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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

The Rolling Stones - "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction)" (1965)

What can I say about the most well known guitar riff ever written?

It has become part of the folklore of the band, and the song, that guitarist Keith Richards wrote the disarmingly simple guitar lick half asleep. He woke up, pushed record on a tape deck nearby, played the riff a few times, and fell back asleep. He is quoted as describing it later as "two minutes of 'Satisfaction' and forty minutes of me snoring". What fewer people know is that he never intended it to be a guitar part. Richards wanted the part to be played by horns. In the recording studio he used a Fuzzbox to try to sound bigger and give the band a feel for what he wanted. As far as the band knew, they were just laying down a preliminary recording. Producer (and band manager) Andrew Oldham finished the song while the band was on tour, remixing and sending the song out the way he and most of the band liked it.

Mick Jagger's lyrics are well known and often quoted. It about commercialism and sexual attraction at the same time. I've always liked the /And that man comes on to tell me/How white my shirts can be/But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke/The same cigarettes as me/ (Jagger) line. It implies awareness that we are being controlled by advertising, and yet the singer being unaware how much he is being controlled at the same time.  I can't not mention Bill Wyman. Wyman was the bass player for the Rolling Stones for most of their successful years. Older than the rest of the guys, married, and a bit of an outsider, Bill never dominated the headlines, but he straight owns this song. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, two of the biggest loudest egos and players in all of Rock and Roll history are dueling on this track and what comes through? What heart blasting soul thumping sound comes across as big as The Glimmer Twins combined? Bill Wyman on bass, that's what.

Brittany Spears and Devo have both covered the tune, but if you want a hint of how the horns that Richards wanted might have sounded, check out Otis Redding's cover from Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul.

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