(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

The Rolling Stones

Song Review by Richie Unterberger

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is the Ur-Rolling Stones song: a pounding rocker with sneering vocals and lyrics, with a blues and soul base that nonetheless is used for a guitar-based song that is definitely rock, not blues or R&B. It was also one of the defining records of the its era, reaching number one around the globe and establishing the Rolling Stones as the second-biggest band in the world, behind only the Beatles. As with many Rolling Stones songs, the key hook is the guitar riff: a fuzz-toned, insistent series of ascending and descending notes that rates among the most captivating and memorable riffs in rock history. Set against a beat suitable for foot-stomping and hand-clapping, Mick Jagger delivers the verses in a hushed, ambiguous tone that hovers between commentary and sarcastic nastiness. The group approaches the verse with a series of increasingly urgent, tense harmonizations on the words "and I try" before exploding into the chorus: a cathartic release of all the frustration that has been building throughout the song, the opening fuzz riff reappearing in full force as Jagger half-screams the title (or most of it, at any rate) in a manner that compels the listener to sing-shout along. The chorus then turns into a stream-of-consciousness catalog of complaints about the irritations of modern life, touring, the media, and (of course) getting laid. It returns again to the basic shout-hook before all instruments drop out, save a crunching drumbeat: a most effective use of the maxim "less is more" within a pop song. Jagger's semi-rants during the chorus address the pressures of life in a more contemporary fashion than those in the blues-based songs the Stones had covered up to that point, ragging on the media man who tells him how white his shirts should be (a figure that hasn't exactly gone away in the 21st century, incidentally) and a girl who keeps putting him off. The reference in the verse to not getting a girl in action was fairly controversial in its day, interpreted by some listeners (and radio programmers) as a symbol for a girl willing to have sex. Note how for all the prominence given the fuzz riff, much of the track's texture is set by strumming acoustic guitars; also dig how on the fade-out, Jagger suddenly dips into a lower register for a few lines before shouting at the top of his range, increasing the tension yet further. The Rolling Stones, perhaps, did not realize just how potent the track was at first. Keith Richards, who had devised the fuzz riff that the song was built upon, was afraid the riff was too similar to the one used on Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" (a strange notion, as the two riffs don't sound too similar). The group initially released it only in America, planning to put it on a British EP. It was only when the song instantly rocketed up the U.S. charts -- becoming by far their biggest hit in the States up to that point -- that it was issued in the U.K. Unlike many Rolling Stones songs, it also became an instant standard, played by uncounted garage bands, and recorded even by easy listening and jazz acts, thanks to its irresistible hook lines. Otis Redding had by far the biggest cover hit, taking a frantic soul-shouted version, in which horns substituted for the fuzz guitar, into the Top 40 (and R&B Top Five) in early 1966. As a classic rock radio and bar band staple ever since the 1960s, "("I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" has become part of the Western collective consciousness, so much so that several post-punk acts could not resist the opportunity to deconstruct it by making it noisy, dissonant, deadpan, or all at once. The most noted of these attempts was the herky jerky, mechanical rendition by Devo, although the Residents made a noisier, almost unlistenable avant-garde reinterpretation on a 1970s single.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Out of Our Heads 1965 ABKCO Records 0:00
Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) 1966 ABKCO Records 0:00
Sticky Fingers 1971 Virgin 0:00
Hot Rocks: 1964-1971 1972 ABKCO Records / Universal Music 3:43
Tattoo You 1981 Virgin 0:00
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 3:43
Forty Licks 2002 ABKCO Records 0:00
As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt. 5 2004 Waxed Soul Recordings
Rock Fest 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Campfire Hits 2007
Various Artists
Country Roads / ZYX / CR 0:00
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 0:00
Crossfire Hurricane [Video] 2013 Eagle Rock
Another Time, Another Place 2016 Coda Publishing
The Complete British Radio Broadcasts 1963-1965 2017 London Calling 3:44
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