In the early days of their formation, The Rolling Stones weren’t an immediate sensation. They set out mainly a blues cover band and remained so until 1964 with the release of their first studio album which consisted of all R&B covers apart from just one original composition in ‘Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)’. It seemed to take a little while for the Mick Jagger/ Keith Richards songwriting partnership to get into its full stride. In 1964, the group even took a little boost from their friendly rivals when they were gifted ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ by The Beatles which gave them one of their first successful singles. It wasn’t until 1965 that Jagger and Richards struck gold with the original composition ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.
The track was a monumental breakthrough for the Stones and it became their first number one hit in the US. In the UK, it gained popularity for the band with airtime only on pirate radio stations as it was initially banned due to its “sexually suggestive” lyrics, thus beginning the Rolling Stones’ “bad boy” image. The track has since gained legendary status and is often listed among the greatest rock songs of all time. Much of the attraction is drawn in by Richards’ perfect guitar riff that provides the catchy framework for the track. However, Jagger’s lyrics deserve praise too, or at least DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh certainly thinks so.
Mothersbaugh has revealed that he’s a huge fan of Mick Jagger in particular, and once even argued that he’s among the most underrated lyricists of his time and that ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ contains some of the greatest lyrics in rock ‘n’ roll history. It comes with little surprise that DEVO are huge fans of the tune given that they released one of the most popular covers of the song in a 1977 new-wave rendition.
Some years later, the members of DEVO would be delighted to be able to play their version of the hit track in front of Jagger himself. Bassist Gerald Casale discussed the encounter in an interview with the New Yorker: “[Jagger] was just looking down at the floor swirling his glass of red wine,”… “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.”
Jagger listened to DEVO’s take on ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ in silence for about 30 seconds, then “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 ‘I like it, I like it,’” Casale said. “Mark and I lit up, big smiles on our faces, like in Wayne’s World: ‘We’re not worthy’”.
Casale explained their elation: “To see your icon that you grew up admiring, that you had seen in concert, dancing around like Mick Jagger being Mick Jagger,” he recalled. “It was unbelievable”.
“We were less than nothing,” Mothersbaugh said. “We were just these artists that nobody had ever heard of, from Akron, Ohio.”
Revisit DEVO’s cover of the classic Rolling Stones track below.