The Rolling Stones’ song ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ has remained a compulsory number in all of their concerts and as well as television and radio shows. The song, one which drives their fans crazy, was first released as a single in the UK in 1965 and has continued to solidify its presence in the annals of rock and roll history ever since. The track created a stir initially because of its controversial lyrics but the negative publicity ultimately proved to be fruitful as it drew more and more attention. With time it climbed past all the scepticism to be at the top of the ladder and be inducted to The Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it voices the irritation of the singer due to the increasing commercialism of the modern world, the voice on the radio conveying “useless information” or the man in the TV commercial trying to make the product sell by saying “how white my shirts can be” are some direct references. The last stanza, however, shifts to the topic of sexual frustration and the claustrophobic feeling of being famous. The head banging and groovy guitar riff at the beginning is an iconic tune. The delivery of the song channels a cynical and judgemental commentary on the modern-day issues with a hint of protest in the powerful chorus part.
The song remains a top preference for most artists to cover. Musicians like Otis Redding, The Residents, Devo, Frankie Ruiz and Britney Spears have all taken their chances. Each of these covers are upbeat and refused to lose the signature riff, a completely different take on this is offered by the young musician Alice Phoebe Lou.
Lou, 27 years old, is a South African singer-songwriter. Born to parents who were documentary filmmakers, she was drawn to fine arts from a very young age. Post high school she returned to Europe and decided to follow her true calling and thus began her musical journey in the streets of Berlin. She has reached unbelievable heights in almost a blink of an eye. Her song ‘She’ from the film Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story was included in the Oscars shortlist for best original song in 2017 and propelled her work into the limelight. Her consciousness about her privilege that came with her skin colour and family background is something that tells us that though young, she needs to be taken seriously: “I was definitely more fortunate than most and I definitely feel some sort of guilt at having had such a beautiful childhood and such a divided and difficult part of the world where so close to me so many were suffering and still suffer,” she told us during an interview. While talking about her cultural influences, Lou said, “South Africa has influenced my sound because I grew up surrounded by struggle and the music that comes out of it is powerful.”
It’s difficult to fully express in words what Lou’s cover has brought to the song. Perhaps one word to describe it would be the same one as Lou’s; Powerful. Her version creates a totally different soundscape in a way nobody could ever have imagined or has imagined to date. Though she made a bold choice by getting rid of the introductory riff and the upbeat tempo in general it doesn’t take anything away from the song. Her improvisation of the song’s main tune expresses more of a frustration mixed with melancholy. A slight change can be noticed in the lyrics where “He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information/Supposed to fire my imagination” becomes “Is tryin’ to mess with my imagination.” She flexes her vocal capabilities and one cannot help but marvel. It’s not a sing-along version like the original but it will definitely grab your attention from the very first line. In a way, she re-structured the song making it more than just a cover.
Let’s listen to the powerful cover, below.