By the early summer of 1965, the Rolling Stones had visited the Billboard Hot 100 six times, but they had only been in the top ten twice: late the year before with ‘Time Is On My Side’ and then in May with ‘The Last Time.’ On 12 June 1965, they made the US chart with ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,’ the all-time classic with one of the most famous intros in rock music. It became their first American No. 1, and the first to top the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
‘Satisfaction’ has a riff famously composed by Keith Richards in a motel room. According to Bill Wyman: “Keith woke up in the middle of the night with the riff in his head and put it down on tape. In the morning Mick said the words for the riff were ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’.”
When the band first recorded the song, at their spiritual home of Chess Studios in Chicago, the track featured harmonica by Brian Jones. According to Keith: “I didn’t think much of ‘Satisfaction’ when we first recorded it. We had a harmonica on then, and it was considered to be a good B-side or maybe an LP track.” Two days later, at RCA Studios in Hollywood, they cut the version we all know, and rock history was made. “Charlie put down a different tempo,” said Keith to the NME in September 1965, “and with the addition of a fuzz-box on my guitar, which takes off all the treble, we achieved a very interesting sound.”
The first version was recorded at Chess studios in Chicago on 10 May 1965, ten days later, having already recorded the final version of the song at RCA’s studio in Hollywood The stones mimed to the chess version during an appearance on US TV show Shindig on 20 May. It’s assumed that the final version was still in the process of being mixed when the band appeared on TV. The American release of the single duly followed in June, more than two months before it came out as a 45 in the Stones’ home country.
‘Satisfaction’ entered the Billboard chart at No. 67, the highest of 11 new entries of the week. It was part of a contingent which also included more British talent such as the Kinks with ‘Set Me Free’ and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders with ‘It’s Just A Little Bit Too Late.’ Playlisted by radio stations coast to coast, there was no stopping the Stones single, which soared to No. 26 in its second week, then to No. 4, then No. 2 before hitting the top spot in only its fifth chart appearance. It stayed at No. 1 all through July.
The song went on to be the No. 1 hit of the year for countless radio stations, including WLS, Chicago; KXOK, St. Louis, WXYZ, Detroit and, WABC, New York, where it was ahead of The Beatles’ “Help!’. ‘Satisfaction’ was on the US edition of the Stones’ new album Out Of Our Heads, which followed it to No. 1 and differed from the UK version, which omitted it. After the track was finally released as a UK single in August, it made No.1 on 11 September.
The list of countries in which ‘Satisfaction’ topped the charts reads like a geography lesson – Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, Czechoslovakia, Denmark (the Danish 45 is the one at the top of our story, and note the error in the title), Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, and Yugoslavia.
‘Satisfaction’ went on to gain its rightful place both the Grammy and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame, and landed at No. 2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. And if ever a song continues to prove its undying appeal, it is still performed live at every Stones concert.
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