The Summer of ‘Satisfaction’

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Satisfaction ProductIt was released on June 6, 1965, and 52 years ago it hit #1 for a four-week run atop the charts. Can later generations even comprehend what it felt like for those growing up back then as the summer of 1965 was in full bloom and The Rolling Stones truly arrived in America by scoring their first chart-topper with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction?”

There were three TV networks and color sets were still a somewhat new and rare thing for most American families. If you wanted to contact a friend, you either rang them by dialing a rotary phone or walked, rode your bike or got an adult or older sibling 16 years up to give you a ride to their house. If you were at all interested in popular music – and for soon-to-be teenagers to young adults, anyone who wasn’t was a truly hopeless dork – there was one place we all went to hear the latest songs: Top 40 AM radio.

You generally bought your music at one of the few national chain stores like Woolworth’s or a hi-fi shop. The 45 RPM single was the common musical currency; back then we got two songs at a buck a pop. Albums were a luxury item. You generally listened to the latest tunes on a transistor radio – a fairly recent technological innovation so life-changing it was for us akin to the development of the hand-held communication and computing devices we now carry everywhere and take for granted. Or on the car radio that also made recorded music portable. Or maybe – usually if the old folks were out – on the high-fidelity record-player and radio consoles that were a substantial piece of furniture in the living room. Really loud.

portsmouth+herald+june+3+1965The Beatles had arrived a year-and-a-half earlier to sweep away the national shock and malaise that followed the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. And reinvigorate the aura of youthfulness and a luminous future he’d infused into the popular consciousness – four shiny, happy guys in matching suits playing and singing music so rich with verve and luster it was irresistible.

Then came the Fab Four’s flipside: The Stones with their mismatched outfits, long hair a bit more mussy, their blues music roots conveying a sizzling frisson of danger.

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At first listen it was an epiphany, a bolt of lightning that not just illuminated the landscape but in one unrestrained blast of energy changed it forever. Two cracking Keith Richards electric guitar E-notes through his newly acquired Maestro Fuzztone FZ-1. Then in strides Bill Wyman’s bass counterpoints to the song’s riff that came to Keef in a dream. Six beats later Charlie Watts snaps in with a drum beat that trots and swings its hips in a beat you just wanna dance to. A faint slashing acoustic rhythm guitar starts to sneak in….

Then Mick Jagger coos in a slightly fey if not androgynous voice: “I can’t get no… satisfaction.” If you were one of the millions of guys and girls anywhere within hailing distance of puberty, you knew exactly what he was singing about.

Three simple chords, E-D-A, with a B7 accent each time ’round, yet the band swoops, darts and swirls to draw out all their melodic possibilities in just shy of four minutes. Jagger struts through a spectrum of impassioned emotions. It was, in a word with two ante-upping modifiers, utterly and completely perfect. Right on time, thoroughly of its time, and so right for the time. Hey, hey, hey!

Related: The Rolling Stones in Mono; Interview with ABKCO Records’ chief audio engineer

For the month to follow atop the Billboard Top 100 and beyond, “Satisfaction” was everywhere, bigger than the most viral meme, literally in the atmosphere via radio waves and in the air though many millions of magnetic coned speakers.

Fourteen years later the landscape had shifted and changed time and again. Yet on August 15, 1979, the opening day of Apocalypse Now, in the scene in which the PBR Streetgang surfs up the river, once again, “Satisfaction” was perfect. Getting the kid dancing. Uniting black and white in delight. as it did when it coincided with the first anniversary of President Johnson signing the Civil Rights on July 2, 1964. And it still carried whiffs of foreboding and the dangers that lay waiting further up the river.

Last year, on the morning of the 50th anniversary of the song reaching #1, I played “Satisfaction” and… of course, it was still perfect. And played it again and again and again. My 61-year-old self grabbed the hand of my 11-year-old soul and all 5o years of me in between and danced around my desk with my best moves like Jagger. We were, after all, the generation who were going to be young forever. As the song plays, I am.

I am sure it felt perfect the next night to the many thousands at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, NY as the Stones played it as the last song of their  Zip Code tour of American stadiums. Back in 1965, the very notion of that would have been hard to wrap my young brain around. But the Stones still playing rock’n’roll 50 years later would have been a gas, gas, gas to know.

So at some point soon, do yourself a favor and just take three minutes and forty-three seconds out of your day. If you were born just about anytime after 1960, try to insert yourself into the atmosphere of season four of “Mad Men”… and really listen to “Satisfaction.”

As I contend that music is qualitative not quantitative, I shy away from saying it’s the greatest rock’n’roll song ever; way too many others vie for that title. But whenever it plays, hell yeah it’s The Greatest. Just like the other Greatest of that time: Muhammad Ali neé Cassius Clay – who had TKO’d Sonny Liston in their second bout in the first round to retain his belt as Heavyweight Champion of the World some two months before “Satisfaction” topped the chart – dancing like a butterfly and stinging like a bee in the ring in his prime, young, beautiful, poetic yet primal, rebellious, alluring, graceful yet menacing.

Five decades later, it remains a paragon of perfection, as classic as a rock song can be, not just timeless but beyond that to sound even better than ever a half century after it ruled the airwaves – the Heavyweight Champion Rock Music Single of The World, again, whenever it plays. Hey, hey, hey, that’s what I say.

Rob Patterson

Rob Patterson

Rob Patterson began writing about music in 1976. Since his first published record review in Crawdaddy he has contributed to numerous national popular music magazines such as Creem, Musician, Circus, Spin, Request, Tower Pulse!, CD Review, Acoustic Guitar, Harp and many others along with major country music, consumer audio, musical instrument and studio recording magazines plus international publications New Musical Express and Country Music People in the U.K. From 1977 to '84 he wrote a nationally syndicated music column as well as stories for Newspaper Enterprises Association/United Feature Syndicate that ran in more than 400 daily newspapers across the nation. His work has also appeared in many weekly newspapers, onlinepublications like Salon.com and The Huffington Post, such books as the Rolling Stone Record Guide & Revised Record Guide, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History and The Year In Rock, 1980-81, plus liner notes for 20 album releases.
Rob Patterson
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  1. rickster100
    #1 rickster100 19 December, 2016, 12:14

    I have lived every word of this article! Mr. Patterson, we are the same age and I remember all of this like it was yesterday!!

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  2. Les
    #2 Les 7 June, 2017, 01:38

    I’m a year older (b 1955) and it was my first summer spent with my grandparents (and away from my parents, yeah!) in san clemente, my first transistor radio, and this song made me really examine who i was

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  3. Andy mclenon
    #3 Andy mclenon 7 June, 2017, 20:26

    Damn that’s great writing!

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