If you ask any Rolling Stones fan if ‘I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)’ is the definition of perfection, then you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who disagreed. On the other hand, Keith Richards believes that their version of the effort isn’t even the best take of the now-iconic hit.
Since its release in 1965, the song has continued to hit a chord in the hearts of millions, many of who feel an inseparable bond with ‘Satisfaction’. The track is the sound of The Glimmer Twins at their unconstrained best, with nothing standing in their way as Jagger and Richards’ brilliance plays off one another exquisitely. Mick Jagger penned the lyrics for the rock and roll number in a Florida hotel just four days before the band recorded it, with Keith Richards claiming the legendary feat of writing the riffs for the music in his sleep.
The legend goes that Richards recorded a rough version of the riff on a cassette player while in the middle of the night. When he woke up in the morning, the guitarist had no idea he had even written it. In fact, Richards said when he listened to the recording in the morning, there was an acoustic riff followed by “me snoring for the next forty minutes”.
The song has been covered on plentiful occasions; Devo, Aretha Franklin and Bjork & PJ Harvey have all attempted to put their spin on the track, to varying degrees of success. However, nobody has nailed it as resoundingly as Otis Redding, who took the song to another dimension and made Keith Richards feel like an amateur in comparison.
The singer recorded a rendition of ‘Satisfaction’ for his album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, released in 1965. While he matched Jagger’s vigour on the song, with help from Steve Cropper’s arrangement, he seemingly missed a lot of The Stones’ lyrics — but that only adds to the charm of his interpretation. Redding once confessed: “That’s because I made them up.”
Cropper, the man largely credited with the inception of the horn-led arrangement, confirmed this, stating: “If you ever listened to the record you can hardly understand the lyrics, right? I set down to a record player and copied down what I thought the lyrics were and I handed Otis a piece of paper and before we got through with the cut, he threw the paper on the floor and that was it.”
According to Jagger, it’s the best cover in existence: “I think Otis Redding’s ‘Satisfaction’ has got to be in there,” he said. However, Keith Richards’ analysis went one step further and said it’s even better than the Stones’ original; praise doesn’t get any higher than that. “The way Otis Redding ended up doing it is probably closer to my original conception for the song,” Richards told Guitar World. “Otis got it right. Our version was a demo for [his version].”
Redding’s version of ‘Satisfaction’ is full of even more energy than Jagger’s, and there’s an irresistible tenacity to it that immediately takes you to New Orleans at the height of the blues movement. Without R&B pioneers like Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones don’t exist. By Redding taking on ‘Satisfaction’, he gave the English group his seal of approval by welcoming them to the highly exclusive club. There was only one way to achieve access to enter this club: songs of the highest quality, which was no stumbling block for The Stones.