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Technique

In naming “Satisfaction” the second greatest song of all time, Rolling Stone emphasized the attitude of the music—Richards’ “primal temper,” Jagger’s “sneering” vocals, and the rhythm section’s “avenging strut.” Yet perhaps the most distinctive feature of the song was the result of technology, not attitude. Keith Richards added an edge to his simple riff by using a distortion box—or, more precisely, a Gibson Maestro Fuzz-tone.   

Richards’ use of the fuzzbox sent Gibson sales through the roof, but he was actually still learning how to use the device when the Stones recorded the song. In fact, someone ran off to a nearby music store to buy the fuzzbox in the middle of the recording session after Richards grew dissatisfied with the amount of distortion he was able to generate just with his amp.

Richards’ inexperience with the box can actually be heard in the recording. At roughly the 35-second mark you can hear Richards tap it on. And at the 2:30 mark Richards plays a random distorted note.

If Richards was a bit careless, it may have been because he anticipated that horns would eventually record over his guitar. From the start, he had wanted horns to play the famous riff; his purpose in the early session was to lay down a track that the horns could imitate later. But the producer and the rest of the band preferred the guitar—and so it remained, flaws and all.

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