Jimi Hendrix was dead, Janis Joplin was dead, Jim Morrison was dead, Brian Jones had drowned in his swimming pool, and the Seventies were upon us. It seemed like a long, good party was grinding to an end, but maybe not yet, not quite yet. The Beatles had broken up, but there were still the Stones, and Sticky Fingers captured them in their ascendancy, approaching their zenith at a time when it was inconceivable they’d ever lose the thread and fade into mediocrity and self-parody. They were the biggest group left standing, the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band, still capable of growth, still maturing, and now, with the final cut of this album, showing a capacity to produce something that punched in the same weight class as Golden Slumbers, if not quite with the same mastery of form.
Moonlight Mile is a bluesy, dark, ambitious and altogether majestic evocation of loneliness and living rough, sleeping under the stars in the cold and the snow (which might not be the powder that first comes to mind), and dreaming of a respite that might just be a ways down the road.
Graced with tasteful orchestration, lovely piano work, Charlie doing some of his best drumming, and generally expert musicianship, particularly during the gorgeous, extended guitar coda in which Mick Taylor’s superb playing brings the piece home, Moonlight Mile is a song best heard in the lightless wee hours, all alone, headphones on, drink in hand, feeling philosophical and maybe just a little bit beaten down. It’ll soothe you, then. There’s a sort of eyes-wide-open hope to it. There must still be a way back home, right? You just gotta press on, one more mile, one foot after the other, and tough it out through the dark, the howling wind, and the snow, whatever sort of snow it happens to be.