The Story Behind ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’

The Story Behind ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’

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With a discography that spans over 50 years, The Rolling Stones is one of the most covered artists on the planet with other high-profile artists like Aretha Franklin & Frank Zappa covering their songs. If you were to pick one song that would best represent what the band stood for, it would have to be the single ?(I Can?t Get No) Satisfaction?. Released as a single, the song has been covered multiple times with artists like Otis Redding & Aretha Franklin being the most successful. Even Frank Zappa borrowed the main riff (complete with distortion) for the track ?Hungry Freaks, Daddy? on his first album Freak Out! that was released in 1966 and produced by Tom Wilson, who was Bob Dylan?s second producer.

Released as a single on August 20, 1965 ?(I Can?t Get No) Satisfaction? features the Rolling Stones in their prime defying exactly what Rock N Roll is about. The song features what can be considered as Mick Jagger?s greatest vocals, matched with some stellar guitar work from Keith Richards, possible rhythm guitar work from Brian Jones, Bill Wyman?s impeccable work on the bass guitar, Charlie Watts on the drums and Jack Nitzsche on the Tamborine and piano. It also features production work by their then manager Andrew Loog Oldham with Sound engineer Dave Hassinger.


During the Rolling Stones tour of Canada & the United States between April 23 and May 29, 1965, the band were stationed in Clearwater, Florida on May 6th 1965 for their 9th show of the tour. Keith Richards recalls writing the main riff for ?(I Can?t Get No) Satisfaction? on this day in his sleep. Thanks to the Philips Cassette player that was tucked near him and his guitar Keith was able to salvage what is arguably the greatest riff in all of Rock N Roll. What triggered him to inspect the tape was the fact that the tape recorder was stationed at the end, clearly when he remembered to have inserted a new tape in the previous night. What he discovered was the rough idea for the main riff?accompanied with 40 minutes of snoring.

In the end, Keith Richards contribution to this Jagger-Richards composition was the main riff & the phrase ?I Don?t Get No Satisfaction? that came from his mentor Chuck Berry?s song ?30 Days? from the lyric ?If I don?t get no satisfaction from the judge?. He took this to Mick Jagger who was at the swimming pool of the Jack Tar Harrison Hotel (Now the Fort Harrison Hotel) in Florida. He then wrote the lyrics, which was a ruthless indictment of society that had developed on either side of the Atlantic since the 50?s. The song also plays on lyrical themes of Media disinformation that comes with advertising. It?s also clear that Jagger?s lack of sexual activity was also at the centre of the lyrics he wrote down for this song. He further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest Rock N Roll singers of all time by following in Bob Dylan?s footsteps by adding social and societal criticisms to the lyrics. He wrote ?But he can?t be a man ?cause he doesn?t smoke/ The same cigarettes as me and I?m trying to make some girl/ Who tells me baby better come back later next week/?Cause you see I?m On A losing streak?. This completed the first incarnation of the song, which initially became folk-rock song with a harmonica.


Transforming the song from a Folk-Rock to a electronic rock number seemed to happen rather smoothly once Keith Richards realised that he didn?t want to put out the song as a single because he didn?t like the initial arrangement, and he didn?t think it would chart. Mick Jagger on the other hand loved it and reported that it?s the only time they ever had a disagreement. This initial version was recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago on May 10?11, 1965. After this the band flew to Los Angeles on May 12th where they reworked the song in RCA Studios in different arrangements.

Initially, Keith Richards wanted the song?s main riff to be played with horns in the style of Otis Redding. However, no matter hard he tried he couldn?t get the riff to be played in a distorted manner through the amps. It was then that Ian Stewart the sixth Rolling Stone came up with a solution. He went round the corner supposedly to Waslach?s Music City and brought a little magic box, which was the latest novelty from Gibson, otherwise known as the iconic Maestro Fuzz-Tone. Thanks to this box ?I Can?t Get No Satisfaction? was released with the electric guitar arrangement. The main arrangement of the song now had a electric-acoustic guitar arrangement while a few notes of the riff took on an enormous emotion.

Sound engineer Dave Hassinger discovered the sound of the riff with his box to be little slender and instead suppressed some of the frequencies in the middle regulator, which led Keith Richards to overdub the riff on his Gibson Firebird VII. This is alternated with the unfuzzy sound of his 6-string guitar for the recording of the counterpoint phrases. The rhythm guitar was overdubbed using a Gibson Heritage acoustic. Another noteworthy portion of the song is Bill Wyman?s bass notes that underscores the riff not identically, but at the interval of a 4th, thus adding more variety to the sound of the song. Charlie Watt?s drumming is as always played with a metronome. His drum parts were primarily influenced when he borrowed from the rhythm section of Roy Orbison?s ?Pretty Woman?. What?s interesting to note is that Stevie Wonder borrowed from Charlie?s motif for his November 1965 hit ?Uptight (Everything?s Alright?. Jack Nitzche adds more value to the song by playing the tamborine and piano. However, Andrew Loog has stated that sadly his part was completely inaudible. Above all this instrumentation lies Mick Jagger?s powerful vocals, which he accomplished in a single take.

Hit Single?

Once the final arrangement was completed, the band discussed whether or not the song should be released as a single or not. Despite hostility from the rest of the band, Andrew Loog & Dave Hassinger were very positive about the result. Due to the hostility the band put it to a vote to make a decision. Andrew, Dave, Ian Stewart, Brian Jones, Charlie voted yes while Keith Richards & Mick Jagger voted no. As a result it became the next single by a majority of the vote. Keith Richards didn?t believe for one second the band had written a hit. This is because he believed ?Satisfaction? was merely a demo in the style of Otis Redding, and the riff played through a fuzz-box instead of the horn line.

Despite this vote the band thought they should record a more definite version rather than the one they recorded at RCA Studio. But Andrew took zero notice of this and trusted his instincts instead. 10 days later he called up the band and said ?The last thing you did, ?Satisfaction?, that?s the single?. Keith Richards reaction was rather puzzled as he was shocked to see it playing on every radio station in the country. He instead simply said ?I?m not going to complain? and decided to go with the flow.


The Legacy of this song marks a change in how music was created and composed in many ways. Beside The Beatles song ?Think For Yourself? it was the first time the fuzz-box had been heard anywhere before and that this kind of-sound captured people?s attention everywhere. Despite that Keith Richards used this box very rarely thought-out his career. The song was released as a single on June 6th 1965 in the United States with ?The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man? as the B-side and as a single on August 20th in the United States, which was accompanied by ?The Spider And The Fly? as the B-side. The single as a great success and has earned the band the ?2 position on the Rolling Stone magazine?s list of Greatest Songs of All Time.

However, despite all the fame and success the song remains a property of Allen Klein?s company ABKCO.


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