Tom Waits is renowned for his frequently bizarre, otherworldly instrumentation. Engineer Tchaid Blake recalled the recording of this song to Uncut: "He wanted the sound of wood he'd heard on old Smithsonian records. He knew exactly the sound he wanted. We ended up outside with about seven or eight people surrounding Tom on their knees banging two-by-fours against stones or wood on the ground. Wonderful! They're credited as playing 'Sticks' on the record."
The song is featured in the 1995 movie 12 Monkeys.