It is impossible to know in advance whether a song will be a success or not. The majority of the time, bands do not know for sure whether a song will be a hit before it is made available to the public and starts to acquire popularity. Even then, because listeners’ tastes are constantly evolving, a song that becomes popular originally might not stick around for very long. The effectiveness of a composition depends largely on its timing and the band’s capacity to grab listeners’ attention. When it came to Keith Richards, he actually had a prediction of their hit song ‘I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)’ and he was quite wrong about it.
He didn’t think it would be any kind of credible accomplishment. He was shocked to learn that the tune ended up being one of the band’s defining moments. Because of Keith Richards’ driving riff, “Satisfaction,” which was released in 1965, became the band’s first U.S. No. 1 success and is now regarded as a rock classic. Richards disagreed with manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham’s evaluation of the song’s potential after the band had finished recording it.
But it is one of the most recognizable melodies of the 20th century, it has solidified its status. The words of the song, which touch on themes of alienation, rejection, and the pursuit of happiness, capture the frustrations of 1960s youth culture. Its iconic riff is immediately recognizable, and countless contemporary bands have been influenced by it.
Richards wrote in his autobiography, Life, “I wrote ‘Satisfaction’ in my sleep. I had no idea I’d written it, it’s only thank God for the little Philips cassette player. The miracle being that I looked at the cassette player that morning, and I knew I’d put a brand-new tape in the previous night, and I saw it was the end. It was just a rough idea. There was just the bare bones of the song, and it didn’t have that noise, of course, because I was on acoustic… But the bare bones is all you need.”
Not only that, even Mick Jagger revealed the fact that Richards didn’t really like the song in the first place. During their BBC documentary, My Life as a Rolling Stone, he said, “There’s this motel in Clearwater, Florida, and I remember sitting with Keith and writing the song Satisfaction. [Our manager] Andrew Oldham said, ‘This is like a number one single, this is great!’ Keith was like, ‘I don’t really like it. It can’t come out as a single.’ And it went to number one like instantly.”
He added, “It was like a big moment; it became your signature tune, your cri de coeur, your sexuality, your controversy. You need to have that song that everyone remembers. It makes a huge change, and it also brings you into a much more confident era of writing, production and stuff.”
Although artists should generally follow their gut feelings, this is not always the case, as “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” demonstrates. Fortunately, the rest of The Rolling Stones understood how great the music was. The effectiveness of a composition depends largely on its timing and the band’s capacity to grab listeners’ attention.