Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 15: The Rolling Stones, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Song: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
Album: Out Of Our Heads
Year: 1965

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By the time any great band puts out their second record, it becomes difficult to make a case that any single song defines the band or stands as their greatest achievement.  In most cases, each new album brings with it a unique take on the bands' style and one can watch their talents progress as the years go by.  Both of these ideas are made all the more complicated when a band has an extended career, and there are few groups that have a more wide-ranging and overall massive catalog than the iconic rock band, The Rolling Stones.  Scoring their first it all the way back in 1963, the group continues to be one of the biggest concert draws across the globe, and a large number of their songs have become integral parts of cultures throughout the generations.  Like many of the bands that emerged in the early 1960's, The Rolling Stones built their sound around a more aggressive style of music that clearly came from a mixture of the blues and r&b styles, yet it was this band that added a sense of mischief and attitude that no other group had at the time.  While their early singles had followed very closely with this blues influence, 1965 not only changed the band, but the entire world, as they released their pivotal album, Out Of Our Heads.  It was on this record that the guitar work became more of a focus of the music, and this change in approach yielded what may very well be the most recognized rock song in history, The Rolling Stones' classic single, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

Quite literally, everything about this song is rock and roll perfection, and this would be proven by the fact that it was the first Rolling Stones song to top the charts in the U.S., and it accomplished this same feat in more than a dozen different countries.  The reason for this worldwide success is apparent the moment the song begins, as the blaring guitar riff from Keith Richards found on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" may very well be the most famous guitar progression in history.  Within these three simple notes, one can find everything there is to love about simple, honest rock and roll, and it not only instantly cemented the band as rock legends, but Richards as a guitar god as well.  However, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is certainly not a one man show, as the rhythm section of bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts give the song a groove and tempo that makes it all the more irresistible.  In many ways, if one strips down the music to only the rhythm section, the influence of r&b can easily be heard, as their playing is almost reminiscent of The Funk Brothers in terms of speed and style.  Rounding out the musical assault on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is the second guitar of Brian Jones, and his pairing with Richards remains one of the greatest guitar duos in history.  The creation of an unforgettable, crunching riff with one of the finest foot-stomping grooves ever recorded instantly proved what superb musicians comprised The Rolling Stones, and it is much the reason that "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" remains so iconic more than four decades later.

While there is no getting away from the fact that the music on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is nothing short of extraordinary, the song simply would not have the status that it does without the perfectly executed vocals from Mick Jagger.  At the time perhaps only rivaled by "The Fab Four" in terms of finest and most famous vocalist on the planet, it is on this song that Jagger sets the style and tone that would define his career, as there is a swagger and sound found here that was unlike anything else being recorded at the time.  While to that point in history, most artists had largely left the sexual innuendos of their music to subtlety, Jagger ignored this trend and in both his vocal approach as well as the way he carried himself on stage, and in many ways, he created the image that nearly every other rock frontman would follow.  Over the decades, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" has become seen as a song largely about the frustration of gaining the attention of the opposite sex, and yet if one actually listens to the words being sung, the meaning behind the song is far deeper.  While this idea is referenced (and certainly caused a great deal of controversy), a majority of the words on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" are cries against a society to which Jagger does not want to conform.  Whether he is standing against "...a man comes on to tell me how white my shirts can be..." and this is an idea that certainly has not faded over the decades.  The song can also be seen as a precursor to the punk movement, as Jagger puts his boredom out for all to hear with the lines, "...he's tellin' me more and more about some useless information, supposed to fire my imagination..."  Easily equaling the power of the amazing music, Mick Jagger set the stage for his entire career both vocally and lyrically with this brilliant performance on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

Over the decades, countless bands have covered "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," proving how many musical boundaries the song has crossed over time.  From hip-hop to blues to everything in between, it is impossible to name all the bands who have recorded the song as their own, and the 1976 version recorded by DEVO is perhaps the most unique and telling of how influential a song lives within "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."  Centered around the iconic guitar riff from Keith Richards, the song is yet another piece of proof that supports the "less is more" idea, as the song stands along with, if not above the most complex musical arrangements in music history.  While the musical arrangement and the vocals can be stripped down even more to show their blues roots, one can see this song as the final bridge of the blues and r&b styles into what is seen as the rock and roll sound.  Furthermore, it is "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" which set the stage for the more modern idea of rock and roll, as it is far more racy and sexually infused than nearly anything recorded previously.  Granted, much of this was due to the visual work of Mick Jagger, but one can make the case that had it not been for this song, the image that "is" Jagger would have never emerged.  Though they would go on to nearly one hundred singles over five decades, one would be hard pressed to find a finer song in their catalog or a more important song in the development of rock and roll than one finds in The Rolling Stones monumental 1965 single, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

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