The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #5: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #5: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones.

In 1965, The Rolling Stones embarked on their first U.S. tour. They arrived in America with two minor hits under their belts: “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Get Off Of My Cloud”. They were viewed as an up-and-coming band but were not yet the Rolling Stones that they would turn out to be. So, the legend has it that one night, upon leaving a concert in Clearwater, Florida, the members of the Stones encountered a protest outside of the arena, between student activists and the police. The protest had nothing to do with them but, none-the-less, there they were in the middle of it all. That riot sparked a conversation about how each member of the band viewed their experience with “America” up until that point. What came out of that discussion were two observations: 1- that commercialism was integrated into the fabric of everyday life in the U.S., way more than it was in England and, 2-that they sensed a great disconnect between the youth of the day…their ambitions and fears…contrasted with those of the older, ruling class. Jagger later termed the feeling he was sensing as one of alienation. Well, later that night, as Keith Richards had begun to regularly do, he retired to his hotel room, took out a cassette tape recorder and began recording song ideas. One of the ideas he recorded on tape, before falling asleep during the recording, was a title that read, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” but, just as importantly as that, if not more so, he had recorded the opening riff.

Old school Fuzz Box.

When he played the tape for his bandmates the following morning, all were very enthusiastic. Mick Jagger hurriedly set to work, fleshing out the lyrics. Richards, who always structured the musical end of things, envisioned a song that included a brass section. After several attempts at playing the song in a jam session style, Richards began to sour on the song; thinking it was too basic and that maybe the riff wasn’t so special after all. As it turned out, Ian Stewart, who was an unofficial member of the band, had heard of a new innovation for the electric guitar called a “fuzz box”. He was able to locate one nearby, brought it in and showed it to Keith Richards. Richards hooked it up to his guitar and played the riff again, through the fuzz box. The new sound changed his crisp, clean guitar chords into something fuzzy and scuzzy. Richard, initially, thought the fuzz box was gimmicky but, the other members of the band raved about it and so, Keith Richards recorded his guitar track using the fuzz box and, as they say, the rest was history. The fuzz box assisted track became the official track. Thus, the opening riff to the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” that we all know and love was made with a fuzz box and, as such, was the first recorded instance of a top-selling song being made this way.

The song, itself, has an interesting history due, in large part, to the very nature of the band. When Mick Jagger went to write lyrics about commercialism and alienation, he did so in a way that came across as being a threat to the status quo in America. To be anti-consumeristic was akin to being a Communist. Attacking commercial production was attacking what it meant to be an American. Furthermore, lines such as “trying to make some girl” earned The Rolling Stones an immediate ban for being sexually explicit. However, the opening guitar riff was so electrifying that the popularity of this new song spread quickly across the U.S. and, before too long, The Rolling Stones had their first #1 song on their hands. In fact, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was a hit in America long before it ever was a hit back home in the UK.

One of the most interesting bits of trivia associated with this song concerns an artist who did a cover version. Now, artists doing cover versions of hit songs is nothing new or noteworthy, in and of itself. However, in this case, the cover version was sung by Otis Redding. Redding took “Satisfaction” and added the horn section that Keith Richards so desired. By doing so, Redding transformed a Rock song into a Soul song. But, more than that, he became the first Black artist of note to ever cover a “White” song. That is an interesting turn of events when you realize that much of the early history of Rock n’ Roll was white artists (Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc.) all gaining fame by appropriating music written and performed by Black artists who, for a variety of reasons, were not able to mass market their songs themselves. In a bit of turn-about is fair play……when “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was released in America, The Rolling Stones had a Top Ten hit in the UK with a song by Howlin’ Wolf called, “Little Red Rooster”, *(which you can read about here). Because Howlin’ Wolf was a black singer, he wasn’t as well known in mainstream America as he should have been. So, The Rolling Stones insisted that he be included at any concerts or TV appearances that they made to support “Satisfaction”.

Overall, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” has gone on to become the signature song for one of the biggest bands of all-time. It begins with a fuzz box-induced riff that is instantly recognizable. From there, the song roars through a diatribe about the difference between the phoniness of commercialism and the realness of love/sex, all against a backdrop of youthful alienation. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” has been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as being one of the songs that shared the history of rock n’ roll. No wonder…..can a song about sex and money and sticking it to the Man be any more “Rock n’ Roll” than that?

So, without further delay, here is one of the most iconic Rock n’ Roll songs of all-time……(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, as covered by Otis Redding, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Little Red Rooster” by Howlin’ Wolf, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Otis Redding, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Howlin’ Wolf, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

4 thoughts on “The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #5: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. (RS)”

  1. While it certainly hasn’t suffered from underexposure, that guitar riff is and will always remain iconic.

    Have you ever heard the version of Satisfaction from “On Air,” a great collection of live BBC recordings? To me this sounds even better than the original studio version.

    Liked by 1 person

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