World & Nation
AP The Wire
Comics & Games
Home & Garden
Advertise with the Times
By THOMAS C. TOBIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 23, 2000
Clearwater residents can be forgiven for not noticing -- much less commemorating -- the anniversary, distracted as everyone has been with the big summer election over the future of downtown.
Thirty-five summers ago, (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, possibly the greatest rock 'n' roll song of all time, was written here.
The Rolling Stones had played to an estimated 3,000 teenagers at Jack Russell Stadium. They got in only four songs before the crowd turned rowdy (rolls of toilet paper were thrown) and the police stepped in, ending the show and hustling the Stones away.
That night, Keith Richards awoke in his room at the Jack Tar Harrison Hotel (today it's the Fort Harrison) with Satisfaction's opening guitar riff in his head.
Da, da, da-da-daaa da-da-da.
He grabbed his guitar, got the notes on tape and went back to sleep.
Several weeks later, the song became the British rock group's first No. 1 hit in the United States, supplanting Mr. Tambourine Man by the Byrds. It remained No. 1 for four weeks until it was knocked off by Herman's Hermits' I'm Henry VIII, I Am.
This month, a group of 20 legendary pop songwriters, including Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach, ranked it the second-best song ever, behind the Beatles' In My Life.
Another recent poll asked 700 people in the music industry to rank the 100 greatest rock songs. Satisfaction was No. 1, followed by Aretha Franklin's Respect.
Forever linked to the famous tune, Clearwater occupies a lofty place in rock 'n' roll lore -- the kind of distinction that, after 35 years, might warrant a plaque or a sign at the city's entrance.
"Welcome to Satisfaction City."
"Birthplace of Satisfaction."
Or, keeping with the doldrums of a city that can't figure out what it wants of itself:
"Clearwater: Can't Get No Satisfaction."
* * *
Who "can't get no" in Clearwater?
Start with the city's civic boosters, who are still grumbling nearly two weeks after voters rejected their $300-million plan for the downtown waterfront. Developers had promised movie theaters, a hotel, a new library and a host of shops, restaurants and apartments.
But voters said no; they didn't trust their city government. No satisfaction there.
Much of their ire has been directed at Mike Roberto, the progressive-minded city manager who clearly has no job satisfaction. After some tough sledding in recent months, he's leaving the city.
Downtown's biggest property owner, the Church of Scientology, can't buy any satisfaction, having spent millions on its legal defense. Cleared last month in a criminal case over the 1995 death of one of its members, the church still faces a nasty lawsuit from the member's family.
And everyone, it seems, is dissatisfied with the new roundabout, a $10-million traffic circle that was supposed to bring beauty and functionality to Clearwater Beach but instead causes accidents.
Bravely, Clearwater clings to its hopeful motto, "One City. One Future." But the civic mood is decidedly grumpy.
"One City. No future," read the sign last week in front of Pete & Shorty's, a bar and restaurant that sits along the city's gateway on State Road 60. Co-owner Ed Droste says the message was a cry of frustration. Droste also co-owns Hooters, which donated heavily to the pro-redevelopment campaign.
He says the attitude of those who want Clearwater to remain a quiet town is "Let's rain on anything we try to accomplish."
Does he think the city would erect a marker honoring Satisfaction? Fat chance, said Droste, who calls Clearwater "anti-fun."
It is, after all, a town where T-back bathing suits are still banned, and where the city's clean-cut image is at odds with the scruffy, impolite ways that helped rocket the Stones to fame in the 1960s.
At the Clearwater welcome center off the Courtney Campbell Parkway, tourists are greeted by two signs warning "Shirts and shoes required." Inside, the attendant points visitors to the Clearwater Marine Science Center. "They'll be feeding the dolphins at noon," she offers. "That's fun to watch."
* * *
Satisfaction is about sex.
How else to interpret the lines:
"Millions of adolescents decided this was a thinly disguised menstrual reference," writes Robert Palmer in his 1983 biography, The Rolling Stones. "Satisfaction provided a generation of fresh-faced teenagers entree into an arcane but absolutely fascinating new world of grown-up sexuality."
"It's sort of a cultural indictment, if you will," said Joe Ferrandino, a psychotherapist and University of South Florida professor whom local radio listeners know as "Dr. J," a host of radio station WMNF's The '60s Show.
Coming as it did after the "unabashed consumerism" of the 1950s and early 1960s, Ferrandino said, Satisfaction made the statement that those who looked to material goods for fulfilment were destined for disappointment.
* * *
Many thought the latter three lines were a reference to marijuana, but Palmer calls it "a warning that, with basic values like manhood bound up in something as ephemeral as the marketing of new products, satisfaction is going to be in short supply."
Satisfaction, he writes, is "a cry of frustration and impatience" and "a quasi-Marxist critique of consumerism . . . disguised as a mindlessly sexy rock 'n' roll song."
The irony is that the Stones later allowed fame and fortune to turn them into "the essence of consumerism," Ferrandino observed. "They sort of attempted to get their satisfaction."
* * *
It was a Thursday night in Clearwater -- May 6, 1965 -- when the Stones rolled into Jack Russell Stadium, which had long been the spring home of the Phillies, and still is.
The group had yet to hit its prime. (Remember, Satisfaction wasn't out yet.)
But they already were huge. That spring in England, fans were selling the band's used cigarette butts and trying to buy water the group had washed in.
Four nights before they came to Clearwater, the Stones appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the second time.
The city and WLCY radio dubbed the Clearwater show the "Star Spectacular." Four local groups were warming up the crowd when word spread that the Stones had arrived. Scores of fans rushed to the railings, some of them climbing on top of the dugouts.
The announcer urged everyone back to their seats before the show would start. On stage, the Stones made it through four numbers, including Time Is On My Side and Little Red Rooster.
Then, about 200 high school-age boys tried to crash a line of 18 Clearwater police officers.
They dumped chairs onto the field and taunted the officers. They threw rolls of toilet paper and cups of dirt. All available police units were dispatched to the stadium, and three teenagers were arrested.
The Stones were hustled to a white station wagon and chased by scores of fans, some of them falling dangerously close to the moving car. Later, some fans tried to sneak into the Jack Tar Harrison Hotel by lowering the fire escape ladder.
It was a classic 1960s affair: kids running amok, adults trying to restore order. Even Clearwater was not immune to the wild winds of social unrest.
"This is it," proclaimed Gary Garretson, then head of the city recreation department. "There will never be another show like this as long as I am here."
The City Commission called a special meeting the next day to hear police Chief Willis D. Booth complain: "They were running around like they were in some kind of frenzy."
Willis barred any future concerts, saying his officers were "vilified in a way that was most uncomplimentary, and I would not subject them to this again."
News reports from back then sound genteel in light of all that has happened in the 31/2 decades since. The youths were referred to as "boys and girls." The Clearwater Sun ran a photo of an officer wagging his finger in the face of one youth. "Take it easy," he warned.
Times reporter Frances Brush got close enough to the Stones in the hotel garage to ask a few quick questions -- a level of access that never would be possible with today's superstars. In her report, Brush expressed surprise that "The boys are not smart alecky . . . are a likable, polite group" and "are reasonably well dressed."
That night, Richards began plucking out the notes that would one day be heard in just about every documentary ever made about the 1960s.
"You can do some of your best writing in hotel rooms," Richards once said. "I woke up with the riff in my head and the basic refrain and wrote it down."
According to several accounts, Richards also came up with the lyrics "I can't get no satisfaction" the next morning, but never thought the song was particularly good. He wanted it done with a horn section instead of the fuzzy-sounding guitar.
"The record still sounded like a dub to me," he once said. "I couldn't see getting excited about it. I'd really dug it that night in the hotel, but I'd gone past it."
Had someone thought to save a memento from the group's stay in Clearwater -- the sheets from their beds or their room records, perhaps -- the city might have the makings of a proper exhibit.
But Wallace Lee, the Jack Tar's manager that year, says he has no memory of the Stones even staying there.
The hotel's place in rock 'n' roll history also was news to the Church of Scientology, which bought the building in 1975, after the name changed to the Fort Harrison Hotel. One of the first Scientologists in Clearwater was Mike Rinder, now a church spokesman, who says he never knew.
When Satisfaction was released, Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst was a fifth-grader living in England, where his father was on a teaching exchange. He said it was all anyone played over the air and in juke boxes.
"It's still one of my favorite songs," he said, laughing. "I can relate to it sometimes."
The mayor, a big supporter of downtown redevelopment, was referring to his dashed hopes after the recent election.
He'd have no problem with an official city tribute to the song, he said, "But I'm not so sure how the people who voted against the referendum would feel about it."
The election, it appears, will be a sore point for years to come. A day after the vote, Tampa Mayor Dick Greco offered solace, saying Clearwater's role in Tampa Bay may not be as the bigger, more vibrant city some want it to be.
In other words, the alien mayor was saying, maybe Clearwater is reaching too high. And if that's the case, it will never get no satisfaction.
Maybe what Clearwater needs is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. But that's a song for another day.
What rocks their world
In January, VH1 released a poll of 700 people in the music industry and their picks of the 100 greatest rock songs. The top 10:
The top 10 best songs
A poll of 20 legendary pop songwriters, released last month, rated the 10 best songs of all time: