Study Guide

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction Lyrics

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And a man comes on and tells me
How white my shirts can be
But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
The same cigarettes as me

Quick Thought

The line references the cigarette ads that were a major source of television advertising revenue until 1971. (Through a line about detergent. Something tells us Mick Jagger doesn't give a dirty handkerchief about dingy white shirts.)

Deep Thought

The twenty years following World War II were the golden age of tobacco: GIs returned home with a new addiction, and the television became a household commodity. Cigarette companies poured millions into television advertising, sponsoring popular shows like Gunsmoke and securing endorsements from national icons like Mickey Mantle.

But the 1964 release of a Surgeon General's report linking tobacco to lung cancer and emphysema led many to demand that the government ban tobacco advertising on television and radio. The Federal Trade Commission recommended an immediate ban, but political support for the measure could not be mustered until the end of the decade. In 1970, Congress passed a law prohibiting tobacco advertising on television and radio. But as a last-minute concession to the industry, the ban that was to go into effect at midnight on December 31st, 1970 was pushed back one day so that cigarette companies (and television stations) could take advantage of the large audiences tuning in to watch the New Year's Day football bowl games.

Industry analysts estimated that the ban cost television and radio networks roughly $220 million in 1971, about 7.5% of their total advertising revenues.

I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no girl reaction

Quick Thought

This verse was often deemed too sexually explicit for airplay, usually because the phrase "girl reaction" was misheard as "girlie action" or "girl with action."

Deep Thought

Oddly enough, many of the complaints regarding the "vulgarity" of the song were aimed at lines that were either misheard or relatively tame. The line “I can't get no girl reaction“ was often heard as "I can’t get no girlie action" or "I can’t get no girl with action."

The line that was most problematic for television censors was "and I'm tryin' to make some girl."

Yet what many might consider to be the most graphic line in the song was one most listeners did not understand. The line explaining that the dissatisfied narrator has to "come back next week 'cause you see I'm on a losing streak" refers to a woman being on her period.  Jagger labeled this the "dirtiest line" in the song, but he also offered a naturalistic defense: "It's just life. That's what really happens to girls. Why shouldn't people write about it?"

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