Tormented by the pressures of their newfound fame, “Get Off Of My Cloud” was The Rolling Stones’ compelling appeal to be left alone. But how did they get there? The intensity with which The Rolling Stones’ momentum gathered pace in 1965 was exhaustive. Throughout that year, the group embarked on 11 tours, spanning the globe with dates in Europe, Australia, Singapore, America, and Canada, and every whistle-stop layover presented the same demands of the group’s time, with fans, reporters and photographers all vying for their attention.
That May, in between dates on their first American tour of the year, the Stones had managed to grab some studio time to record their new single. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” had started as a riff in Keith’s head, but while bathing by the pool of the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida, he and Mick Jagger set about composing the song’s lyrics, just days before it was then put to tape at RCA Studios in Los Angeles. (Keith’s postcard from Florida to his mother attested to his grueling itinerary: “Hi Mum,” it read. “Working like a dog, same as ever. Love, Keith.”)
The Stones were in Scotland during the second week of June when “Satisfaction” entered the Billboard charts in the US, watching as it rose to the top a month later. In the second week of September, when it reached Number One in their native UK (the delay due to a release schedule conflict), the Stones had already rolled into Germany. The song’s success catapulted them to global fame, heightening their reputation as the bad boys of rock and roll. A generation-defining anthem, “Satisfaction” was a monolithic masterpiece, but even its achievements wouldn’t allow the Stones to rest on their laurels.
“It’s difficult to realize what pressure we were under to keep on turning out hits,” Keith would later say. “Each single you made in those days had to be better and do better. If the next one didn’t do as well as the last one, everyone told you you were sliding out. After ‘Satisfaction,’ we all thought, ‘Wow, lucky us. Now for a good rest…’ And then in comes [Stones manager and producer] Andrew Oldham saying, ‘Right, where’s the next one?’ It got to be a state of mind. Every eight weeks, you had to come up with a red-hot song that said it all in about two minutes, 30 seconds.”
That build-up of pressure, exacerbated by their rigorous work rate, would find a release in their next single, “Get Off My Cloud.”
Out Of Our Heads, the Stones’ fourth album in the US, was released on July 30th. (The UK version, their third, followed in late September.) Tellingly, only one-third of the album’s tracks were Jagger/Richards originals, the unfortunate consequence of having to write on the run. A handful of the songs had been recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago, while the majority were done in LA, where engineer Dave Hassinger had managed to capture some of the sonic nuances the band felt had eluded them to date on record.
Such was their appreciation of Hassinger, in the first week of September, between their Irish and German dates, the Stones flew all the way to LA to squeeze in two days of recording with him at the RCA Studios on Sunset Boulevard. The shoehorned sessions, produced by Oldham, were expected to provide their next hit, and its inspiration could be found all around them.
Just as John Lennon had pleaded for “Help!” that summer, Jagger looked towards the stifling obligations he and his group faced on a daily basis when it came to composing “Get Off Of My Cloud.” The song was a direct reaction to the phones that wouldn’t stop ringing, the people that clambered for their time, the string of tour dates that stretched out before them – the sheer onslaught of intrusive and unwarranted exigencies.
Built on an assuredly penetrating guitar riff that echoed The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” and underpinned by Charlie Watts’ unyielding beat and Bill Wyman’s thumping bassline that both embodied the Stones’ resolute tenacity, “Get Off Of My Cloud” was a forceful reflection and a suitably defiant rejection of the expectations heaped upon them.
In each of the song’s verses, Jagger breathlessly vents on different examples of invasion of his privacy. At home, he’s bombarded with inane commercials and phone calls from complaining neighbors. When escaping out in his car, his blissful respite is ruined by a slew of parking tickets. “It’s a stop-bugging-me, post-teenage-alienation song,” Jagger explained 30 years later. “The grown-up world was a very ordered society in the early 60s, and I was coming out of it. America was even more ordered than anywhere else. I found it was a very restrictive society in thought and behavior and dress.”
Released in the US just two weeks after it was recorded (the UK would have to wait another month), “Get Off Of My Cloud” was an inciting adrenaline rush of a song that ably followed “Satisfaction” by further developing the Stones’ restless creativity. “If we’d come along with another fuzz riff after ‘Satisfaction,’ we’d have been dead in the water, repeating with the law of diminishing returns,” Keith admitted in his autobiography. “Many a band has faltered and foundered on that rock. “Get Off Of My Cloud” was a reaction to the record companies’ demands for more – leave me alone – and it was an attack from another direction. And it flew as well.”
“Get Off Of My Cloud” topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic that November (Canada and Germany, too), its hurried timing triumphantly capitalizing on the popularity of “Satisfaction.” It became their fifth consecutive Number One, matching a record held only at the time by The Beatles and Elvis Presley.
Despite the fans’ acceptance of the song, it fared less well in the opinions of its makers. Two years later, Jagger would claim that “Get Off Of My Cloud” was “not very groovy” and that the lyrics were “crap,” which would explain why the song would not be performed live by the band after 1967 until the dawn of the 21st century, and even since then its appearances have been infrequent.
Their reservations about the song are perhaps based on the accelerated circumstances of its creation. Keith blamed the song’s poor mixing, calling it Oldham’s “worst production,” but therein lies the classic track’s true beauty. In building such an audacious wall of sound, where Keith and Brian Jones’ stinging guitars jostle for space with Wyman’s looping bass, Ian Stewart’s surreptitious piano, and Charlie’s machine-gun snare drums – all played at the same volume – Oldham actually encapsulated the claustrophobic conditions the Stones braved, and their ensuing vexations.
This palpable fury was recognized by musical legend Neil Young, who confessed his preference for the “reckless abandon” of “Get Off Of My Cloud” over the taut measures of “Satisfaction,” suggesting its visceral nature exposed the key to its charm. “The thing about it,” the Canadian icon explained, “is it’s obviously just such a throw-together song that they came up with on the way to the studio or the night before, y’know? That’s what I liked about it. It really sounded like The Rolling Stones.”