500 Greatest Songs of All Time

2

The Rolling Stones, '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'

Writer: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards
Producer:
Andrew Loog Oldham
Released:
May '65, London
14 weeks; No. 1 

 "It's the riff heard  round the world," says Steve Van Zandt, guitarist for the E Street Band. "And it's one of the earliest examples of Dylan influencing the Stones and the Beatles — the degree of cynicism, and the idea of bringing more personal lyrics from the folk and blues tradition into popular music."

The riff came to Keith Richards in a dream one night in May 1965, in his motel room in Clearwater, Florida, on the Rolling Stones' third U.S. tour. He woke up and grabbed a guitar and a cassette machine. Richards played the run of notes once, then fell back to sleep. "On the tape," he said later, "you can hear me drop the pick, and the rest is snoring."

That spark in the night — the riff that opens and defines "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" — transformed the rickety jump and puppy love of early rock & roll into rock. The primal temper of Richards' creation, played through a Gibson Fuzz Box; the sneering dismissal in Mick Jagger's lyrics; the strut of rhythm guitarist Brian Jones, bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts: It was the sound of a generation impatient to inherit the Earth.

Two decades later, Jagger admitted that "Satisfaction" was "my view of the world, my frustration with everything." Inspired by that riff and the title line, also Richards' idea, Jagger wrote the words — a litany of disgust with "America, its advertising syndrome, the constant barrage" — in 10 minutes, by the motel pool the day after Richards' dream. They tried to cut the song a few days later, on May 10th at the Chess studios in Chicago. Two days after that, they finished it at RCA Studios in Hollywood, with the vital addition of that fuzz. "That riff needed to sustain itself," Richards said, "and Gibson had just brought out these little boxes."

"Satisfaction" was rock of the Stones' own bold design — although Richards may also have been dreaming of Chuck Berry that night in Clearwater. Jagger later suggested that Richards unconsciously got the hook for "Satisfaction" from a line in Berry's 1955 single "30 Days" ("I don't get no satisfaction from the judge"). "It's not any way an English person would express it," Jagger noted. "I'm not saying that he purposely nicked anything, but we played those records a lot."

Appears on: Out of Our Heads (ABKCO)

RELATED:

The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: The Rolling Stones

The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time: Mick Jagger

The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time: Keith Richards

Photos: The Rolling Stones Live, 1964-2007

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