There isn’t much about the history of The Rolling Stones’ iconic song ‘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 din the near-six decades since it’s release. Below, we’ve picked five of our favourites.
Rolling Stones’ leading man Mick Jagger once said: “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. 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 song’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 said 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. But which ones were 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 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 which 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 lay out 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.”
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.”
Honourable mention: 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 ar 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.