for administering their own department, as well as serving as legislators. The proposed Council-Manager form of governing would see that the council hires a non-partisan, professional city manager to carry out city policies, starting in January 2020.

“If we put it up again this year, all of the transition timetables would pretty much stay the same,” Boyd explained. “This would be the same proposal, word-for-word. Who are we to fuss with it?”

Richard Sellers, a spokesman for the SUCCESS group opposed to charter change, argues that the city’s current commission form of governing ensures a better future.

“We have five citizens who were elected by voters and who are working together for the good of the city. The city government accomplished a great deal in 2017 and has excellent plans for 2018,” Sellers said. “Five heads looking out for the city are better than one appointed administrator (and) while we do not know exactly what may be put on the ballot, we would obviously oppose any change in the form of government.”

While city elections were resolved in 2017, this year’s Election Day ballot will include races for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and statewide races for Governor, Senate and Assembly seats.   Boyd said he believes the increased turnout of a Gubernatorial election year would work in his group’s favor.

According to financial disclosure reports, the SUCCESS group shows a January 2018 balance of just over $3,000. It’s Time Saratoga – a ballot committee created in favor of charter change showed a balance of about $2,300 in early December – the most recent filing available via the state Board of Elections website.

One lingering event which may factor in to the city’s 2017 referendum, Boyd says, is a pending Appellate Division ruling of a “very similar” Essex County case involving a very close election. A previous move by Boyd to re-canvass city ballots in the 2017 referendum on charter change was struck down by State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Nolan earlier this month. The ruling on the Essex County vote may affect whether an appeal is filed related to the razor-thin margin of the city’s 2017 referendum.

“We’re just a group of citizens at this point and it would require us getting a minimum number of signatures - and we would also have to fundraise to support the campaign, but we don’t see any difficulty reaching those goals to put it on the ballot,” Boyd said. “We have had a lot of dedicated individuals who put a lot of time into this and I think they’re going to be fired up to resolve it once and for all. The best thing is for us to keep it the same, to give the people another shot at it. It was essentially a dead heat. So, let’s run the race again. “

Boyd said more specific plans regarding the matter will be forthcoming in early April.

Published in News
Thursday, 15 February 2018 13:41

David Cassidy to be Honored at Racing Museum

SARATOGA SPRINGS – David Cassidy, the popular singer, horseman and frequent fixture of the Saratoga summer scene who died last year, will be the focus of a dedication ceremony and the placement of two benches in his honor at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

The benches, which will be fixed with nameplates, will be set in the museum’s outdoor courtyard in the spring with a ceremony tentatively slated to take place in late April, said Brien Bouyea, communications coordinator at the Racing Museum, located on Union Avenue opposite Saratoga Race Course.

The singer, who died in November at the age of 67, charted more than one dozen Top 100 hits in the early 1970s, both as a solo artist and in his role as a member of The Partridge Family - whose TV series aired on ABC from 1970 to 1974. The museum neither publicized or solicited donations, Bouyea said. That two benches will be dedicated indicate Cassidy’s wide appeal. One of the memorial benches is the result of donations received from fans around the world; the other a fruit of a collaborative partnering between horse trainer Gary Contessa – who has more than 2,200 winning races under his belt - and Columbia County based horse owner, breeder and veterinarian Dr. Jerry Bilinski.

“We wanted to do something in his honor,” Contessa said, during a phone interview this week. “There were a couple of things we could have done - we thought about naming a race, but then Dr. Bilinski said, ‘you know, why don’t we dedicate a bench to him.’

“With David, we go back 20, 30 years. I play bass guitar so we had a music connection as well as a horse connection, going back at least the early ‘90s,” said Contessa, who fondly reminisced about his first public musical performance with Cassidy.

“He was at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, at a special outdoor thing he was doing under a tent there. I was in the audience when he called me up on stage: ‘I’m going to call up my trainer.’ I was like, holy… It was totally unplanned. He said to me: let’s play a blues in the key of C. I started playing. In the key of A,” Contessa recalled, with a laugh. “All of a sudden he starts looking at me… Nobody loved Saratoga like David did. He had a home in Saratoga, he came to the races every day and he loved the horses. During the meet he could be found at three o’clock in the morning reading the racing form and smoking a cigar at my barn.”   

Published in Entertainment

Jeff Goodell, author and Rolling Stone contributing editor, will deliver a free lecture at Skidmore College Tuesday night.

Goodell, who traveled across 12 countries to interview scientists and leaders about climate change, will present his findings and report how climate change and sea level rise are affecting major cities, coastal villages, island nations and the military.

Goodell’s most recent book, “The Water Will Come,” was named as A New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2017 and Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2017. Goodell is also author of “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind American’s Energy Future,” and “How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate.”

The event takes place 7 - 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Gannett Auditorium in Palamountain Hall. 

Published in Education
Thursday, 01 February 2018 11:14

Saratoga Springs - The Latest Developments

The Moderne at Saratoga. Henry Street Condominiums, to be sited on a currently unoccupied lot at 128 Henry St., adjacent to the existing Four Seasons store. The condominium is slated to include 30 residential units and featuring a street-side public art gallery.  

Excelsior Park. Thirty-nine acres of land on Excelsior Avenue and Ormandy Lane in a development commonly referred to as Excelsior Park.  The Special Use Permit will include a mix of residential and commercial uses, including a hotel, spa, community center and swimming pool.

Project Description, according to Engineering Report for Excelsior Special Use Permit prepared by the LA Group, November 2017: The remaining build-out covered by the Special Use Permit proposes to construct 62 three-bedroom townhouses, 76 two-bedroom apartment units, 15,640 square feet of commercial space, a community recreational facility with a swimming pool and a 60-room hotel that includes a 200-seat restaurant, banquet facility for 300 guests, spa and swimming pool.  Sixteen of the townhouses include a one-bedroom apartment that could be sub-let.  Included in the proposal are six short-term or guest room rentals.    

- Rip Van Dam Hotel. Historic Review of expansion/new construction. (DRC Meeting/ Feb. 7). 


today (image captured in November):

13.1 - rip now.jpg





rip Screenshot 2018-02-01 11.08.18.png




City Hall Meetings

Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting – 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5.

City Council Pre-Agenda Meeting – 9:30 a.m., Monday, Feb. 5.

City Council Full Meeting – 7 p.m., Tuesday Feb. 6.

Design Review Commission Meeting – 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 7. 




Published in News

SCHUYLERVILLE – One thousand one-of-a-kind bowls have been crafted and five area chefs are busily comingling spices in preparation of Saturday’s 7th annual Chili Bowl at the Saratoga Clay Arts Center.

The five chefs, each of whom showcase their culinary talents at area restaurants, are making 30 gallons of chili each.

“That’s 150 gallons in total” says Jill Fishon-Kovachick, who founded Saratoga Clay Arts Center in 2011. What does 150 gallons of chili look like? “I have no idea,” she says, with a laugh, “but we’ll need it.”

The event has grown in popularity in each of its first six years and attracted approximately 700 people in 2017.  The cost of admission: $2, or the donation of two non-perishable food items. Samples of chili will be distributed at the event and a vote-for-the-best chili competition will be held. Defending champion Pat Brown of the Brook Tavern, will face competing chili chefs Jonathan Quinn of Osteria Danny, Dave Zuka of Ravenous Creperie, Michele Morris of Scallions and Brian Bowden of R&R Kitchen and bar.  

More than 1,000 one-of-a-kind hand-crafted chili bowls will be available for the event. The bowls usually retail for $25 to $100. For this event, organizers say: fill the bowl, eat the chili, and keep the bowl for $20. 

“We’ll also be raffling off one of my pieces,” says Fishon-Kovachick, a ceramic artist and collector who first began working with clay at the age of 11, after attending an educational summer camp at Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp in Connecticut. 

A portion of proceeds from the event will benefit the Wilton Food Pantry, and To Life! The latter is a local organization that serves a 10-county area and tasked to educate the community about breast cancer detection, treatments and related health matters, and to provide support services to breast cancer patients, caregivers, family and friends.

The Wilton Food Pantry provides the equivalent of 30,000 meals annually. More than one-third of those served by the pantry on Ballard Road are children. The highest non-perishable food items on its list include: peanut butter, canned fruit, bottles of 100 percent fruit juice, juice boxes and canned tuna or salmon.

Advance registration, with specified reserve time slots, may be made online at saratogaclayarts.org. Those registering in advance may also select and pre-pay online for bowls and simply pick them up when attending the event. Last-minute walk-ins to the center are also welcome without pre-registration.

The event takes place 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27. Saratoga Clay Arts Center is located at 167 Hayes Road, Schuylerville. Robonics Reggae Band, known for their warm weather inspired rhythms and quirky steel-drum renditions of tunes like the theme from “The Godfather” and “Mission Impossible,” will provide live entertainment. 

Published in Entertainment

by Thomas Dimopoulos

Saratoga TODAY

City Council

- The City Council this week unanimously approved two additions to the city’s existing Rules of Conduct for Council meetings. The first identifies agenda items determined to not require council discussion – which are typically singularly listed on the “regular meeting agenda” and require line-reading - and instead places them on the “consent agenda” - which is approved en masse. The move is expected to result in some time-saving measures during public council meetings.      

The second addition allows the mayor the authority to declare an immediate meeting recess should the conduct of any person “impede the Council from conducting public business.” If order cannot be maintained following the recess, the council meeting may then be declared adjourned, until a future date. 

- The Saratoga Springs Recreation Commission, a 7-member mayor-appointed board of community volunteers, announced the following programs and leagues will take place 2018: Registration for the recreation department’s Soccer League and Spring Program will begin Jan. 29.  Volunteer coaches and paid referees are needed.

Camp Saradac registration begins Feb. 26 for city residents, and March 19 for all residents. 

Future registration dates: Summer programs - April 9; Fall soccer – June 4; Fall programs – Aug. 6; Intro to Ice and Basketball – Sept. 4, and winter 2018 program registration begins Nov. 5.  

- Mayor Kelly announced the State of the City address will be held at the Saratoga Springs City Center at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 1. Kelly also thanked the City Center of waiving the venue usage fee.

- Supervisor Matt Veitch reported a Jan. 9 meeting was staged with the Saratoga County Capital Resource Corporation to enable low-interest financing for a new science building at Skidmore College. The amount of financing asked for was $35 million, up to a $42 million cap, Veitch said. The overall cost of the new building is anticipated to be approximately $65 million. “So, we’re providing low-interest financing for about half the project,” Veitch explained.

CRC provides financing for expansion and construction projects and had previously been involved in the financing and re-financing of local developments such as the expansion at Saratoga Hospital, the updates to the Raymond Watkins apartments and for a St. Peter’s Hospital project. The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the measure Tuesday, Veitch said.

Planning Board

The city’s Planning Board is scheduled to consider a variety of large-scale proposal applications this week. They include:

- Rip Van Dam, 353 Broadway. Site plan modification: increasing room count from 142 rooms to 152 rooms; slight reduction of footprint, bringing building to the sidewalk; eliminating proposed sixth-floor ballroom and replacing it with a pool and a restaurant.   

- Adelphi Hotel Partners, owners of property at 19/23 Washington St.: SEQR consideration of lead agency status and coordinated review for construction of 62,567 square-foot hotel and spa.

- Ballston Avenue Townhouses, at 96 and 116 Ballston Ave/ Route 50. Residential construction, site plan review. 

- Spencer Subdivision, Kaydeross Park Road and Arrowhead Road. Proposed 22-lot residential subdivision totaling approximately 12.63 acres.

- Regatta View, Phase 3, Union Avenue & Dyer Switch Road & Regatta View Drive: Site plan review for construction of 24 residential units within the Interlaken PUD District.

- 79 Henry Street: renovation of building. The renovation had initially received Planning Board approval in 2014; there are proposed changes to the approved building design.

- Earlier this month, the city Zoning Board of Appeals upheld its May 2017 interpretation that a proposed new Code Blue permanent shelter on Walworth Street is zoning compliant. The Planning Board is expected to rule on the project’s final approval, although that vote did not appear among the Board’s agenda items this week. The Planning Board is slated to next convene for a full meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 1 at City Hall.

Published in News

I was 12 years old and sprawled across the back seat of the family station wagon – a big-finned, hardtop machine with wicked tail lights and heavy metal side panels painted the color of wood. Dad sat in the driver’s seat, directly in front of me, losing his mind.

My sister and I had reached the age when promises of ice cream sodas and enticement of egg creams in exchange for orderly behavior – can you just sit still, for five minutes, please! – no longer carried significance. If we were going to be bribed into silence, it was going to take cash. Five bucks apiece, to be precise. Our palms dutifully greased with paper greenbacks depicting a serious-looking Abe Lincoln, we giddily trotted into the department store. It was a momentous occasion: each of us setting out to purchase our first record album. Dad waited in the car. My sister chose an album by The Beatles: love, love, love, blah, blah, blah. I made a beeline for the new releases. The Rolling Stones. Sticky Fingers.

I cradled it in my arms, this inspired 12-inch by 12-inch platter, double-wrapped in an opaque shopping bag, the contents within filled with strut and swagger and songs about slave-owners and demon lives and drugs, salivating Pavlovian dogs, mad, mad days on the road and nightdreams of sins and of lies and living after we’ve died. 

“Beatles, very nice,” said dad, during the unveiling of the albums in the family station wagon. “And you?”

He gazed over the back of the album jacket first, which was festooned with a bright sticker that depicted a big red mouth and a long unfurling tongue. It was the album’s front side that got the more immediate reaction. Here was a near life size snapshot of a human torso wearing a pair of jeans upon which was fixed a working zipper. When unzipped, the jacket revealed an inner-jacket picture of a pair of cotton briefs. To this day I’m not sure what dad said when examining the zipper-front, other than the sound of the words seemed to emanate from somewhere deep in the gut. The jargon itself was a mash-up of words that mixed phrases from the Old Country, new American slang and some otherworld language yet-to-be invented. 

Of course, immediately, I was hooked.

“God knows what I’m on about on that song,” Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone magazine many years later, when asked about his lyrics for the album’s first track, “Brown Sugar.” “It’s such a mishmash,” Jagger said.  “All the nasty subjects in one go.”

The Rolling Stones debuted a rough working version of “Brown Sugar” at the Altamont festival in 1969 - the first song in the setlist performed immediately after that infamous stabbing captured in the film “Gimme Shelter.” Despite the karmic baggage, when it was finally released as a single a year-and-a-half later, it climbed up the American charts and all the way to number one, displacing Three Dog Night’s six-week cling to the top of the charts - with “Joy to the World” of all things - and provided a daring counterpoint to chart-topping snoozers by Carole King - “It’s Too Late,” James Taylor -“You’ve Got A Friend,” and the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” - that would soon follow.       

“Sticky Fingers” begins, as most good things do, with a succession of scything Keith-chords, adds a dose of heavy horns, and a killer rhythm section highlighted by the booming of Charlie bass-drum beats, as Mick Jagger releases the pent-up verse: Gawlko slayship bownfocottan feels/ sawld in-a-mawket-down in New Awleens…  

The album was released at an important time in popular rock and roll history: the Beatles had broken up, Bob Dylan a recluse and the trippy-hippy ‘60s were over. ‘Sticky Fingers’ boasts 10 songs in all, and not a throwaway tune in the bunch. There is the acoustic beauty of songs like “Wild Horses” and “Moonlight Mile,” the Gram Parsons-inspired country-rock-and-tonk of “Dead Flowers,” the heavy horn and musical jam explorations of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” and the solemn hair-on-your-neck at attention moodiness of “Sister Morphine.”

The Rolling Stones classic 1971 album "Sticky Fingers" is the focus of the next Rochmon Record Club Listening Party, which takes place Tuesday, Jan. 16 at Caffe Lena. I can’t wait to see and hear what Rochmon’s got lined up for the night. Doors at 6:30 p.m. and show time is at 7. A word of advice: If you want a seat, get there early. A $5 donation is suggested. Donations go to the restoration funds of Caffe’ Lena and Universal Preservation Hall.

Published in Entertainment
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