Mick Jagger picks out The Rolling Stones’ signature tune: “It captures a spirit of the times”

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were still navigating their late teens when they first met on a train platform in Dartford. The latter held a collection of blues and early rock ‘n’ roll records under his arm, thus eliciting friendly conversation from the former. The pair got on like a house on fire and, within two years, found themselves in an R&B band with Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and bandleader Brian Jones.

The Rolling Stones found their early success in a string of cover songs, which made up the bulk of their first two albums. As far as Jones was concerned, the band peaked in December 1964, when their rendition of Willie Dixon’s ‘Little Red Rooster’ struck number one on the UK Singles Chart. By all accounts, this was a monumental occasion, marking the first-ever blues song to reach the top spot in the UK. However, Jagger and Richards had their sights set much, much higher.

Alongside their trusted covers, the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership began to stretch its legs in some early compositions, starting with ‘As Tears Go By’, first released by Marianne Faithful in 1964 and later by the Stones in 1966. During those two years, The Rolling Stones became a hitmaking behemoth, with ‘The Last Time’, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and ‘Get Off of My Cloud’ all reaching number one in the UK in 1965.

The band soldiered on through a psychedelic era and a more classic rock chapter following Brian Jones’ demise and remains a stadium-filling sensation six decades on, but many fans maintain that the band peaked during its early rise to prominence beside The Beatles.

As far as Jagger is concerned, his and Richards’ early success in songwriting led to more artistically alluring scapes, but he finds it hard to deny the energising appeal of hits like ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1995, the singer described his 1965 hit as a “signature tune, rather than a great, classic painting.” Jagger continued, explaining that it was “only like one thing – a kind of signature that everyone knows.”

Where ‘She’s A Rainbow’ concerned itself with instrumental breadth and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ with devious rhythms and lyrical nuance, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ was comparatively simple. “It has a very catchy title. It has a very catchy guitar riff,” Jagger added, explaining the song’s appeal. “It has a great guitar sound, which was original at that time. And it captures a spirit of the times, which is very important in those kinds of songs.”

Prompted to explain the piece’s thematic intentions, Jagger highlighted its alignment with the countercultural movement, specifically, a sense of youthful alienation. “A kind of sexual alienation,” he pondered. “Alienation’s not quite the right word, but it’s one word that would do.”

Although the song is open to interpretation, it is hard to deny that it captures the essence of the hippie revolution. This may have been on Richards’ mind when he came up with the lead riff and the line, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” but Jagger noted that the line was transplanted either consciously or subconsciously, from Chuck Berry’s ‘Thirty Days’. “I can’t get no satisfaction from the judge,” Berry sings in the 1955 song. “Keith might have heard it back then because it’s not any way an English person would express it,” Jagger explained. “I’m not saying that he purposely nicked anything, but we played those records a lot.”

With Richards’ iconic riff, which he claims to have written in a dream, and the titular line, Jagger filled in the cracks to create one of the decade’s most popular singles. Today, The Rolling Stones remain active with 31 studio albums to choose from, but ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ remains an essential hit. To date, it is the band’s fifth most-played song, with a total of 973 live outings.

Listen to ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ below.

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