Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Michael Metzger

Why did the Rolling Stones’ first U.S. hit strike such a deep chord in this country?

On this day in history, July 10, 1965, the Rolling Stones topped U.S. charts for the first time with the single (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. It signaled a shift. Beatlemania hit the U.S. in early 1964. The Beatles were playful, upbeat. The Stones were dark, restless. Satisfaction struck a chord. It resonated with what C. S. Lewis called “a new approach to life.” Discontentment.

Lewis described this approach in 1954, in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge University titled De Descriptione Temporum (“a description of the times”). This is the first time he described our times as “post-Christian.” Lewis said the “psychological effect” of this was felt in technology and advertising, imposing on us a “climate of opinion so firmly on the human mind” that we have “a new approach to life that separates us from our ancestors.”

This new approach assumes new things are better, including technologies. Old ones are, well, you know, olddated. Ugh. For instance, your cable company offers faster internet. You say Yes! Or you purchase a home with a 20-year-old kitchen. You say No! I can’t cook in that kitchen. Advertising and technology have made us discontent with what we have already.

This “separates us most sharply from our ancestors,” Lewis warned. Our assumption is “that the attainment of goods we have never yet had, rather than the conservation of those we have already, is the cardinal business of life.” This “would most shock and bewilder” our ancestors if they could visit today’s world.

Not just our ancestors. Matthew Crawford is shocked. “Advertising has created a cultural conditioning that is so pervasive… It’s just the water we swim in. It often feels like the point of it is to undermine the sense of contentment that came naturally in previous ages.”

It came naturally because Christians like Paul learned to be quite content whatever their circumstances. “I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.”

We discover Paul’s recipe in his warning to his protégé Timothy regarding false teachers. They treated godliness as a means of material gain. Paul notes that godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied contentment. Then he gives Timothy the recipe:


“… for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (I Tim.6:7 – 10).


Contentment means to be satisfied or pleased with what we have already. That’s rare today. Advertisers define “a living” as making as much as we can so that we spend as much as we can on new stuff that we feel will make us content. It fosters cravings for what we don’t have, driving us to buy what we feel will be satisfying, but leaving little leftover for giving.

Doubt it? In 2022, Americans gave just 1.7 percent of their disposable income to charity, the lowest share since 1995, according to a new Giving USA report. The reasons vary: economic uncertainty, inflation, and so on. But the underlying driver could well be the discontent that causes people to spend too much. As one pastor used to say, “Stewardship decisions are not made in church; they’re made in the real estate office and on the showroom floor.”

The Rolling Stones tapped into our discontent. Watch them perform Satisfaction. Note Keith Richards’ three-note guitar riff. It’s spare, reminding me of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (which is also about getting no satisfaction). To Richard’s riffs, Mick Jagger added Satisfaction’s lyrics. “When I’m watchin’ my TV / 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. I can’t get no satisfaction.” This all struck a chord, for we were on the cusp of a culture of discontentment.

Almost sixty years later, discontentment has caused most American Christians to forget the “great gain” in pursuing godliness: being content to conserve what we have already, rather than the craven pursuit of newer goods that we don’t have.


Morning Mike Check


The Morning Mike Check

Don't miss out on the latest podcast episode! Be sure to subscribe in your favorite podcast platform to stay up to date on the latest from Clapham Institute.


  1. You have finally hit on the sermon for the times. The need for newer technology, faster internet, bigger/better lifestyles is destroying the earth and driving most of life into extinction. There is no contentment because we teach our children to not be content with themselves or what they have, always striving for bigger and better. Education, status, houses, cars, etc that keeps our economy growing and improving. And we are beginning to spread our disease into space and other planets. The end is near, and we are bringing it on ourselves.

  2. This was right on the money! You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you’ll find you get what you need.

  3. I think the flip side of “I can’t get no Satisfaction” is we don’t know how to be grateful for what we already have. You can’t be content with your possessions if you are not grateful for them. I am always amazed at the variety of goods in thrift stores and the people who shop there. I do hope they need what they buy and I am willing to donate to them because, as I get older, I need less “things”. but I wonder if the stuff they buy ends up being donated again in a few years.

  4. Safe in the love of one who’ll never part,
    Of one whose kindness is itself a shield,
    Who understands the deep things of my heart

    Better than I can ever do, I yield
    Myself and my perplexities to him,
    And in his house of mercy I am healed;

    Healed of this world’s bloodthirstiness, it’s grim
    Deceptions, all it’s weary wickedness,
    The death-speak of its tyrants, as they hymn

    The idols of excess, the emptiness
    Of endless purchases, all washed away
    Until my sight is cleansed…

    – M. Guite “Psalm 5 Verba mea auribus”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *