The Pop History Dig

“…No Satisfaction”
1965-1966

The young Rolling Stones in the mid-1960s brought plenty of “attitude” to their music. From left: Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.
The young Rolling Stones in the mid-1960s brought plenty of “attitude” to their music. From left: Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.
     Did one rock ’n roll song of the mid-1960s provide a kind of social dividing line –  a musical bright line separating old and new?  Did one song lay down, in a popular way, a kind of generational and values  demarcation?  

     Certainly there were any number of songs at that time heralding the new generation’s outlook and values — in  lyrics, distinctive sound, and in some cases, musical “attitude.”  

     Bob Dylan, for one — the leading tr0ubadour of the  1960s — had begun offering his interpretations by the early 1960s.  His “Blowin` in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A Changin`” were much in the air by 1963. 

Music Player
“Satisfaction”-1965
[scroll down for lyrics]

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     But in May 1965, a young British rock group named the Rolling Stones recorded a rock song called “Satisfaction”– also known by its longer title, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”  By July 1965, “Satisfaction” had been released in the U.S. and soon became a gigantic hit.  This song, however, was something more than merely good rock `n roll.  In its way, and perhaps in a more popular mainstream sense, “Satisfaction”  became the pop/rock equivalent of what Dylan and other folk/protest musicians were offering to somewhat less mainstream audiences.  “Satisfaction” was a hard-rock tune with a driving sound, but with lyrics that were also aimed at the status quo; a song that expressed a distinct “dis-satisfaction” with the way things were.

Sample record sleeve from 1965 for the Rolling Stones’ song “Satisfaction,” with B-side title, “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” Decca Records.
Sample record sleeve from 1965 for the Rolling Stones’ song “Satisfaction,” with B-side title, “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” Decca Records.
     The Rolling Stones had formed their band in the early 1960s playing mostly cover versions of American rhythm and blues(R&B) music and Chicago blues and rock n’ roll artists, including Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and others.  Their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, a former Beatles publicist, later encouraged the Stones to write their own pop songs as the Beatles were doing.  Brian Jones, a talented guitarist who had once led the group and would later die in a drowning accident, preferred the R & B path.  But lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards soon began writing pop rock ‘n roll songs, taking the group in what would prove to be a very successful direction.  “Satisfaction” would become their  landmark hit; their big breakthrough.


The Song

     Keith Richards played a key inventor’s role with this song.  In early May 1965, as the Rolling Stones were on tour in the U.S., it was Richards who came up with “Satisfaction’s” opening guitar riff — the distinctive, flat-sounding twang that powers the song throughout and its signature sound.  Story has it that Richards woke up in the middle of the night during the U.S. tour and recorded the guitar riff into a tape recorder that he kept at his bedside for unexpected moments of inspiration.  Then he went back to sleep.  Next morning he played the riff for Mick Jagger, offering one lyric he had in mind for the song – “I can’t get no satisfaction.”  Jagger would later say he thought that line was possibly influenced subconsciously by Richards’ listening to a 1955 Chuck Berry song titled “30 Days,” a tune which has a similar line – “I don’t get no satisfaction from the judge”.  The guitar riff developed by Richards in any case, was initially not set for guitar, but thought as a guide for horns.  Jagger, meanwhile, fleshed out more of “Satisfaction’s” lyrics one afternoon while on tour, later admitting to incorporating some of his own feelings at the time about the media and advertising.

“Satisfaction”
Rolling Stones-1965

I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no satisfaction.
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.

When I’m drivin’ in my car
and that man comes on the radio
and he’s tellin’ me more and more
about some useless information
supposed to drive my imagination.
I can’t get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say.

(repeat refrain)
…I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no satisfaction.
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.

When I’m watchin’ my TV
and a man comes on to tell me
how white my shirts can be.
Well he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t
smoke the same cigarettes as me.
I can’t get no, oh, no no no.
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say.

I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no girl reaction.
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.

When I’m ridin’ round the world
and I’m doin’ this and I’m signing that
and I’m tryin’ to make some girl
who tells me baby better come back
                                       later next week
’cause you see I’m on a losing streak.
I can’t get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say.

I can’t get no, I can’t get no,
I can’t get no satisfaction,
no satisfaction, no satisfaction,
no satisfaction….

     The Stones, still on tour in the U.S. at the time, continued to work on the song between performances.  In Chicago, they took it into the Chess recording studios, working on it there May 10, 1965.  Two days later in Los Angeles, California, they completed it during a long session at RCA’s studios.  It was in this session that Richards reportedly rigged up a version of a “fuzz box” to his guitar which gave the opening riff he’d invented its distinctive sound, helping send “Satisfaction” straight up the charts.

     In that summer of 1965, there was no shortage of rock ‘n roll music.  New songs were coming from all directions – Detroit’s Motown, the California surf scene, and a wave of new British artists.  Among the tunes at or near the top of the charts that summer were songs such as: “Help Me, Rhonda” by The Beach Boys, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds, and “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher.  But “Satisfaction” was different; the song stood out and apart.  It had something about it that made it more than just a song.  Though it was certainly musically appealing to the youth of that day, “Satisfaction” was also music with a message.

     A share of popular and folk music by then had begun to take a more serious and cynical tack.  Bob Dylan, as mentioned earlier, was having a profound influence, not only in folk and protest music, but also in mainstream rock `n roll.  Dylan’s songs in 1962-1965, such as: “Blowin’ in The Wind,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall“, “Masters of War,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin`,” as well as songs by other protest songwriters, had opened a new window for 1960s’ music, bringing social commentary to song writing.  The Rolling Stones and other groups at that time were greatly influenced by Dylan’s music.  And “Satisfaction” – though not a protest song per se – was clearly one of those songs that had picked up on the idea of adding some “message” to the music.

     Although the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement were both underway by mid-1965, “Satisfaction” was not a song aimed at those troubles per se.  Rather, “Satisfaction” at the time was more of a general angst tune; a song that captured the frustrations bubbling up with the younger generation on a number of fronts, Vietnam and civil rights included.  Conventional wisdom and social values were then being challenged all around and “Satisfaction” chimed in with lyrics aimed at superficial advertising and uptight sexual mores.“Satisfaction” had enough attitude and swagger to wilt any set of established values its listeners might target. It  became an all- purpose anti-etablishment anthem.

     The plea of the narrator/singer in this song is a guy who is frustrated with the “useless information” and advertising hype he hears on radio and TV, plus his own personal plight of not being able to score with the ladies  The guy is essentially throwing up his hands in frustration with life in general: he just isn’t getting any satisfaction on any level.  Millions of young people then were trying to make their way in the world, and many weren’t happy or “satisfied” with what they saw around them.

     The song’s lyrics, for their day, were controversial, in part, because they challenged the prevailing cultural mores.  Perceived as an attack on the status quo, the song could be threatening to older listeners.  “Satisfaction”  offered plenty of attitude – not only in its lyrics, but also in its sound and the way the Stones delivered the song.   “Satisfaction,” in fact, had enough attitude and swagger to wilt any set of established values its listeners might choose to target.  It became an all-purpose, anti-establishment anthem with broad applicability.  The song was a good fit for its times and audience.


Breakthrough

The Rolling Stones pictured on “Satisfaction” record sleeve, from left: Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger (looking a bit out of it), and Brian Jones, 1965-66.
The Rolling Stones pictured on “Satisfaction” record sleeve, from left: Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger (looking a bit out of it), and Brian Jones, 1965-66.
     For the Rolling Stones, “Satisfaction” proved to be the breakthrough song; the one that set them apart and sent them on their way toward superstardom. The group performed “Satisfaction” on American TV even before the single was released in the States.  On May 20, 1965, they appeared on the ABC show Shindig! from Los Angeles.  “Satisfaction” was released as a U.S. single by London Records on June 6th,1965, with another somewhat obscure song on its B-side, “The Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man.”  The Stones were then touring in the U.S., the third time they’d been to the States.  But at the time they were still a new group to many in America.  As part of this tour, for example, on May 4th, 1965, they performed at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.  On June 5, 1965 they played to about 3,000 people at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, Florida.  “Satisfaction,” meanwhile, had entered the Billboard Hot 100 that week and rose to No. 1 by July 10th, displacing The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself.”  The song was also featured on the Rolling Stones’ third U.K. album, Out of Our Heads, also released in the U.S. in July 1965.

Keith Richards & Brian Jones comparing guitar licks,1960s.
Keith Richards & Brian Jones comparing guitar licks,1960s.
     Glenn Gass, a professor at the School of Music at Indiana University, told ABC News decades later on the 45th anniversary of “Satisfaction,” that although there were many great songs that year from groups such as the Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, the Byrds, the Four Tops and others, “Satisfaction” nonetheless “claimed that summer.”  The song held the top spot on the record charts for four weeks until August 7, 1965, when another English band, Herman’s Hermits, hit No. 1 with their tune, “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am.”  Still, “Satisfaction” remained on the Billboard charts for 14 weeks.  The song sold 500,000 copies in its first eight weeks, giving the Stones their first official gold record award by the Recording Industry Association of America.  The song also put the Stones on the path to “Beatles-level” popularity.  “They were already going strong,” said Indiana University’s Gass of the Stones’ growing popularity then, “but that song put them in the Beatles’ stratosphere of rarified air.”“…It was the song that really made the Rolling Stones, changed us from just another band into a huge, monster band…”
                    - Mick Jagger
 Mick Jagger himself would later acknowledge much the same in a 1995 interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine:

“…It was the song that really made the Rolling Stones, changed us from just another band into a huge, monster band.  You always need one song.  We weren’t American, and America was a big thing and we always wanted to make it here.  It was very impressive the way that song and the popularity of the band became a worldwide thing.  It’s a signature tune, really,…a kind of signature that everyone knows.  It has a very catchy title.  It has a very catchy guitar riff.  It has a great guitar sound, which was original at that time.  And it captures a spirit of the times, which is very important in those kinds of songs… Which was alienation.  Or it’s a bit more than that, maybe, but a kind of sexual alienation.  Alienation’s not quite the right word, but it’s one word that would do.”

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1967, two years after “Satisfaction” was released.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1967, two years after “Satisfaction” was released.
     “Satisfaction” did, however, in the mid-1960s, tread upon sensitive ground with its lyrics suggesting frustrated adolescent sexuality — i.e., not getting any “girl reaction” – interpreted by some listeners and radio programmers as meaning a girl willing to have sex.  In fact, when the Rolling Stones performed the song on the TV show Shindig! in 1965, the line “trying to make some girl” was censored.  And again, when they performed it later on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1966 the same line – “trying to make some girl”– was not used.

     “Satisfaction” also put rock music, and the Rolling Stones, on something of a more raucous, more bawdy, harder-edge path – a distinction some would later draw in comparisons to the Beatles.  The Beatles, of course, had just been through their 1964-1965 “Beatlemania” period with a phenomenal run of pop hits and lots of “yeah, yeah, yeah.”  The Stones, on the other hand, were coming on with a little different sound; providing music that had more of an R&B- and blues-tinge to it.  “Satisfaction” was a “great ‘no’ to the Beatles’ ‘yeah’,” offered Glenn Gass from Indiana University in a 2010 interview with ABC News at the song’s 45th anniversary.  Others, including writer Tom Wolfe, would go farther.  “The Beatles,” he once famously wrote, “just want to hold your hand.  The Rolling Stones want to burn your town down” – an exaggeration, of course, but the message was plain.

Ed Sullivan talking with Mick Jagger; Keith Richards in background, at another, later show rehearsal, January 15, 1967.
Ed Sullivan talking with Mick Jagger; Keith Richards in background, at another, later show rehearsal, January 15, 1967.
     But it wasn’t just the Stones who were supplying that harder edge to rock music.  In 1964 there had also been bluesy songs like the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” and even the Beatles did their raucous cover of “Twist and Shout” that year.  The Stones themselves also had the bluesy 1964 hit, “Time is On My Side,” which rose to No. 6 that November.  Bob Dylan, meanwhile, had “Like A Rolling Stone” in the summer of 1965, a landmark message song.  Still, “Satisfaction” grabbed center-stage attention at the time, appealing to mainstream rock audiences in a new way.  It was a distinctive turn.  After 1965-1966, of course, the music would change again, and the change would escalate, with much more innovation, new sounds, and good music to come – from the Stones, Dylan, the Beatles, and many others.

     The Stones, for their part, would follow “Satisfaction” with a long list of other 1960s’ hits, such as: “Get Off My Cloud” and “As Tears Go By” in 1965; “Paint it Black” and “19th Nervous Breakdown” in 1966; “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Ruby Tuesday” in 1967; “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man” in 1968; “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Honky Tonk Woman” in 1969, and many more.  The Stones, in fact, were just getting started in the 1960s, with about four more decades of music-making and performing ahead of them.  “Satisfaction,” meanwhile, would experience a spike in sales after being heard in movies such as Apocalypse Now in 1979 or Starman of 1994, as well as during and after the Stone’s many concert tours.

In November 2004, Rolling Stone magazine put “Satisfaction” at No. 2 among its ‘500 Greatest’ songs.
In November 2004, Rolling Stone magazine put “Satisfaction” at No. 2 among its ‘500 Greatest’ songs.
     Over the years, “Satisfaction” has been accorded high honors in the pantheon of rock `n roll.  The song has been noted in various “top 100 lists” by Vox, BMI , VH1, MTV, Q magazine and other media and rock music venues.  Newsweek once called the song’s opening guitar riff, “five notes that shook the world.”  In November 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed the song at No. 2 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”– second only to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”.  In 2006, “Satisfaction” was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry, songs deemed to be among those that are culturally and/or historically significant.

     Other stories at this website on the Rolling Stones, their music, and business history include, for example, “Paint It Black” (song history & subsequent uses); “Stones Gather Dollars” (how the Rolling Stones helped develop a lucrative concert touring model); “Start Me Up” (Bill Gates & Windows 95 theme song), and “Shine A Light, 2008” (Rolling Stones film trailer).  Additional story choices on other topics at this website may be found on the Home Page or in the Archive.  Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle


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Date Posted: 11 July 2011
Last Update: 11 March 2012
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “…No Satisfaction, 1965-1966,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 11, 2011.

____________________________________


 


Sources, Links & Additional Information

Young Rolling Stones, London, England,1963: From left: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones (1942 - 1969), Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.
Young Rolling Stones, London, England,1963: From left: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones (1942 - 1969), Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.
Decca record label for Rolling Stones’ 1965 song, “Satisfaction,” by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards.
Decca record label for Rolling Stones’ 1965 song, “Satisfaction,” by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards.
Young Rolling Stones, early 1960s, U.K. street scene.
Young Rolling Stones, early 1960s, U.K. street scene.
Screen shot from Rolling Stones' performance in the October 1964 T.A.M.I. Show, filmed in Santa Monica, CA, where they performed “Time in On My Side” and “It’s All Over Now,” among others.
Screen shot from Rolling Stones' performance in the October 1964 T.A.M.I. Show, filmed in Santa Monica, CA, where they performed “Time in On My Side” and “It’s All Over Now,” among others.
Mid-1960s: Rolling Stones shown with wunderkind studio producer, Phil Spector, with sunglasses.
Mid-1960s: Rolling Stones shown with wunderkind studio producer, Phil Spector, with sunglasses.
Mick Jagger on stage, with Keith Richards and Brian Jones behind him, as Stones debut “Jumpin Jack Flash” at a New Musical Express (NME) concert in the U.K., May 1968.
Mick Jagger on stage, with Keith Richards and Brian Jones behind him, as Stones debut “Jumpin Jack Flash” at a New Musical Express (NME) concert in the U.K., May 1968.

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“No. 2: Satisfaction – Rolling Stones,” Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs, December, 9 2004.

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“Paint It Black”
1966-2000s

Record sleeve for ‘Paint It Black’ single issued in South Africa, 1966, with B-side, ‘Long Long While’.
Record sleeve for ‘Paint It Black’ single issued in South Africa, 1966, with B-side, ‘Long Long While’.
     In the spring of 1966, all was not well in the world.  The Vietnam War was raging and  American involvement there was escalating.  U.S. troop strength had reached 200,000 by then, and draft quotas at home had doubled.   Earlier that spring, in April, U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AR), one of the few Senators challenging U.S. involvement in Vietnam, had given his famous “Arrogance of Power” speech  at Johns Hopkins University – a speech critical of the “might-makes-right”  approach and more, aimed squarely at the U.S.   In Vietnam, meanwhile, the military government of South Vietnam under Premeir Ky was doing battle with Buddhist rebels in Da Nang in mid-May.  Also at this time, China had come forth with its Cultural Revolution pronouncement.

     Despite these woes, the day-to-day rhythms of life went on as normal throughout much of the world.  In America, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall dedicated the new Gateway Arch in St. Louis on May 25th, 1966.   Busch Stadium, home to baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, had opened there earlier that spring.  In the world of boxing, late May, Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, would knock out the U.K.’s Henry Cooper in a six-round heavyweight match in London.

Young Rolling Stones shown on German single, 1966.
Young Rolling Stones shown on German single, 1966.
     In music, the Beach Boys had released their Pet Sounds album, and Bob Dylan his Blonde on Blonde album.  About that time as well, around mid-May 1966, a new song titled “Paint It Black” by the British rock group the Rolling Stones, began to be heard across the U.S. and in the U.K.  It was one of those hard-driving rock ‘n roll tunes from this raucous new group that was catching on in a big way.

Music Player
“Paint It Black”

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     “Paint It Black,” written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, is not a happy tune in its lyrics, but in 1966 its musical appeal pushed it to the top of the pop charts.  Released as a single, the record reached No. 1 in the U.S. and the U.K. in late May, holding the top position for two weeks or so.  It remained in the Top 40 for ten weeks through the summer.  The song became popular throughout Europe and around the world.

“Paint It Black”

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love, both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a newborn baby it just happens ev’ryday

I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and it has been painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not forsee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me before the morning comes

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
Hmm, hmm, hmm…

I wanna see it painted black, painted black
Black as night, black as coal
I wanna see the sun, blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black
Yeah

 

Hot Group

     The Rolling Stones by this time already had two big breakthrough hits in 1965 – “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “Get Off of My Cloud” – along with two top albums that year; Out of Our Heads and December’s Children.  Their third album Aftermath, which included “Paint It Black” in the U.S version, was also a hit.

     “Paint It Black” is about a man whose lover has died, and is beside himself with grief, seeing his whole world “painted black.”  He even wants the sun “blotted out.”  He’s depressed, feeling down, worthless, and without direction or connection.  Some say that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were then on an introspective writing streak partly influenced by Bob Dylan’s work.  “Paint it Black” came out a few months after the Stones had released their last single, “19th Nervous Breakdown.”

     “Paint It Black” also has some eastern musical influences, as a sitar is used in the song.  The sitar’s use came about through Brian Jones, then the group’s lead guitarist, who had visited with the Beatles’ George Harrison who was also then using the Indian instrument.  The sitar’s use in the song, says music critic Richie Unterberger, “qualifies as perhaps the most effective use of the Indian instrument in a rock song.  The exotic twang was a perfect match for the dark, mysterious Eastern-Indian melody. . .”

 

'Paint It Black' single sleeve, Italy, 1966.
'Paint It Black' single sleeve, Italy, 1966.
Long Sales Life

     “Paint it Black” would become one of those songs from the Rolling Stone’s catalogue that would enjoy a second and third sales life, in some cases, 30 and 40 years after its initial release.  It would be re-issued as a single on at least two other occasions – once in June 1990 when it hit the U.K charts for three weeks, and again in May 2007 when it hit the U.K. charts for a week or so, reaching No. 70.  The song has also appeared on at least a dozen Stones albums and compilations.  Billboard rated “Paint it Black” No. 21 on its list of the 100 top songs of 1966.  But beyond the conventional record business, pop chart performance, and awards, “Paint It Black” has also found its way into a number of other uses, particularly in film, television, and video games.  These uses have kept the song very much alive and well for many years beyond the 1960s.

Vietnam Association

The ‘Tour of Duty’ TV program, late 1980s, used ‘Paint It Black’ as its opening theme song.
The ‘Tour of Duty’ TV program, late 1980s, used ‘Paint It Black’ as its opening theme song.
Later packaging of ‘Paint It Black’ with red banner corner note that reads: ‘As Featured on the TV Series Tour of Duty’.
Later packaging of ‘Paint It Black’ with red banner corner note that reads: ‘As Featured on the TV Series Tour of Duty’.

     In the late 1980s, “Paint It Black”  became associated with the Vietnam War due to its use in both the ending credits of the 1987  film Full Metal Jacket and its use as the theme song for Tour Of Duty, a CBS-TV show about the Vietnam war which ran from 1987-1990.  The airing of the song on the TV show, which played around the world, contributed to its revised popularity in the late 1980s-early-1990s.  In May of 1990 in the Netherlands,  after “Paint It Black” was re-released there as a single again, it hit the No.1 position  on the Dutch Top 40 chart.  Later marketing and packaging of the song in those years also referred to the Tour of Duty TV show.

     Some Vietnam veterans have identified with the song as well.  One writer to SongFacts.com – “Bill,” from Queens, New York – made the following observation about the song’s Vietnam association:

“…While the Rolling Stones’ song “Paint It Black” was not written about the Vietnam War, it has great meaning for many combat veterans from that war.  The depression, the aura of premature death, loss of innocence, abandonment of all hope are perfectly expressed in the song.  When you walk off the killing fields, still alive, physically intact, you want everything painted black, like your heart, your soul, you mind, your life.”

     “Paint it Black” was also used on the NBC-TV show American Dreams  in a 2004 episode when a central character in the show — young J.J. Pryor from Philadelphia, PA — goes missing in Vietnam.  The song’s other film appearances, either in its original or cover versions, include: 1997′s The Devil’s Advocate, a thriller/horror film starring Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, and Charlize Theron;1999′s For Love of the Game, a film about baseball with Kevin Costner; and, Stir of Echoes, a supernatural thriller, also in 1999, starring Kevin Bacon.

     On television, “Paint It Black” has also had more recent uses, as in a July 2003 pilot episode of the cable TV show Nip/Tuck – a show described by New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley as “a ‘Miami Vice”-style drama about two dashing and unscrupulous plastic surgeons in South Florida.”  In the pilot episode, as a facial reconstruction takes place, “Paint It Black” plays on.  Cover versions of the song have also been used in a number of other TV shows and films.  Writer Stephen King has used “Paint It Black”  in his Dark Tower series of novels; the song is heard by several characters as they pass the same music shop in New York at different time periods.  Janet Fitch’s 2006 novel Paint It Black is named after the song, and uses the first four lines from the lyrics as a quote preceding the first chapter.

 

‘Paint It Black’ is one of the songs used in this popular ‘Guitar Hero’ video game.
‘Paint It Black’ is one of the songs used in this popular ‘Guitar Hero’ video game.
Video Games

     The video game industry has also discovered “Paint It Black.”   The song is used in a number of games – either during game play or heard in the background.  Among games using the song are: Conflict: Vietnam, Twisted Metal: Black, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and the Eve of Destruction modules for Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Vietnam, and Battlefield 2.  “Paint It Black” is also used in one version of the karaoke game SingStar.  The song has also been used in some video game advertising.  A number of video game players have stated that their first experience with the song was hearing it on one of the games.  A parent named “Viki” from Liberty, Texas wrote SongFacts.com to share her view of the song as used on the Guitar Hero game:

“…I love hearing this song come out of my 12-yr-old kid’s room when he’s playing Guitar Hero 3.  He asked me if I’d ever heard of it.  I laughed so hard and told him I was raised on it!!  You can diss Guitar Hero all you want, but it’s introducing a whole new generation of kids to classic rock songs – which are WAY better than the crap they’re coming out with now!!”

“…Every kid these days knows ‘Paint It Black’ because it’s in Guitar Hero…”

      Another writer, responding in late October 2008 to a short story in the New York Times about some Beatles music being planned for a new interactive video game, raised concerns about which songs should be included in video games, noting the prominence of “Paint It Black”:

“…I’m a music teacher, and lately I’ve been finding that Guitar Hero and similar games actually help and inspire kids to learn to play real instruments – they don’t necessarily replace real instruments in kids’ minds.  My only concern is the extent to which Guitar Hero creates a rigid repertoire of songs that kids know – every kid these days knows “Paint It Black” because it’s in Guitar Hero, but it’s strictly a matter of opinion whether that’s a better Rolling Stones song than “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Street Fighting Man,” which no kid knows or cares about.  Similarly, the producers of the new Beatles game need to take very seriously their responsibility of passing on the right songs to the next generation….” – I. Barry D’Paul

 

Oct 1989 edition of Forbes business magazine featuring Mick Jagger & Keith Richards.
Oct 1989 edition of Forbes business magazine featuring Mick Jagger & Keith Richards.
“Paint it Lost”

     In any case, “Paint It Black” has had a long and varied career since it was first launched in May of 1966.  In 2004, the song was ranked No. 174 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”  But sadly for the Rolling Stones, “Paint It Black” is one of the tunes they no longer control; losing rights to the song during their younger years.  In a legal settlement with an earlier manager named Allen Klein, the Stones relinquished their publishing rights, along with lucrative royalties, to this song and others.  In 1965, Klein, a New York manager also involved with other rock groups, had helped the Stones negotiate a new contract with Decca Records, then winning the group their first million-dollar payday.  But in the process, Allen Klein also helped himself.  His company, ABKCO, still retains the rights to the Stones’ early songs from the 1960s to 1971.  The Stones parted ways with Klein in 1970, and have long since become a much more sophisticated and business-  savvy rock ‘n roll group.  See, for example, “Stones Gather Dollars, 1989-2008.”

     Other stories about the Rolling Stones at this website include: “…No Satisfaction, 1965-1966,” “Start Me Up, 1995,” and the trailer for the Martin Scorsese film, “Shine A Light, 2008.”  For additional stories on music see the Annals of Music category page.  Thanks for visiting – and please consider supporting this website.  Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 19 March 2009
Last Update: 22 August 2014
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Paint It Black, 1966-2000s,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 19, 2009.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

“Paint It Black,” Wikipedia.org.

“Paint It Black,” Song Facts.com.

Alessandra Stanley, Television Review, “Snipped, Implanted, But Short Of Perfect,” New York Times, July 22, 2003.

Richie Unterberger, “Paint It Black, Rolling Stones,” Song Review, All Music.com, as of February 2009.

I. Barry D’Paul, comment to the New York Times, October 30, 2008.

“Allen Klein,” Wikipedia.org.

Jack Doyle, “Stones Gather Dollars, 1989-2008,” The Pop History Dig.com.

“J. William Fullbright,” Wikipedia.org.

 

 

 

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