There isn’t much about the history of The Rolling Stones’ iconic song ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ that many of you won’t know. One fact that’s hard to ignore is that the song, like so many other rock ‘n’ roll standards, has been endlessly covered in the near-six decades since its release. Below, we’ve picked ten of our favourites. Each one provides a startling reminder of the songwriting talent Keith Richards and Mick Jagger produced.
Rolling Stones’ leading man Mick Jagger once said of the song: “I’d rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45,” and yet he continues to sing the song without a drip of irony as he approaches his eighth decade on the planet. The song is still one of the most cherished moments of the band’s never-ending touring set and has become an anthemic moment for all who hears it.
Since its 1965 release, the track’s infectious cords and lyrics have taken over everyone who hears it. Simultaneously, Mick Jagger would write the lyrics for the now-iconic rock and roll record in the relative comfort of a hotel in Florida four days before the band recorded it. Yet Keith Richards can boast 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 sleep. When he woke up in the morning, the guitarist had no idea he had even written it. He later said that when he listened to the recording in the morning, there was an acoustic riff followed by Richards dropping a pick and “then me snoring for the next forty minutes”.
It was a riff and a sentiment that sent The Rolling Stones to the top of the pile and made them hot property. The song’s groove and salacious lyrics meant it was a hit that reverberated around the youth of the day for years. Since then, it has gathered a mass of covers in its time some great (found below) and some awful takes too including additions from Samantha Fox and Bill Cosby. But we’ve got the best.
Below, we pick our favourites.
The best covers of Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’:
Björk & PJ Harvey (1994)
A one-off live performance is always a tricky thing to negotiate. When you’re a relatively new artist and your singing one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most cherished songs in front of an awards ceremony, there’s a huge mountain to climb.
The duo arrived ready and raring to go. PJ Harvey had released Rid of Me and was the darling of the alt-rock world in Britain. She represented a move away from the grunge which had left so much of England bereft of their twinkling eye. Meanwhile, Björk was only one album out of her punk band, The Sugarcubes and was finding life as a solo artist incredibly fruitful; she had quickly transcended from curiosity to cult favourite.
Taking on a classic like ‘Satisfaction’ was still no mean feat. However, the duo had another plan in place. They stripped it back, chewed it up, and spat it out. What’s more, they did it without apology as the rock and roll gem lay at the feet of the nation’s music press, the spitters smiling through every note.
It’s an arresting performance which has to be one of the best for us.
The Shirelles (1967)
The Shirelles are a classic girl group from the sixties, usually saving their sweet and soulful vocal performances for charming ditties about unrequited love or driving hot rods to meet the leader of the pack. But, given this non-stop party anthem, the group kick off their shoes and start a dance party.
Perhaps one of our favourite covers because it accurately reflects the chaotic fun we all have with the song whenever the needle drops, the group do an upstanding job of covering the track for their appropriately titled 1967 album Spontaneous Combustion.
The Grateful Dead (1981)
The Grateful Dead may well be one of the most prolific artists at covering other people’s songs. Such is their live show set up that during their decades on the road, often exceeding two-hour sets at every stop, they were bound to cover a Stones song at some point in their career.
When they found the perfect noodling moments for the band’s 1965 single ‘Satisfaction’ something quite quickly clicked. The Dead takes the song into a brand new space and turn it firmly into one of their own. It was an uncanny ability they possessed in their iconic line-up.
Below catch a glimpse of the band in action back in 1982 performing the track. It was a song they kept in their set for some time, always manipulating and managing it at every juncture. It’s a real joy.
Aretha Franklin (1968)
Another number that proved that The Rolling Stones were really making waves across the pond was this one from Lady Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Of course, without even pressing play on the video below you can be certain this song will come packed with swing.
It certainly did that.
Franklin is buoyed with a bouncing melody and likely picks up from Redding’s own note-changing performance for the soulful rendition. It easily ranks as one of the better covers of the Stones. Hey, it is Aretha, after all.
Once heralded by David Bowie as “the band of the future”, one of Devo’s purest moments was looking back to the past as Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerald Casale and their robotic new wave vision was applied to The Rolling Stones’ iconic hit.
The single was originally self-released by the new-wave band in 1977 on their own label Booji Boy Records. It saw the band layout their foundations for a new style of rock and roll. The track then got that extra flourish when it was mixed by the wonderful Brian Eno as part of their debut album.
But the song still needed Jagger’s rubber stamp of approval before they could add it officially to the album: “He was just looking down at the floor swirling his glass of red wine,” they commented. “He didn’t even have shoes on, just socks and some velour pants. I don’t know what his habits were then, but this was early afternoon and it looked like he had just gotten up.
“He suddenly stood up and started dancing around on this Afghan rug in front of the fireplace, the sort of rooster-man dance he used to do, and saying,” doing his best Jagger impression. “‘I like it, I like it.’ Mark and I lit up, big smiles on our faces, like in ‘Wayne’s World’: ‘We’re not worthy!’ To see your icon that you grew up admiring, that you had seen in concert, dancing around like Mick Jagger being Mick Jagger.
“It was unbelievable.”
José Feliciano (1970)
Some artists from the sixties and the seventies may have had a huge impact on the world around them but have failed to make such a large imprint on music that they’re still revered to this day. We’d argue that José Feliciano is one of those artists who has sadly slipped under the radar for most of us. Covers like this are a perfect reason to revisit the singer-songwriter.
Famed for his ability to play an entire song’s arrangement on his guitar, Feliciano employs a small band for this delicately poised cover. Feeling both energising and yet stripped back, there’s a beautiful balance to this 1970 cover from his album Fireworks. The horn section naturally adds clout to his unique vocal performance.
It’s a joy to listen to.
Otis Redding (1965)
The singer recorded a rendition of ‘Satisfaction’ for his album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul which was released in 1965 and while he nailed the energy of the song, with help from Steve Cropper’s arrangement, he did seemingly miss a lot of Jagger’s lyrics. Redding once confessing, “That’s because I made them up.”
Cropper, the man largely credited with the inception of the horn-led arrangement confirmed this, “…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 one out there: “I think Otis Redding’s ‘Satisfaction’ has got to be in there.”
Cat Power (2000)
Thus far, most of the covers we’ve heard have been propped up by the original swagger of the first release. Stick Keith Richards’ riffs and Jagger’s unique delivery, and you have yourself a pretty robust set of foundations to build upon. But Chan Marshall, AKA Cat Power, decided to rip up the rulebook for her cover of the song.
Shared as part of her 2000 album The Covers Record, Power delivers a soft and heartening rendition of the song. Stripped back to the rawest emotions, Power moves the song’s imagery away from the dancefloor and into an introspective ballad.
A change of pace, certainly worth having.
The Beatles (1969)
During The Beatles’ Let It Be sessions, the band were beginning to break apart. For years, the press had asked both the Fab Four and the Stones who was the better band and now it appeared there was at least an answer to who is better equipped to survive as a band. But before The Beatles broke up in 1970, they had a couple more albums to get out of their system.
With such high tension and such enormous expectations on the group as individuals, the need to let off steam, especially during such fractious sessions as Let It Be was, grew every day. It meant that the sessions are littered with covers.
Some are more obvious, Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan, but one has always stuck out as a little irregular, the band’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’. While not exactly note-perfect, the curiosity of this cover means it has to rank highly as one of the best.
For a moment in time, Television were one of the greatest bands the world had ever seen. The group, fronted by Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell, flirted with punk’s purity while still adding the authentic intelligence that post-punk would provide. It was a pioneering sound that would shape rock for years to come. However, they weren’t above paying tribute to those who had come before them.
This cover of ‘Satisfaction’ was recorded in 1978 as the band performed at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco and was later released on the 1982 record The Blow Up. Placed as one of the band’s final moments in front of their audience, there are few bands who can completely transform their core content but Television do it without a second thought.
Razor-sharp guitars replace Richard’s cool rhythm, and Verlaine’s always morose vocal performance makes Jagger’s feel chintzy and churlish just over a decade after its release. It’s proof of how much music had already changed.