Mar 05

THE ROLLING STONES – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

Popular29 comments • 5,177 views

#202, 11th September 1965

That riff – we have to start with that riff – sounds like Morse code. A harsh nonsense message, transmitted on a loop. Too much information, too much communication. Ten thousand whisperin’, nobody listenin’. “Satisfaction” is a song where people jabber at Jagger and he’s too bored or too savvy to care, but then when he tries to speak it doesn’t work either. It has a plot. In fact it’s a sitcom, Jagger’s Bad Day. The Rolling Stones were often a very funny band – the “same cigarettes” gag is sharp, smart and spiteful. And you have to smile at the way Mick Jagger starts off sounding so very polite before the comedy of irritation gets going. The band plays straight man, making sure the timing is right (and it is – those delicious seconds before “Hey hey hey”).

The jokes still ring mostly true, and the situations linger, which (oh yeah plus the riff) is why “Satisfaction” 2005 is startling even if the venom in it has long since diffused throughout pop/culture/everything. The third verse punchline – stardom equals hucksterism – may or may not have been new in 1965, I’m siding with ‘not’, but it’s the way he tells it, short words chopped shorter, stresses heaped up, “can’tcha SEE-I’M-ON”, a vocal analogue of the riff, and then the exploding, “GET NO!” The partial solution to the satisfaction problem: make your own.



  1. 1
    Marcello on 16 Mar 2005 #

    That unending proscenium arch of a bassline does it for me, symbolic of an ambitious car grounded by a stuck wheel, spinning in some leftover mud. Easy to underestimate Wyman’s contributions, but this must have seemed the equivalent of, say, “TV Eye” by the Stooges getting to number one (and of course no Stooges/”TV Eye” without “Satisfaction” to inspire them/give them something to react against).

  2. 2
    Alan Connor on 16 Mar 2005 #


    It was just a riff. I didn’t think… I didn’t think of it as… I woke up in the middle of the night, put it down on a cassette. I thought it was great then. Went to sleep and when I woke up, it appeared to be as useful as another album track. It was the same with Mick too at the time, you know. It goes da-da, da-da-da… and the words I’d written for that riff were I can’t get no satisfaction. But it could just as well have been ‘Auntie Millie’s Caught Her Left Tit in the Mangle’.

    I don’t have the Cat Power version to hand: does she omit that riff as well as the chorus?

  3. 3
    Alan Connor on 16 Mar 2005 #

    Resurrection Watch:

    Packed with peanuts
    Marathon really satisfies

    (The first time I really thought about the life of a session singer)

    Then there’s these:

    0. Otis Redding – (i can’t get no) Satisfaction
    1. cat power – (i can’t get no) satisfaction
    2. rolling stones – (i can’t get no) satisfaction
    3. devo – (i can’t get no) satisfaction
    4. bjork an pj harvey – (i can’t get no) satisfaction
    5. guitar wolf – (i can’t get no) satisfaction
    6. Britney Spears – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    7. The Residents – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    8. Television – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    9. Fushitsusha: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
    10. The Masked Marauders: (I Can’t Get No) Nookie
    11. Samantha Fox: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
    12. los apsons – satisfaccion (no soy nada)
    13. blue cheer – satisfaction
    14. trad, gras och stenar – satisfaction
    15. Sandie Shaw-I can’t get no Satisfaction
    16. Phyllis Diller-(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
    17. Jonathan King: (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    18. Jimi Hendrix – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    19. Rolf Harris – Satisfaction
    20. The Vienna Symphony Orchestra – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    21. Paul Revere & the Raiders – Satisfaction
    22. Nicky Hopkins – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    23. Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra & Chorus – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    24. Sam & Dave – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    25. Space Cowboys – Satisfaction
    26. Eddie & the Hot Rods: (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    27. Alien Sex Fiend – Satisfaction
    28. The Troggs – Satisfaction
    29. Aretha Franklin: (I can’t get no) Satisfaction (live)
    30. Manfred Mann – Satisfaction
    31. The Grateful Dead – Satisfaction
    32. Tight Fit – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
    33. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators – Satisfaction
    34. ? & the Mysterians – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
    35 justine bateman [from the movie]
    36 del rubio triplets
    37 incredible bongo band
    38 phyllis diller [from golden throats]
    39 Vanilla Ice – (I can’t get no) Satisfaction

    Not to mention (riff only) Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” and Fatboy Slim’s “Satisfaction Skank”.

  4. 4
    p^nk s on 16 Mar 2005 #

    haha alien sex fiend!!

  5. 5
    Marcello on 16 Mar 2005 #

    Ah yes, Jonathan King’s Bubblerock project, which cruel souls might dismiss as the skint man’s version of Bryan Ferry’s These Foolish Things, but not me.

  6. 6
    wwolfe on 16 Mar 2005 #

    Another sound-alike riff: “Valleri” by the Monkees, a U.S. #1.

  7. 7
    Frank Kogan on 16 Mar 2005 #

    But it could just as well have been ‘Auntie Millie’s Caught Her Left Tit in the Mangle’.

    But wouldn’t this just been a variation on a Muddy Waters title the Stones covered early on, “My Left Breast Mangled Millie’s Mom”?

  8. 8
    Lena on 17 Mar 2005 #

    I forget where I read it, but isn’t there some kind of ‘reference’ to menstruation in the song? Or is that just some received wisdom about the ‘better come back/maybe next week’ lyric?

    Also, “Couldn’t Get Ahead” by The Fall is the 80s version, for me anyway.

  9. 9
    Anonymous on 17 Mar 2005 #

    There was a bit of a scandal when the Stones were on Ed Sullivan about the lyrics – or was it ” Let’s Spend Some Time Together “, whatever…..

    Judged by Mick’s run of luck in this song ( “can’t you see I’m on a loosing streak”, ), I’d say , and I’ve always thought the lyric suggested his inability to perform in the Viagra sense of the word.

    But, yea, either way it’s sexual missconnect.

    Brian C

  10. 10
    Alan Connor on 18 Mar 2005 #

    From what I understand it, Mick definitely mumbled “Let’s Spend The Night Together” on that show, and the understood re-title is “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”.

    Which makes Mick reminiscent of Ned Flanders’ Valentines Day serenading of Maude in the music-tastic “I Love Lisa”:

    “If you think I’m cuddly
    And you want my company
    Come on wifey, let me know.”

  11. 11
    Anonymous on 18 Mar 2005 #

    I also recall that the shock value of ” Satisfaction” was increased when reports came out saying that the lyric was ” And I’m trying to make some girl” pause “pregnant” pause” maybe better come back maybe next week”

    whereas I’ve always heard “pregnant” as ” tells me “.

    I haven’t got big enough ears to confirm either.

    Remember Whoopi Goldberg in ” Jumpin’ Jack Flash ” ? ” Mick, Mick, what the hell are you saying , Mick ?

    Brian C

  12. 12
    wwolfe on 18 Mar 2005 #

    Mick always says that he “mumbled” the title of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” on the Ed Sullivan Show, but I’ve got it on tape and he very clearly sings, “Let’s spend some time together.” Each time he does, it’s accompanied by an extremely fey rolling of his eyes, in an attempt to make light of the bowdlerizing, but it’s there without a doubt.

  13. 13
    Frank Kogan on 19 Mar 2005 #

    That unending proscenium arch of a bassline

    Which is a variation of Keef’s riff, except that Bill’s hitting the two-AND on the second note, whereas Keef’s hitting the TWO, which puts them into counterrhythm for the measure (Keef playing in three against Bill’s two).

    Hope that makes sense; it’s one of the things that makes the song move (and made Stones better than Beatles).

  14. 14
    Mr. Snrub on 21 Mar 2005 #

    What’s it take to get a 10 around here?

  15. 15
    Anthony on 21 Mar 2005 #

    i prefer cat powers.

  16. 16
    Alan Connor on 20 Sep 2005 #

    Another sound-alike riff: “Valleri” by the Monkees, a U.S. #1.

    God, I’m listening to this for the first time now — pointless “quality” solos, and all. Alternative Title, Your Auntie Grizelda and I’m Gonna Buy Me A Dog are disgraced by being in the company of this tossed-off toss toss.

  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 11 Oct 2009 #

    Sometimes, with these historical monuments (Beatles, Dylan, Pistols et al – the usual Mojo/ Uncut canon), I do feel that I have to squint my ears to get the significance and greatness of the record. These things are unquestionably great, but you are better able to get them with the benefit of the footnotes of quite a lot of historical knowledge. The appeal of the sixties Stones is always immediate, though, and rich and strange new notes always surprise me when I listen to them. A few reflections about this single;

    The absolute confidence of Keef. That riff might seem like a trope when you think about it, but when you actually hear it – especially on headphones – it is quite relentless, locked-on. I think that it’s placing the song within three separate types of music; the repetition of the same guitar motif to support the mood of the singer is a Kentish blues, of course, but also the way that its treated and works as a fanfare is aping soul, and the fuzz and distortion are inventing this thing that we know as rock music. And he’s pretty much inventing this – Visionary!

    And then the interplay of the band beside Keef both deepens and complicates this sense of relentlessness. The bassline is like a shadow of the guitar, and the drums both fump menacingly and add little jaunty touches of finesse. There’s an organic quality to how the Stones function as a real group that I rarely hear in more recent music where the parts have all been put together separately.

    We tend to neglect Mick Jagger’s voice, but it is one of the most extraordinary in all pop, always shifting, always creating a character… but WHERE is he coming from? You never can tell… Sometimes the deep south, sometimes the deep South of London, sometimes rough, often fey and fruity, sometimes yelping like a puppy, sometimes world-weary and as old as the hills – and all within the same song. And he’s pretty much inventing this – Visionary!

    Listen to the lyrics and two things always strike me about the early Stones. The first one, which can’t be said too much, is how funny they were, like Chuck Berry adjusting to being dropped into Knightsbridge or Stepney;

    When I’m drivin’ in my car
    And that man comes on the radio.
    He’s tellin’ me more and more
    about some YEWSLESS info’mation
    supposed to FIRE! my imagination!
    (resigned tone) I can’t get no…

    (Are you listening, Moyles?)

    The other thing is that, for a man who was living like, and feted as, a prince at the time, how utterly fed-up Jagger often sounds in these songs, wanting to get some sleep, away from these tiresome people, uncertain of what he wants instead. People are wrong when they condemn Sir Mick as some kind of betrayal of his young self, this fustian Mail On Sunday character hanging out with Sir John Major at Lords, when it was there right from the start. The Jagger-character that leads us through the songs both experiences and observes with disdain. Its what makes him so compelling to listen to.

    The Achilles heel of this character is here as in almost every other song – “I can’t get no – girl reaction!”;

    And I’m tryin’ to MAKE! some girl
    Who tells me baby
    “Better come back later next week…”

    There’s always a woman at the bottom of a Stones song, and she pretty much never come out of it well. For me, its what makes these songs so particularly unsettling, even when they’re 44 years old.

  18. 18
    lonepilgrim on 11 Oct 2009 #

    thanks billy for giving this some new attention – it is a wonderful piece of music – its lyrical mood of disdain and musical energy still stands out as a template for so much that was to follow later – you’re absolutely right about Jagger – he doesn’t always get the appreciation he gets for the irony of his lyrics combined with his performance which allow him to both inhabit and stand outside the character singing the song – he sees both the attraction and the repulsion

  19. 19
    Tommy Mack on 11 Oct 2009 #

    Hungry Freaks by Zappa and The Mothers another appropriation of this riff, right? “Mr America, walk on by…”

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 11 Oct 2009 #

    I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that the riff is based on ‘Dancing in the streets’ by Martha and the Vandellas – later covered by Jagger and Bowie – no doubt there’s an earlier precedent…

  21. 21
    Tom Coppola on 11 Feb 2010 #

    I guess you had to be there…18 years old, drinking legal beer, and on the dance floor. Whatever he was singing about was immaterial, because you sort of knew you weren’t going to get any satisfaction from that equally astounded by life freshman coed with whom you were dancing. But you know you would try, try, try! With your sweaty intoxicated frat brothers you yelled out the chorus. By the way great idea, and thanks for the opportunity to go down the list.

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 1 Oct 2010 #

    the song makes an appropriate appearance in Season 4 of Mad Men and sounds even more urgent and alert in that context

  23. 23
    swanstep on 1 Oct 2010 #

    @Lonepilg. That Mad Men use of Satisfaction (i.e., for a scene set in Spring/Summer 1965)was interesting in that it suggested that the Stones unlike the Beatles as we’ve heard from them so far in the show aren’t even principally a teens thing in the US, rather they’re plugged into exactly the racial- and sexual- and (Vietnam-she’s-a-comin’) energies and tensions that are eating up the middle-aged characters in the show as much as (and even more so than) the young characters. Additionally, Mad Men’s used Satisfaction as transition music (as Don Draper strides back into the office)and this too felt portentous. It reminds a lot of us of Scorsese’s use of the Stones in his ’70s films (and Mean Streets esp.). All told, then, Sat. entering like that on MM felt truly pregnant with the show’s future, and to be signaling that the Hitchcock/Wilder early ’60s where the show began are truly long gone (me: Damn it). It must have cost MM an arm and a leg to get to use the song. Of course that just figures knowing the Stones, but also for the first time there was no outro/credits music on that episode, presumably because the budget had been blown.

  24. 24
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #


    Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer(1973)

    Elia Kazan, director(1979)

    Bob Champion, jockey(1988)

    Raymond Blanc, Chef(1992)

    Nicolas Grimshaw, architect(2003)

    Karin Bilimoria, businessman(2004).

  25. 25
    Billy Smart on 3 Dec 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: The Rolling Stones performed Satisfaction on Top Of The Pops on 19 August 1965. Also in the studio that week were; Hermans Hermits, The Headliners and The Kinks. Jimmy Savile was the host. No copy survives.

  26. 26
    lonepilgrim on 23 Jan 2012 #

    This was also Number one in the USA – as noted here:


  27. 27
    hectorthebat on 16 Apr 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Barnes & Noble.com (USA) – The Best Music of the 20th Century (1999)
    Blender (USA) – The Greatest Songs Ever, One Song Added Every Other Month
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 1
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 6
    Gary Pig Gold (Canada) – The 40 Most Influental Records of the 20th Century (1999)
    Greil Marcus (USA) – STRANDED: “Treasure Island” Singles (1979)
    National Recording Preservation Board (USA) – The National Recording Registry
    Paul Williams (USA) – Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1993)
    Pause & Play (USA) – 10 Songs of the 60’s (2003)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    RIAA and NEA (USA) – 365 Songs of the Century (2001) 16
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone & MTV (USA) – The 100 Greatest Pop Songs Since the Beatles (2000) 2
    Rolling Stone (USA) – 40 Songs That Changed the World (2007)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 1
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 2
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 2
    The Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame Albums and Songs (USA)
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 1
    2FM (Ireland) – Top 100 Singles of All Time (2003) 1
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1960s (2008)
    BBC Radio2 (UK) – Sold on Song, a Celebration of Great Songs and Songwriting
    Guinness Book of Hits of the ’60s (UK, 1984) – Paul Gambaccini’s Top 10 Songs
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 6
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 2
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Records That Changed the World (2007) 19
    New Musical Express (UK) – NME Rock Years, Single of the Year 1963-99 (2000)
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 7
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 23
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 82
    Paul Morley (UK) – Words and Music, 210 Greatest Pop Singles of All Time (2003)
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 29
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 68
    Sean O’Hagan, The Observer (UK) – Fifty Years of Pop (2004)
    Sounds (UK) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1986) 80
    Uncut (UK) – 100 Rock and Movie Icons (2005) 4
    Vox (UK) – 100 Records That Shook the World (1991)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Helsingin Sanomat (Finland) – 50th Anniversary of Rock (2004)
    Nerikes Allehanda (Sweden) – The 50 Best Rock Songs of All Time (1992) 3
    Berlin Media (Germany) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1998) 1
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – Top 100 Songs by The Rolling Stones (2005) 1
    Zounds (Germany) – The Top 30 Songs of All Time + Top 10 by Decade (1992) 1
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Les Inrockuptibles (France) – 1000 Indispensable Songs (2006)
    Rolling Stone (France) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 11
    Volume (France) – 200 Records that Changed the World, 2008 (38 songs)
    STM Entertainment (Australia) – The 50 Best Songs Ever (2007) 22
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Blow Up (Italy) – 100 Songs to Remember (2006) 13
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  28. 28
    lonepilgrim on 26 Jul 2015 #

    I’ve said enough about this song already but damn it’s good

  29. 29
    Gareth Parker on 19 May 2021 #

    A glorious single in my opinion. 10/10

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