“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” a song that, arguably more so than ANY other, even “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” has served as a badge for British Invasion-era rock, was recorded by the Rolling Stones 50 years ago today, on May 12, 1965. But had things worked out differently, we might be accustomed to hearing a very different song. A version of the song was recorded two days prior, at Chess Studios in Chicago, reportedly with Brian Jones on Harmonica. (I have no idea if that recording has ever emerged anywhere, and if a better Stones maven than myself could point me in the right direction, I’d sure like to hear it.) But that version was jettisoned, and the version we all know very, very well was recorded later that week in Los Angeles, at RCA Studios. From Stanley Booth’s The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones:
The Stones tried but failed to record “Satisfaction,” flew the next day to Los Angeles, went the day after to RCA Studios, started working at 10:00 A.M. and by 2:15 A.M., more than sixteen hours later, had recorded six new songs, one of them “Satisfaction.” They went back to their hotel, slept a few hours, then [Stones manager] Andrew [Loog Oldham] and RCA engineer Dave Hassinger returned to the studio and began mixing the tracks. At 1:00 P.M. the Stones showed up to re-record certain parts, Bill, Charlie and Brian leaving at 9:00 P.M., Mick and Keith staying at the studio adding vocals till nine o’clock the next morning. They had a new album and a single that would be the most popular they had ever done.
Mick and Keith offered the following in Mark Paytress’ The Rolling Stones Off the Record:
During the Chess sessions, the Stones make their first attempt at recording a song written by Mick and Keith a few days earlier in Clearwater, Florida…
Keith: “A week later we recorded (‘Satisfaction’, again, at the RCA Studios) In Los Angeles. This time everything went right. Charlie put down a different tempo and, with the addition of a fuzz box on my guitar which took off all the treble, we achieved a very interesting sound.”
Mick: “We cut ‘Satisfaction’ in Los Angeles when we were working there. We cut quite a lot of things and that was just one—contrary to some newspaper reports, it only took us just half an hour to make it. We like it, but didn’t think of it as a single. Then London said they had to have a single immediately because “The Last Time” was long gone and we had a Shindig TV date and had to have something to plug. So they released ‘Satisfaction’ as a single.”
“We like it, but didn’t think of it as a single.” Does that not sound like EVERY story about a world-changing record? That song that the Stones didn’t think of as a single would become their first US #1 record, and be the band’s definitive work for fifty years and counting. Since you’ve heard the canonical single a million times, here’s a neat stereo mix that was released on the German edition of Hot Rocks (this is why I gave up the hunt for the Chess version—trying to run down session details for EVERY release of this song is way more spelunking than a 24-hour day allows for). I love how the acoustic guitars take prominence in this mix.
The first televised performance of ‘Satisfaction’ after the jump…