Rolling Stones songs: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
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‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try…
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Chess Studios, Chicago, USA, May 10-11 and RCA Studios, Hollywood, USA, May 12-13 1965
Guest musicians: Jack Nitzsche (piano)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
On May 6, 1965, The Rolling Stones played to about 3,000 people at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, Florida while on their first US tour. According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, about 200 young fans got in an altercation with a line of police officers at the show, and The Stones made it through just four songs as chaos ensued. That night, Keith Richards woke up in his hotel room with the guitar riff and lyric “Can’t get no satisfaction” in his head. He recorded it on a portable tape deck, went back to sleep, and brought it to the studio that week. The tape contained his guitar riff followed by the sounds of him snoring.
Richards was staying at the Fort Harrison Hotel (known at the time as the Jack Tar Harrison Hotel) when he rolled out of bed with the idea for this song. The hotel still exists. In 1975, it was bought by the Church of Scientology and frequently hosts religious retreats.
The guitar riff is similar to Martha & the Vandellas “Dancing in the Street.” Richards thought that is where he got the idea, and was worried that it was too similar.
This was released in the United States on June 6, 1965, just a month after Keith Richards woke up with the guitar riff in his head. In the UK, it wasn’t issued until August 20, since The Stones did not want to release it in England until they were there to support it. While they were touring in America, they became very popular in England, so they kept recording singles in the States to keep their momentum until they could return for a tour.
Mick Jagger (1968): “It sounded like a folk song when we first started working on it and Keith didn’t like it much, he didn’t want it to be a single, he didn’t think it would do very well. I think Keith thought it was a bit basic. I don’t think he really listened to it properly. He was too close to it and just felt it was a silly kind of riff.”
Richards ran his guitar through a Gibson Fuzz Box to create the distortion effect. He had no intention of using the sound on the record, but Gibson had just sent him the device, and he thought the Fuzz Box would create sustained notes to help sketch out the horn section. The band thought it sounded great and wanted to use the sound because it would be very unusual for a rock record. Richards thought it sounded gimmicky and did not like the result, but the rest of the band convinced him to ditch the horn section and use the distorted guitar sound.
There is some debate as to whether this is the first use of fuzz guitar in a rock song. Shiloh Noone sheds some light on the subject in his book Seekers Guide To The Rhythm Of Yesteryear: “Anne Margaret does have one claim to fame that embarrassingly whitewashes the rock generation, namely her studio recording of ‘I Just Don’t Understand’ which boasts the first fuzz guitar applied to wax, courtesy of Billy Strange, a one time member of Phil Spector’s session crew who later hit the charts with an instrumental version of Monty Norman’s ‘James Bond theme.’ ‘I Just Don’t Understand’ was later launched as a single by Freddie & The Dreamers and also played live by the Beatles at the Cavern…
…Billy Strange repeated his fuzz on ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ (Bob B Soxx & The Blue Jeans). So what’s the buzz about fuzz? Well it did launch the early stages of psychedelia and boost its prime exponents The Ventures, specifically their 1962 single ‘2.000lb Bee.’ Sure-fisted Keith Richards claims he revolutionized the fuzz on the ripping ‘Satisfaction’ while utilizing his new fuzz box, yet Big Jim Sullivan used it previously on P.J. Proby’s ‘Hold Me.’ Billy Strange exalted the riff that Link Wray had already laid claim to three year previous, so what’s the fuzz?”
Speaking about the fuzztone box he used on this song, Keith Richards said in 1992: “It was the first one Gibson made. I was screaming for more distortion: This riff’s really gotta hang hard and long, and we burnt the amps up and turned the s–t up, and it still wasn’t right. And then Ian Stewart went around the corner to Eli Wallach’s Music City or something and came around with a distortion box. Try this. It was as off-hand as that. It was just from nowhere. I never got into the thing after that, either. It had a very limited use, but it was just the right time for that song.”
Mick Jagger wrote all the lyrics except the line “Can’t get no satisfaction.” The lyrics deal with what Jagger saw as the two sides of America, the real and phony. He sang about a man looking for authenticity but not being able to find it. Jagger experienced the vast commercialism of America in a big way on their tours, and later learned to exploit it, as The Rolling Stones made truckloads of money through sponsorships and merchandising in the US.
The Stones performed this on their third Ed Sullivan Show appearance, which took place February 13, 1966. The line, “Trying to make some girl,” was bleeped out by Sullivan’s censors, as it was a family show. Sullivan was perhaps the only host that could get away with this, as he helped launch the band in America. On their fifth appearance, Jagger agreed to sing “Let’s Spend The Night Together” as “Let’s Spend Some Time Together.”
This was included on the US version of the Out Of Our Heads album, but not the British. Putting singles on albums was considered ripping people off in England.
The stereo mix has electric instruments on one channel and acoustics on the other.
Jack Nitzsche worked with The Stones on this, playing piano and helping produce it. He also played the tambourine part because he thought Jagger’s attempt lacked soul. Nitzsche was a successful producer who worked on many early hits for the Stones, including “Get Off My Cloud” and “Paint It, Black.” He died in 2000 at age 63.
Otis Redding recorded this in 1966 at the behest of Steve Cropper and Booker T. Jones, who were part of his backing band at Stax Records. Otis hadn’t heard the song, and he didn’t like it, so he did a radically different version of the song, using horns and changing many of the words. Using horns was what Keith Richards originally had in mind for the song, and he lauded Redding’s take. His version was one of the first British songs covered by a black artist; usually it was the other way around.
The final take was recorded just five days after Richards first came up with the idea. Three weeks later, it was released as a single in the US. An instant hit, it made The Stones stars in America; it helped that they were already touring the US to support it.
There is a song by Chuck Berry called “Thirty Days” with the line “I can’t get no satisfaction from the judge.” Richards is a huge Chuck Berry fan and it is possible that this is where he got the idea for the title.
Mick Jagger said in 1995: “People get very blasé about their big hit. It was the song that really made The Rolling Stones, changed us from just another band into a huge, monster band. You always need one song. We weren’t American, and America was a big thing and we always wanted to make it here. It was very impressive the way that song and the popularity of the band became a worldwide thing. It’s a signature tune, really, rather than a great, classic painting, ’cause it’s only like one thing – a kind of signature that everyone knows…
…It has a very catchy title. It has a very catchy guitar riff. It has a great guitar sound, which was original at that time. And it captures a spirit of the times, which is very important in those kinds of songs… Which was alienation. Or it’s a bit more than that, maybe, but a kind of sexual alienation. Alienation’s not quite the right word, but it’s one word that would do.”
This was featured in the 1984 film Starman, starring Jeff Bridges. The movie is set on a deep space probe in the ’70s.
Sesame Street did a version called “(I Can’t Get No) Cooperation,” which is about a kid at school having trouble to finding someone to play jump rope or ride the seesaw.
Some of the artists who have covered this include Britney Spears and Devo. Another unusual cover was by The Residents, whose version is much more intense, with distorted, raging vocals, and a heavy guitar solo courteously of Phil “Snakefinger” Lithman.
The Stones don’t own the publishing rights to this song. In 1965, they signed a deal with an American lawyer named Allen Klein and let him make some creative accounting maneuvers to avoid steep British taxes. He ended up controlling most of their money, and in order to get out of their contract, The Stones signed over the publishing rights to all the songs they wrote up to 1969. Klein, who died in 2009, still had to pay royalties to the songwriters, but controlled how the songs were used.
Richards says he never plays this on stage the same way twice.
In 2006, The Rolling Stones played this at halftime of Superbowl XL.
The phrase, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” is grammatically incorrect. It’s a double negative and really means, “I Can Get Satisfaction.”
Keith Richards used his fuzzbox, but he also played clean guitar during the song, with Brian Jones strumming an acoustic throughout. This meant Keith had to switch between his two tones during the song, as multiple tracks were sparse back then and overdubs rare. If you listen to the song at :36 you will hear Keith switching on his fuzz with an audible click, just between Jagger’s “get” and “no.” At about 1:35, Keith is stomping his fuzz too late, slightly missing his cue, ending up playing the riff a little behind. At his next cue (2:33) he probably wants to be sure that his fuzz is on, so you can hear a short but audible fuzz note (accidentally?) played before the actual riff and slightly before Jagger’s “I can’t get.”
Despite the dig at TV advertising in this song (“When I’m watchin’ my TV, and that man comes on to tell me how white my shirts can be…”), Snickers wanted it badly for their “Snickers Satisfies” campaign, and got it for a price of $4 million, according to Allen Klein of the song’s publishing company, ABKCO. Klein said $2.8 million of that went to Jagger and Richards as writers of the song.
Further, Snickers didn’t even get the original song for their money. The commercial, which aired in 1991 used a version performed by studio musicians.
The song spent four weeks at #1 in America before getting knocked off by Herman’s Hermits “I’m Henry The VIII, I Am.” In the UK, it spent two weeks at #1, knocked off by The Walker Brothers “Make It Easy on Yourself.”
The Stones debuted “Satisfaction” on the ABC variety show Shindig! May 20, 1965, a few weeks before it was released in America. Months earlier, they had a UK #1 with “Little Red Rooster,” a song originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf, an American bluesman who wasn’t well known in his home country. The Stones insisted that Wolf appear on the show, and they helped introduce his performance of How Many More Years.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
The Rolling Stones toured Canada and the United States between April 23
and May 29, 1965. On May 6 they were in Clearwater, Florida, for the ninth
show of their North American tour. Keith Richards recalls: “I wrote
‘Satisfaction’ in my sleep. I had no idea I’d written it, it’s only thank God
for the little Philips cassette player. The miracle being that I looked at the
cassette player that morning and I knew I’d put a brand-new tape in the
previous night, and I saw it was at the end. Then I pushed rewind and there
was Satisfaction. It was just a rough idea… and forty minutes of me
Richards had thus sketched out what was to become the most
emblematic song in the Rolling Stones’ catalog. He had the riff and the
phrase I don’t get no satisfaction, which came straight from “30 Days” by
his mentor Chuck Berry, complete with its grammatically dubious double
negative (If I don’t get no satisfaction from the judge). He then played it for
Mick Jagger, who, by the side of the swimming pool of the Jack Tar
Harrison Hotel (now the Fort Harrison Hotel) in Florida, provided the lyrics
—a relentless indictment of the establishment, of the society that had
developed on either side of the Atlantic since the fifties, of media
disinformation, and of advertising; it is also made clear that sexual
frustration is the source of much of the trouble. Mick Jagger assumes the
role of chronicler of his times and, following Bob Dylan’s example, his
social and societal criticism is all the more effective for the derision—and a
certain sense of alienation—that it contains: But he can’t be a man ’cause
he doesn’t smoke/The same cigarettes as me and I’m tryin’ to make some
girl/Who tells me baby better come back later next week/’Cause you see I’m
on a losing streak. Jagger completed the words four days before the group
entered the studio.
After undergoing a startling transformation—from acoustic folk song
with harmonica to electric rock number with fuzz pedal—“(I Can’t Get No)
Satisfaction” was released as a single on June 6, 1965, in the United States
(with “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” as the B-side) and
on August 20 in the United Kingdom (with “The Spider and the Fly” as the
B-side). The song was a resounding success. In the United States the single
entered the charts as soon as it was released and on July 10 knocked the
Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself” off the number 1 position. In the United
Kingdom, it reached number 1 on August 26 (for two weeks!) and remained
on the charts for twelve weeks. It also topped the charts in West Germany,
Austria, and the Netherlands, and got to number 3 in France.
Today, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is number 2 on Rolling Stone
magazine’s list of Greatest Songs of All Time. This is a verdict shared by
Rickie Lee Jones: “I grew up listening to the Stones in a climate of Stonesversus-Beatles. I was a Beatle girl. The Stones were tough. Mick danced
funny and had big lips. Brian was beautiful but seemed out of his mind. If I
am going to pick up one song, though, I am going back to the source:
Satisfaction. The guitar line has become part of our rock ’n’ roll
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