Back in 1965, The Rolling Stones broke through in the U.S. with their first No. 1 single, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and changed the rules of rock & roll forever. Now, with the gang on tour for their Zip Code trek this summer, nine artists look back on the iconic tune’s anniversary and share how the Stones shaped their lives.
MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, Devo: I still think of it as the quintessential rock and roll song. It has the greatest lyrics about conspicuous consumption. I first realized it was important when someone from my mother’s church came over when it first came out and noticed I was listening to the 45. She said, “Mary, why are you letting your son listen to that song? It’s dirty!” I listened to it a hundred times in a row, trying to figure out what she meant. I kept thinking, “What’s dirty?”
When Devo was looking for something to cover, it was spontaneous and just kind of happened. We were rehearsing in a closed-down car wash in Akron, Ohio. There was no heat and it was the middle of the winter. We were all wearing winter coats and there was steam coming out of our mouths when we talked. Bob Casale started playing this kind of “dit dit dit dit dit” and Allan the drummer started playing this backward drum beat and Jerry and Bob started playing bass and guitar over top of that. Just because “Satisfaction” was always there for us, I started singing it. It made everybody laugh, so it stuck. Sub-freezing weather had as much to do with it as anything else.
We included it on our first album because we thought of it as a way into Devo. We were celebrating and updating it ten years after it came out. It also became an opportunity to meet Mick Jagger, because back in those days if you did a cover of a song you had to get permission from the person that wrote the song to get to put it out on a record. In 1978 we went to New York and went to [Rolling Stones manager Peter Rudge’s] office and waited for Mick Jagger to come in. We played it for him and about halfway through he got up and started dancing around the room. He said, “I like it! I like it!” He told us that that was his favorite version of “Satisfaction.”
We were less than nothing. We were just these artists that nobody had ever heard of from Akron, Ohio. It was a dream to actually meet him and to see him dance to a song that we had recorded. It was his song, but for us it was the most amazing thing that had ever happened in our lives.
JAMES BAY: Let’s say “happy birthday” to that song—this is an incredible day, an incredible moment. Where to start on such an iconic moment in rock music, in guitar music, in pop music. It’s one of the moments in the Stones’ career where the undeniable force that is Keith Richards and the undeniable force that is Mick Jagger come together in complete harmony. I believe it was one of Keith’s “wake up in the middle of the night” stories, and he kind of laid it down into a little cassette tape recorder without really knowing what he was doing. That story about it coming to him in a dream—whether it’s true or not, I’m just going to believe it.
Recording music now is incredible, a magical thing, and the possibilities are endless. But if they were limited back then compared to recording music now, it doesn’t show. It certainly didn’t matter because they captured it. Happy birthday to it. It’s still a God among riffs, it’s just incredibly powerful and so accessible. It’s one of the first things you learn to play on guitar—you can get it under your fingers in a matter of minutes, and it’s one of those songs that’s so huge you immediately feel like a bit of a rock god.
MICHAEL HOBBY, A Thousand Horses: The Rolling Stones’ sound is iconic. From the first note of that guitar riff from “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” it just grabs hold of you. It’s that indescribable magic, and one could spend the rest of their life trying to chase that sound but unless your name is Keith Richards, it just can’t be imitated.
BRAD PAISLEY: The first thing I think of with “Satisfaction” is the fuzztone guitar. It should be really easy to get that “dum dum da da dum”—it’s not the most complicated tone—but we chased that fuzztone guitar last year on tour. DJ Silver, a country remix DJ, spun iconic guitar licks from songs like “Layla” and AC/DC and I had to play them. He threw in “Satisfaction” and I could play it, but I didn’t have a fuzztone that sounded that way. My guitar tech worked for Ronnie Wood for 20 years on the Stones tours before he worked for me, so the next day I show up and there’s a fuzz pedal in the rack. I played that night and it sounded terrible. It didn’t sound anything like it. We chased that fuzztone for probably eight shows. It’s an iconic lick. You know what it is right away.
Somebody asked me the other day, “Do you remember the first time you heard the Rolling Stones?” And it was like, “No. Neither do you.” I mean, unless you were alive in the Sixties, you don’t remember the first time. Do you remember your first breath? Not only are they part of the consciousness in terms of music now, they’re just a collective thing, they’re like the Borg, musically.
I’m a country act. I wear a cowboy hat. But it’s still going to be a really thrilling thing for me to open for the greatest living rock band [in Nashville on June 17]. They’re also undoubtedly in about the top 5 as far as country bands go— everything from “Sweet Virginia” to “Dead Flowers” and “Honky Tonk Women, is truly country music.
ALEX KAPRANOS, Franz Ferdinand: My mom had Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones, a compilation of their singles up to 1969. I loved it and I loved the Stones. It was music you could dance around to when you were a little kid and that’s when I was introduced to it.
[“Satisfaction’] was the Stones song when I realized there was something more to them. I must have been older in my teens and I actually listened to the lyrics for the first time and I thought, “Oh man, this is actually kind of dangerous.” Those lyrics are actually quite provocative and not just your standard kind of pop lyric. When you’re a kid, pop music seems like meaningless phrases and silly ideas. Then as you grow older and hit adolescence you tune in to something deeper and darker. That was one of those songs when you realize how much was really going on.
When you first listen to a song like that as a kid, you react to the energy of the performance. But you delve deeper and it’s something darker, and pretty angry—which is appealing when you’re in adolescence. There is that kind of “F–k you” contrariness about it, which is quite adolescent. It’s a song you don’t grow bored of.
It’s also about the time when the Stones became the Stones rather than just being enthralled by their influences. They weren’t trying to be an R&B band anymore; they were trying to become something else. They had their own identity, and so much of their own character. On “Satisfaction” you hear them comfortable with who they are.
KRISTIAN BUSH, Sugarland: “Satisfaction” starts with the chorus, which is an old-timey way to do things—it’s actually a country music way to do things. In most classic rock you begin with the intro and you have to wait, wait, wait for the good part. With “Satisfaction” the good part happens at the top. Can you imagine this on the charts now? It’s like “Uptown Funk.” There’s no burn on it.
It’s revolutionary—it’s a teenage heart beating in this thing. He’s just mad, and mad doesn’t ever go out of style. Frustrated doesn’t go out of style. And I don’t think a guitar is ever going to go out of style, not in rock n’ roll. It’s simple but it works. It’s a testament to this song that I thought they were covering Otis Redding with but it’s backwards—Otis covered their song.
Connecting with an audience through a song is the paramount piece of the puzzle. It’s a testament to why we’re all fighting to get Stones tickets now. I mean, they’re how old, and they’re making us dance. That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be.
HILARY DUFF: People are going to hate on me really hard for saying this—and obviously the Rolling Stones are amazing—but I’m a little young. So to me, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is a Britney Spears song. I was all about her version!
MIKE MILLS, R.E.M.: They looked like they were having good, dirty fun which was always something R.E.M. aspired to. They wrote good songs, they flouted conventions, they flouted rules, both musically and socially, and we always appreciated those aspects of the band. [R.E.M.’s] Peter [Buck] in particular is a huge Stones fan—I think he would tell you that Exile on Main Street is one of the best records of all time.
ROB THOMAS, Matchbox Twenty: A real bonus in my life is that I got to work with Mick Jagger on a few occasions. Him and I wrote the Matchbox Twenty song “Disease” together. We also wrote a song called “Visions of Paradise” for his solo record [2001’s Goddess In The Doorway]. Ever since then Mick has been a real gentleman at every turn. I remember being in Scotland and the Stones were playing this tiny little place. Obviously it was really hard to get tickets because there were so few. The day that we got in I called and he was said, “Anything you want.” He held the show up to say hi to me and my band before he went on stage.
I think all musicians to some degree are Anglophiles, in the sense that we all love English rock—‘60s and ‘70s English rock is just a big part of our life. Knowing that I can walk into any room in the world and Mick Jagger would walk up to me and say “Rob, how are you doing?” That’s f—king awesome. Being a giant fan and then having that kind of access to one of your idols, it’s one of the perks of the job for sure. It’s rarefied air.
SCOTT HOLIDAY, Rival Sons: I’m a certified Stones fanatic, especially partial to the Brian Jones era. Right from the cover [for Out Of Our Heads] we have something fresh and interesting: The singer’s in the back! Our own Keef [Keith Richards] is front and center with Brian, who all are looking rather ragged and living up to their “ugly image.” Good job [Rolling Stones manager] Andrew Loog Oldham! Besides “Satisfaction”—a certified game changer for them and the rest of the world—my faves on this album are “The Last Time,” “Play With Fire,” and their version of Sam Cooke’s “Good Times,” featuring Keith on 12-string guitar. Dig it!
CHUCK LEAVELL, Rolling Stones keyboardist: I was 13 years old living in Alabama when “Satisfaction” was released in summer of ‘65. My sister, Judy, worked at a record store, and we were able to get discounts on records through her job. Judy was great about turning me on to new music. She introduced me to the Beatles, Stones, and all the British Invasion bands.
I started my first real band, The Misfitz, that same year and was playing both guitar and keyboards. Long story short, we were able to get a regular weekly gig playing at the YMCA on Friday nights. Eventually we became the house band for a local Saturday morning TV show called, yes, Tuscaloosa Bandstand. I was in heaven. Through Judy and the radio, we would follow the latest hits of the day, not just British Invasion, but also indigenous music of the South: soul, R&B, country, as well as the psychedelic music erupting out of California. When “Satisfaction” hit the airwaves, it was like an explosion. Such a remarkable riff—tough, mean, angry and powerful. The lyrics hit home for a young teenager: “I tried… and I tried… and I tried and I tried… I CAN’T GET NO!” Wow, a great combination of elements—the great Charlie Watts drum break in addition to the lyrics, and arguably the most recognizable opening guitar riff of all time. Not to mention Bill Wyman’s bass part was beyond cool. It always got the crowd at the Y going when we would do it, with kids dancing, hands in the air pumping, the chant of the chorus—”I CAN’T GET NO!”
Today, having performed with the Stones for over 33 years, including rehearsals and concerts, I’ve played that song well over a thousand times. I can honestly say that I never tire of playing it, never tire of hearing it, never tire of fans reaction to it. It is and shall remain one of, if not, the best songs and recordings of rock ’n roll. The undisputed rock anthem. Period.