If not for a humble tape recorder, one of the most popular songs in history—arguably the greatest rock song ever recorded—may have evaporated in a dream.
It's been 50 years since The Rolling Stones released “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.” The song's iconic guitar riff—those three irresistibly fuzzy notes—came to Keith Richards in a dream.
“On the road, he would use the little cassette machines with the batteries to put his song ideas on the cassette,” the music historian John Covach told me. “He gets up one morning and he notices the cassette machine has gone all the way to the end but he doesn't remember recording anything. So he rewinds and listens. He hears himself getting up in the middle of the night, playing ‘(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,’ and then there's a half-hour of snoring.”
Richards has said he used a Philips recorder in those days. So it was probably a machine that looked something like this:
The Philips portable cassette recorder—built with technology originally developed for use in electric shavers—had only been out for about two years when Richards woke up with a tune he had to get down. (“I had a sound in my head that was bugging me,” Richards once said of his songwriting process.)