By early summer 1965, the Rolling Stones had visited Billboard’s Hot 100 six times, but the top ten only twice. They made that grade late the year before with ‘Time Is On My Side,’ then in May with ‘The Last Time.’ On 12 June 1965, the Stones made the US chart with ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,’ an undeniable 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 that Keith Richards famously in a motel room. Bill Wyman later recalled: “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 on 10 May, at their spiritual home of Chess Studios in Chicago, the track featured harmonica by Brian Jones. Keith remembered: “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 Stones mimed to the Chess version during an appearance on US TV show Shindig on 20 May. 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.’ Radio stations playlisted it coast to coast and soon there was no stopping the Stones single. It soared to No. 26 in its second week, then to No. 4 and No. 2. The 45 hit the top spot in only its fifth chart appearance, and stayed at No. 1 all through July.
The song went on to be the No. 1 hit of the year for countless radio stations. They included 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. The LP followed it to No. 1 but differed from the UK version, which omitted it. After Decca released the track as a UK single in August, it made No. 1 on 11 September. The track replaced Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’ at the top, with a two-week reign.
The list of countries in which ‘Satisfaction’ topped the charts reads like a geography lesson. It ruled in 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, the UK, 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. It also landed at No. 2 on Rolling Stone’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.
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ is on the Rolling Stones In Mono box set, which can be bought here.