Songfacts®: You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.
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." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
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 Richard 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 3 year previous, so what's the fuzz?"
Richards (1992): "It was the first (fuzztone box) 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." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
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 The Ed Sullivan Show in 1966. The line "Trying to make some girl" was bleeped out by censors.
This was included on the US version of Out Of Our Heads, 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 Record. 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 5 days after Richards first came up with the idea. 3 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 "30 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 (1995): "People get very blase 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." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
This was featured in the 1984 film Starman, starring Jeff Bridges. The movie is set on a deep space probe in the '70s. (thanks, jeff - ozark, MO)
Sesame Street did a version of this called "(I Can't Get No) Cooperation." It was about a school kid who couldn't find anyone to play jump rope or seesaw with.
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. (thanks, Drew T Jensen - West Covina, CA)
The Stones don't own the publishing rights to this. 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.
Richards says he never plays this on stage the same way twice. (thanks, Christopher - Chicago, IL)
In 2006, The Rolling Stones played this at halftime of Superbowl XL. (thanks, Jonathan - Toronto, Canada)
The phrase, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," is grammatically incorrect. It's a double negative and really means, "I Can Get Satisfaction." (thanks, Javier - Corpus Chisti, TX)
Keith Richards used his "fuzzbox," but he also played clean guitar during the song, with Brian Jones strumming an acoustic throughout. This meant that 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." (thanks, christopher - vienna, Austria)
A band so baffling, even their names were contrived. Check your score in the Ramones version of Fact or Fiction.
Into the vaults for this talk with Bolton from the '80s when he was a focused on writing songs for other artists.
The Real Nick Drake
The head of Drake's estate shares his insights on the late folk singer's life and music.