Satisfaction, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1965, was, according to Richards, “the song that launched us into global fame.” It was the Rolling Stones’ first number one in the US and became their 4th number one in the UK, despite initially being played only on pirate radio stations because its lyrics were considered too sexually suggestive. The song is considered by many as one of the best rock songs ever recorded. It placed 2nd in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and in 2006 was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
Richards suggests he conceived the song in his sleep and his three-note guitar riff begins and drives the song along. As well as the obvious to sexual connotations of the lyrics, there also seems to be a frustration with the increasing commercialism of the modern world expressed. The radio blasts out “useless information” and the ads on TV tell us “how white my shirts can be” and that you can’t be a man unless you smoke a certain brand of cigarettes. Jagger’s lyrics go on to bemoan the pressures of touring, of “ridin’ round the world.”
Fast forward seven years to the Stone’s sojourn in France to a period of excessive drug abuse and the album Exile on Main Street. The Stones have been a hugely successful rock’n roll band all over the world for some years, so wealthy they are tax-exiles, living outside the UK. The song Rocks Off goes:
And I only get my rocks off while I’m dreaming, (only get them off)
I only get my rocks off while I’m sleeping.
Feel so hypnotized, can’t describe the scene.
Its all mesmerized, all that inside me.
The sunshine bores the daylights out of me.
Chasing shadows moonlight mystery.
Headed for the overload,
Splattered on the dirty road,
The song sounds jaunty and upbeat, but the lyrics are thoroughly dispiriting. Even the sunshine “bores the daylights out of me.” The singer is thoroughly jaded – neither making love nor getting kicked causes any interest any more. The only escape is into the world of dreams, of unreality. Mick, Keef and the boys still can’t get no satisfaction.
Success, fame, adoring fans, an excess of whatever it is you can have, smoke, or inject just doesn’t seem to do it. An interesting article in the New York Times by Arthur C. Brooks (Love People, Not Pleasure) recently made this very point. He quotes a research project from the University of Rochester which found that some people had “intrinsic” goals, such as deep, enduring relationships, whereas others had “extrinsic” goals, such as achieving reputation or fame. Guess which group turned out to be happier – yep, the “intrinsic” group.
Our society is addicted to fame, to celebrity, but it’s precisely those who want desperately to be noticed, loved, wanted who end up the unhappiest. And let’s not forget about social media, where we all crave the “likes” and the admiration of others for our clever or funny posts or photos of us doing great things. Brooks quotes the results of many psychological studies: “People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed and more frequent drug users, and even to have more physical ailments than those who set their sights on more intrinsic values.”
Brooks comes to the conclusion that, “If it feels good, do it” is nothing but a popular piece of life-ruining advice. Money, fame, sexual hedonism, accumulation of things all have their lure – but the evidence leads to the conclusion that a cycle of grasping and craving can’t give us no satisfaction.
The true wisdom of happiness lies in relationships with others. Walter Trout realises this in his song Blues for the Modern Daze, from the eponymous album. “You get yours, I’ll get mine…Ain’t nothing left to give, It’s dog eat dog, In the Modern Daze.” And in Take A Little Time, from The Blues Came Callin’, he bemoans the “telephone…buzzin’,” the “people at the door,” and the fact that “the days are flyin’ by, goin’ too damn fast.”
The answer? “You gotta take a little time, baby, Take a little time for love.”
The simple truth is we can’t get no satisfaction in things or in fame. We get satisfaction in loving others. And as Arthur Brooks says,
“It requires the courage to repudiate pride and the strength to love others — family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, God and even strangers and enemies. Only deny love to things that actually are objects. The practice that achieves this is charity. Few things are as liberating as giving away to others that which we hold dear.”