26 November 2020-
"(I can't get no) Satisfaction" is one of the most famous songs — ever. It propelled the Rolling Stones into super-stardom, usually portrayed as the grittier alternative to the Beatles' ethereal sounds... And it was all an accident.
An incredibly happy accident at that, and here’s how it happened… In 1965, the Rolling Stones were rising stars in British popular music. As the Beatles quickly skyrocketed into — soon worldwide — fame with incredibly infectious pop tunes, the Stones chose instead a somewhat more directly bluesy sound as their core musical base. Case in point: their earlier records essentially consisted of blues covers. Of the best kind, mind you, but arguably not as catchy — and fresh — as “Please please me”…
Quickly, singer Mick Jagger and fellow songwriter — and guy who knew his way around a guitar — Keith Richards started crafting their own tracks, honing their skills in — now — legendary London clubs like the Marquee, where they would occasionally stumble upon — and ultimately largely inspire — other outfits like the Who. But they would still mainly play to a rather specific audience of “woke” Londoners (the expression was not there yet, but the intent was) and blues aficionados. Then came “Satisfaction”. In a dream, mind you.
Recorded in 1965, that song’s main hook came in the middle of the night to Richards, in the same mysterious way Paul McCartney came up with “Yesterday” — call that rock n’ roll magic if you will… He then went straight back to sleep, and the story goes he actually forgot about the whole thing until he listened to what he’d — thankfully — recorded on the tape recorder next to his bed the next morning (or probably afternoon). But that’s only part of the sheer magic surrounding this tune: that guitar riff that opens and structures the song — you know the one: “ta ta… ta ta ta…” — was never meant to be a guitar riff in the first place.
Indeed, Richards and the band had originally intended for it to be recorded with a proper horns section, which was both extremely popular at the time and quite reminiscent of their Motown contemporaries who were then in the process of taking over the US airwaves. And it would probably have been a great piece of work too, with a very soulful touch and a somewhat softer feel… But that wasn’t meant to be, chiefly because it was just too expensive a venture: the band was neither super popular or super rich at the time, so they had to cut corners. And Richards ended up playing the riff himself.
And, the rest, as they say, is musical history…