Thursday, January 06, 2011

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (1965)

6. Rolling Stones, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (June 19, 1965, #1, 4 wks.)

This is virtually a no-brainer for a list like this, an easy and obvious pick. Not only does it have the merits of being a great rock song, propelled by Charlie Watts's claptrap drumming, that hits hard and brings a nasty subversive mocking punch, but it was also all over the place in the summer of 1965 when I first tuned in to AM radio in a big way as a 10-year-old. True enough, the thing was over my head, and honestly kind of gave me the willies. All that mumbling and speech slurring by Mick Jagger, the caustic sarcastic twist he works into the first lines and throughout just by dropping his voice slightly—why can't he enunciate, I thought, and be straightforward about the whole thing? And then there was the big fuzz tone of Keith Richards's commanding guitar hook, which confused me. I thought it was a saxophone for the longest time. So if I grew into the song slowly over the years, as my understanding and grasp of it deepened and ripened, it nevertheless had me in its visceral claws from the first seconds I heard it. It made my skin crawl, disturbed and quietly upset me, with the same effect that horror movies would have once Romero set the terms in the late '60s, as something that caused me a desperate uneasiness but from which I could not ever turn away. This is something that happened every day for most of that summer. And even if, in many ways, it sounds a bit childish to me now as so many of the favorite songs of my childhood do, it still retains a sultry, overweening dignity, it still rocks sweet and hard, and it can still get right under my skin.

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