The Rolling Stones’ 40 best songs

An all-star cast pick the greatest cuts from Jagger, Richards and co

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Single, 1965

CHARLIE GILLETT: Before “Satisfaction”, their hits were all covers – impeccably chosen, but to my ears Jagger wasn’t a convincing soul or blues singer.  He just sounded like a second-hand Don Covay. I didn’t know most of the songs they covered, but tracked them down afterwards, and they led me to some of the greatest records of all time – “Down Home Girl” by Alvin Robinson, “It’s All Over Now” by The Valentinos. I kept thinking how brave he was to take them on, him with his weedy voice. But from the moment “Satisfaction” came on the radio, I was forced to re-evaluate them. Attitude, rhythm and melody, all in the same song. “Satisfaction” combined one of the great pop lyrics of all time with one of the great guitar riffs.
MIKE SCOTT: The greatest rock’n’roll single ever.
DAVE MARSH: That riff is as close as any guitar player will come to being a one-man version of the Memphis Horns.
MICHAEL GIRA: To me, the song embodies optimism – a sustained pre-orgasmic shiver. This is one of the best-sounding recordings I’ve ever heard. The room it was recorded in is the most important instrument, seconded by the guitar hook, which sounds like it was recorded in a giant’s bowels.
MICK FARREN: The ultimate and classic masterclass rock song, and textbook blending of guitar hook and vocal shout, so perfect that it held up even when Otis Redding and the Stax horns drove it hard around the block. Also it replaced Gene Vincent’s “Woman Love” as the complete yardstick by which all future howls of horny teen-male anguish had to be judged.
RICHARD LLOYD: It’s the riff. That’s the real beginning of their relentless presentation of craving and dissatisfaction. It’s a relentless guitar riff. It gets a little more complex later on, but at the beginning it’s just three notes.
ED HAMELL: How could I have been only 10 years old when this song came out?
I remember it as plain as day. I had to be making my own jism then because I knew exactly what he was talking about. Or so I would believe. Even though now, with educated historic perspective, I hear it as a Dylan tune recorded at Stax studios, it still is a crystallised moment. A huge summer of freedom and possibilities. Sex, poetry and guitars. Masturbation and frustration. I’m going to go listen to it and beat off right now.
DAVID STUBBS: Too obvious to be overlooked. “Satisfaction” wasn’t just the Stones’ coming of age, but arguably the moment at which rock music itself entered a new phase, one of moody and menacing adolescence. With Keith Richards’ scowling riff and Jagger’s vocals rising to a point of climax that never comes (“And I’ve tried . . . and I’ve tried . . .”), it’s an existential protest song and a more realistic counterpoint to the chipper exuberance of The Beatles. “Satisfaction” bristles with a more realistic sense of what 1965 was actually like – a drab, black-and-white extension of the Fifties, with Der Kids taunted by pop illusions of Carnaby Street fabness that far from reflected their own nothing-to-do lives. “Satisfaction” was the sound of a real storm brewing…


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