Released during the first week of June in 1965, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones proved to be a monumental single, not just in terms of airplay and chart position (their first U.S. #1), but also in terms of shaping popular music. The song that, according to Newsweek, contains the “five notes that shook the world” has proven itself timeless. A half-century later, the Rolling Stones played the song as their finale on the opening night of their Zip Code Tour of North America 2015.
The idea of writing a song around a riff (a repeating sequence of notes), rather than a vocal melody or chord progression, though not unprecedented at the time, had yet to take rock music by storm. “Satisfaction” was the storm. Over the course of the next several years, the shift in focus towards the riff took hold, and can be still heard in popular music today.
On July 10, ABKCO Records will celebrate the golden anniversary of “Satisfaction” by releasing a limited edition, numbered 12-inch version of the single on 180-gram vinyl. While the smash hit comprises the entire A-side, the B-side consists of both original U.S. and UK “Satisfaction” flip sides: “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” and “The Spider and the Fly,” respectively. The record is housed in a sleeve featuring award-winning photographer David Bailey’s shot of the group, recreating the original 7-inch single artwork. Mastered by Carl Rowatti at Trutone Mastering Labs and cut from the original mono master tapes, the 45-rpm 12-inch format makes this a true audiophile pressing, allowing for wider grooves that yield louder levels, broader range, deeper bass and better high frequency response.
London Records (the Stones’ U.S. label at the time) released “Satisfaction” in the first week of June, less than a month after the track was recorded at RCA Studios in Hollywood, CA on May 12, 1965. By June 12, the single had entered both the Billboard and Cashbox charts. Over the course of the next month, “Satisfaction” shot straight to the top, hitting #1 in Record World on July 3, where it held its position for three weeks; Billboard and Cashbox followed suit, declaring it #1 on July 10, where it stayed for four weeks. Sales-wise, “Satisfaction” was an unparalleled success – it became the group’s first RIAA-certified gold record on July 19, 1965.
The UK version of the “Satisfaction” single, released by Decca on August 20, 1965, would become the band’s fourth #1 single in their home territory. The track made its LP debut on July 30 of that year, when it was included on the U.S. version of “Out of Our Heads.” ABKCO Films’ much-lauded documentary “The Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling – Ireland 1965″ features the band’s first ever performance of “Satisfaction” to a paying audience, played Dublin’s Adelphi Theatre on September 3 of that year. (See below)
The iconic guitar riff that opens the song was composed by Keith Richards who recorded the sequence of notes on a home tape recorder while in a dreamlike state in the middle of the night when the band was on tour in the U.S. After listening to his own recording and devising the song title “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” he played the riff for Mick Jagger by the pool at the Gulf Motel in Clearwater, FL in early May, 1965. Jagger immediately composed the lyrics.
Having scrapped a version of “Satisfaction” that was recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago on May 10, the group re-recorded the song at RCA Studios in Hollywood, CA on May 12. It was this version that would take over the airwaves and shoot up the charts the following month.
Textured by the aid of a Maestro Fuzz-Tone pedal, Richards’ riff was originally intended to be replaced by a horn section, but the recording sounded complete to producer/manager Andrew Loog Oldham and engineer David Hassinger. Jagger’s lyrics, simultaneously expressing sexual frustration and disdain for consumerist messages, would strike a nerve with the mostly young, rock ‘n’ roll buying public. Ironically, the only two people in the Stones’ camp who were initially against turning “Satisfaction” into a single were Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
“The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” credited to Nanker Phelge (a pseudonym used on compositions written by the entire band), is a lighthearted jab at George Sherlock, an employee of London Records at the time, who accompanied the group on their first U.S. tour. The Stones saw Sherlock as a vain, toupee-topped, seersucker suited music biz flunky who was ultimately harmless. In later years, Sherlock expressed pride in having been the subject of the song. Loosely based on Buster Brown’s hit “Fannie Mae,” it is the lyrical content that gives the tune historic importance; the prodding of authority figures through song was almost unprecedented at the time. In the UK, Decca decided to instead use the country-blues composition “The Spider and the Fly” (also by Jagger/Richards) as the B-side to “Satisfaction,” the company assuming that the abundance of American references on “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” may have gone over the heads of British listeners.
Pressed by Quality Record Pressings in Salina, KS, and limited to 10,000 numbered copies in North America, ABKCO’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” 12-inch single will be released a half-century to the day after the landmark song dominated U.S. charts and helped transform the course of pop music history.
This edition’s cover story features The Rolling Stones. Look back at some of the most memorable moments of The World’s Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band. Inside you will also find:
• Session artists and sidemen have shaped The Rolling Stones’ catalog
• Celebrate the wonder of quadraphonic sound, get a peek at some of Les Paul’s most-prized items coming to auction, plus check our Market Watch Countdown and Record Show Calendar
• Loudon Wainwright III expounds on death, decay and beating polka king Jimmy Sturr for a Grammy
• Learn about the music that changed Joe Lynn Turner’s life
• Revisit rock’s roots with vintage blues