The Rolling Stones

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

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
The Rolling Stones on the Ed Sullivan Show 1964 ABKCO Records 2:41
Out of Our Heads 1965 ABKCO Records 3:43
The Rolling Stones on Ready Steady Go! 1965 ABKCO Records 4:29
The Rolling Stones on Shindig! 1965 ABKCO Records 3:58
Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) 1966 ABKCO Records 3:44
Sticky Fingers 1971 Virgin 0:00
Hot Rocks: 1964-1971 1972 ABKCO Records / Universal Music 3:43
Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1975 Universal Distribution
Stones Story 1976 Decca
Get Stoned 1977 Arcade Music
Let's Spend the Night Together 1984 EMI Music Distribution
Digital Dreams [Video] 1985 Classic Pictures
In the Park [Video] 1985 Import
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 3:43
Closer Than Close, Vol. 1: The Toronto 1997 Rehearsals 2000 Rattlesnake Records 5:58
Forty Licks 2002 ABKCO Records 3:44
The Rolling Stones Forever 2002 3:48
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 3:44
Toronto Rocks 2004
Various Artists
Singles 1965-1967 2004 ABKCO Records 3:43
Hula Jazz, Vol. 2: Smooth Operator 2006
Various Artists
Avex Trax
Charlie Is My Darling: Ireland 1965 2012 ABKCO Records 3:38
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 3:44
The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1964-1971 2013 ABKCO Records 3:44
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction 2015 ABKCO Records / Universal 3:43
Gimme Shelter 2015 ABKCO Records 5:22
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 3:43
100% Éxitos: Rock, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Universal 3:44
Air Guitar Anthems
Various Artists
Universal 3:44
Best of Rock Classics
Various Artists
Universal 3:44
Discover More Classic Rock
Various Artists
Universal 3:44
Don't Worry
Various Artists
Universal 3:43
Fiebre Rockera
Various Artists
Universal 3:44
Golden Hits [2020]
Various Artists
Universal 3:44
Greatest Rock Hits
Various Artists
Universal 3:44
Música Para Gafas de Sol
Various Artists
Rock Now
Various Artists
Universal 3:44