Music Interviews
5:08 pm
Wed November 14, 2012

Charlie Watts On What Makes 'Satisfaction' So Satisfying

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 6:15 pm

This week, All Things Considered is talking to The Rolling Stones one by one, in honor of the band's 50th anniversary. Each of the Stones was asked to pick one song from their archive to discuss. Drummer Charlie Watts — at 71, the eldest statesman in the bunch — chose the song that gave the group its first No. 1 hit in the U.S.

"I chose 'Satisfaction,' " he says. "It was just the first really big record we ever made. It's an iconic riff. It just sums up the whole period, really."

Released in 1965, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is built around a simple riff by Keith Richards. Watts says that although he's the band's timekeeper, onstage he generally follows Richards' lead rather than the other way around.

"He usually starts the intros," Watts says. "And very much when we were in the early period of our existence, monitors were kind of nonexistent, so I had to have his amplifier quite close to me, and they weren't very big amplifiers. With an audience shouting, I needed that to know where the changes came, because you could very rarely hear Mick."

Speaking of Mick Jagger, he made a guest appearance in Watts' conversation with NPR's Melissa Block while the two were discussing the song's distinctive beat. Click the audio link on this page to hear more.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This week, we're talking to The Rolling Stones one by one. They're celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band and we asked each of the Stones to pick one song from their archive to talk about. Yesterday, Keith Richards riffed on "Street Fighting Man," and today, we'll hear from drummer Charlie Watts, at 71, the eldest statesman of the band.

As the Stones' website says, despite resigning after ever tour since 1969, Charlie continues to be the heartbeat of The Rolling Stones.

CHARLIE WATTS: So I chose "Satisfaction," honey.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

WATTS: It was just the first really big record we ever made. And it's an iconic riff. It just sums up the whole period, really.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

MICK JAGGER: (Singing) I can't get no satisfaction. I can't get no satisfaction. 'Cause I try, and it try, and I try and try. I can't get no.

BLOCK: Do you remember, as you were recording it, thinking, this is a great song, this song is going to be huge?

WATTS: No.

BLOCK: No?

WATTS: No. You never dream things like that.

BLOCK: It was the first number one single in the states, right?

WATTS: I don't know. It was quite a big record. I don't know if it was. I don't know, I'm sorry.

BLOCK: That's okay.

WATTS: I'm not very good at — we need Bill Wyman for that sort of thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

JAGGER: (Singing) I can't get no. No, no, no, no. Hey, hey, hey.

BLOCK: I read this, Charlie Watts, that originally that the song was at a different tempo. And when you re-recorded it, you set a different pace. Is that right?

WATTS: I don't remember that. Going well, this interview, isn't it?

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

JAGGER: (Singing) And I try and I try and I try and I try. I can't get no.

BLOCK: You mentioned Bill Wyman, the longtime bass player for the Stones. I wanted to ask you about something that he said. He said every rock and roll band follows the drummer, except our band. Our drummer follows the rhythm guitarist, who is Keith Richards. Would you agree with that?

WATTS: That's true.

BLOCK: Yeah?

WATTS: Yeah.

BLOCK: Why is that?

WATTS: I've always followed Keith on stage, I'm talking about. I always looked to him for the time. He usually starts the intros. And very much when we were in the early period of our existence, because, you know, monitors were kind of nonexistent, so I had to have his amplifier quite close to me, and they weren't very big amplifiers. So with an audience shouting, I needed that to know where the changes came, everything because you could very rarely hear Mick.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

JAGGER: (Singing) When I'm riding around the world and I'm doing this and I'm signing that, and I'm trying to make some girl who tells me, baby, better come back maybe next week, 'cause you see I'm on a losing streak. I can't get no, oh, no, no, no. Uh, hey, hey, hey.

BLOCK: This is a great song to talk about backbeat.

WATTS: I don't know if "Pretty Woman" was before this and there's another one that Stevie Wonder did that had that sort of beat in it. It came about the same time maybe. You know, a lot of pop songs, as you call them, you know. They're based around a rhythm that's become fashionable, you know, disco, something.

And that one was a fashionable one at that time.

BLOCK: Now, at that moment, the studio door in New York popped open and Mick Jagger stuck his head in with an answer for Charlie Watts.

JAGGER: "Up Tight" was its name.

WATTS: Well done, Mick. That's the one. It was "Up Tight" by Stevie Wonder. Okay. How did he hear that? Oh, I'm on the air.

BLOCK: He has an answer for everything, that man.

WATTS: Sorry. The backbeat is two and four, a new - hit it harder than the first beat and it's played on a snare drum. One, ka, one, ka.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

JAGGER: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey.

WATTS: It's the loudest of the four beats.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

JAGGER: (Singing) I can't get no satisfaction. I can't get no satisfaction. And I try...

BLOCK: When "Satisfaction" became such a monster hit, number one in the U.S. and the U.K., what was the effect on the band? How did that change things for you?

WATTS: You know, it's great to have the whole world dancing to your own song and the rhythms. Fantastic to hear on the radio. You know, I never play our records, but I love hearing them, you know, go on the car radio or something. It's very, I don't know, it does wonders for the ego, doesn't it?

BLOCK: I wouldn't know, but I guess it would.

WATTS: Well, it is the highest sort of accolade you can have, really.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

JAGGER: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey.

BLOCK: Well, Charlie Watts, it's great to talk to you. Thank you.

WATTS: Thank you. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SATISFACTION")

JAGGER: (Singing) I can't get no satisfaction. I can't get no satisfaction.

BLOCK: Rolling Stone Charlie Watts, who is also a great jazz drummer, his first love. Tomorrow on the program, guitarist Ron Wood with his choice. He's sticking up for a song that he thinks gets unfairly overlooked.

RON WOOD: It's really up and it gets everyone dancing, just like it says in the title.

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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