'(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,' 45 Years Later

Forty-five years ago, the Rolling Stones brought rock to the dark side.

May 6, 2010, 5:20 PM

May 6, 2010— -- Forty-five years ago, a sleepy Keith Richards was playing his guitar and a riff stuck in his head, so he took his tape player and recorded the riff along with the words, "I can't get no satisfaction."

The next morning, he and vocalist Mick Jagger finished the Rolling Stones classic. They recorded it as "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," and it went down as one of the greatest songs of all time.

The summer of 1965 was full of singles still heard blasting from stereos today -- including "Help Me, Rhonda" by The Beach Boys, "Mr. Tambourine Man" by The Byrds and "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher.

But they all were overshadowed "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." The single won a gold record award by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling 500,000 copies, giving the Stones the first of many gold discs in the United States.

"It is probably the most famous rock and roll song of all time," said Stanley Booth, an American music journalist who spent a lot of time touring and hanging out with the Rolling Stones and wrote a biography of the group, "The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones."

"There were so many great songs that summer," Glenn Gass, a professor at the School of Music at Indiana University, told ABC News, "and it still claimed that summer."

When the track was released, it shot to the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart and stayed there for four weeks in July 1965.

More recently, Rolling Stone magazine placed the song at second on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

In 2006, it was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, the song wins acclaim on that front as well, with covers by artists as varied as Otis Redding, Devo and Britney Spears.

Keith Richards Riffing While Passing Out

The song was born late one night as Richards sat in bed, waiting to pass out.

"Keith is always holding a guitar," Booth told ABC News. "If you go to his house, or one of his houses, he's always sitting on a couch or on the floor, picking his guitar.

"Keith never really fell asleep," Booth added. "He would pass out. The riff was derived from being on the nod. He finally got high enough to fall asleep and he came up with the riff. ... The next morning, he played back the cassette tape recorder he had on his bed the night before and he thought it was cute."

Following that night, Richards laid the riff on front man Mick Jagger in a hotel room in Clearwater, Florida.

"That was how they worked," Booth said. "Keith would play eight bars and Mick would usually relate it back to something he was doing with a girl that he probably wasn't supposed to be doing.

"Jagger wrote the song while sitting by the pool in the middle of a plastic culture," Gass said. "The whole cacophony of America is probably what he was trying to capture with his music."

The song was part of a turning point in rock music that had been dominated by the intensely popular Beatles, who had popularized a lighter form of rock.

The song, influenced by Bob Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues," Motown and blues riffs, was a "great 'no' to the Beatles' 'yeah'," Gass said.

"There was a time when you had to choose between the Beatles and the Stones," Gass added.

But "Satisfaction" cut through the bright music being made by the Beatles "like a knife," he said.

"They were already going strong, but that song put them in the Beatles' stratosphere of rarified air," Gass said.

However, for any aspiring musicians, it is important to note that legends are not born of laziness.

"I've never seen anybody in any genre work as hard as the Stones," Booth said.

So keep practicing, and make sure you take a listen to what comes out as you strum, sitting on your bed. You never know what you might stumble upon.