In naming "Satisfaction" the second greatest song of all time, Rolling Stone magazine emphasized the attitude of the music—Richards' "primal temper," Jagger's "sneering" vocals, and the rhythm section's "avenging strut" (Rolling Stone, 9 December 2004, 68). 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.
Mick Jagger has identified "Satisfaction" as the band's calling card, or "signature tune," saying, "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 was alienation" (source).
Prior to the release of "Satisfaction," the band had enjoyed uneven success in the United States. In Britain, the band had scored three #1 hits ("It’s All Over Now," "Little Red Rooster," and "This May Be the Last Time") and a fourth song ("Not Fade Away") had reached #3. But in the U.S., the band's only real chart success came with a #6 hit in 1964, "Time Is On My Side." But after the release of "Satisfaction," the band's popularity with American music fans soared. The single sat on top of the American charts for four weeks and the album containing the song (Out of Our Heads) also reached #1. Over the next year, the Stones released two more chart-topping hits ("Get Off of My Cloud" and "Paint it Black"), and four other songs that reached the top ten.
Cover versions of the song range from the ridiculous (Britney Spears) to the sublime (Otis Redding), and from the international (Gloria Trevi) to the inane (Weird Al Yankovic). Yet the song remains most closely associated with the Rolling Stones. They perform it on every tour and at almost every concert. In 2006, they even sang the song during halftime of the Super Bowl without suffering any wardrobe malfunctions.