In the fall of 1965, The Rolling Stones found themselves overwhelmed by the immense popularity of their hit single, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and the pressure to follow that accomplishment with another great track was mounting. In a remarkable feat, the band took that demand and turned translated it into, not only just another #1 hit, but one of their most lasting, popular tracks of their 50-plus year career -“Get Off of My Cloud.”
The Rolling Stones were formed in London in 1962, inspired by American blues and the early rock and roll records coming out of the late fifties. While Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had been childhood friends and classmates at Wentworth Primary School in Dartforth Kent in the early fifties, they had lost touch by the end of the decade. They reconnected, however, by a chance meeting at the train station in October of 1961.
Richards recalled: “In a town like Dartford, if anybody’s headed for London or any stop in between, then in Dartford Station, you’re bound to meet….The thing about Mick and my meeting was that he was carrying two albums with him – Rockin’ at the Hops by Chuck Berry, and The Best of Muddy Waters. I had only heard about Muddy up to that point.
The pair began talking about their shared musical interests and Richards invited Jagger over for tea that afternoon. The pair sat around listening to their favorite records, and soon realized they had a common friend in guitarist Dick Taylor (with whom Jagger had been playing in a garage band). Their first band was Little Boy Blue and the Blues Boys, in which they mostly performed covers of artists like Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
In 1962, the pair went to see Alex Korner’s band Blues Incorporated, at the Ealing Club in London. It was here, where they witnessed (for the first time) the talents of guitarist Brian Jones. Richards, Jagger and Jones quickly became friends and musical partners, alongside Ian Stewart and Tony Chapman. They also were invited to jam alongside Korner’s group, which had now secured a regular gig at the Marquee Club. When Korner had to cancel his slot one night, the nascent Rolling Stones stepped in. This first gig at the Marquee Club on July 12, 1962, featured Richards, Jagger, Jones, Taylor and Steward. In his 2010 memoir, Richards recalled that future Kink’s bandmember Mick Avory on drums. In these early gigs, they went by the name, “Brian Jones and Mick Jagger and the Rollin’ Stones.” By the end of 1962, Bill Wyman had replaced Taylor on guitar, and by early 1963, they had convinced former Blues Incorporated drummer, Charlie Watts to join the group. Gigging around the UK, the band quickly grew in popularity and by May, they had signed the young, but ambitious, Andrew Loog Oldham as their manager. The Stones were then signed by Dick Rowe to Decca Records. Rowe’s reputation in the industry as the man-who-turned-down-the-Beatles, was turned around by a tip from George Harrison during a talent contest, in which they both were judges. Harrison had heard the Stones perform at the Crawdaddy and encouraged Rowe to check them out. Rowe did just that and the rest is history.
Shortly thereafter, the band was in Olympic Recording studios, recording their first tracks. A cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” was released as their debut single and reached twenty one on the UK charts. Their next single, “I Wanna Be Your Man” was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and this time they broke the UK top 20. Another cover followed, this time a Buddy Holly song (“Not Fade Away”). The band’s popularity was steadily growing and “Not Fade Away” hit number 3 in the UK. It was also their first US release, hitting number 48 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their first UK #1 came next with the Bobby and Shirley Womack song, “It’s All Over Now.”
“Time is On My Side” gave the band their first US top 10 hit.
The Stones were clearly captivating audiences with their powerful performances and signature attitude, but they had yet to showcase their songwriting talents. Richard’s recalled in his autobiography, that they didn’t really find their confidence as songwriters until their February 1965 single “The Last Time”. Richards reflected:
“Mick and I knew by now that really our job was to write songs for the Stones. It took us eight, nine months before we came up with “The Last Time,” which is the first one that we felt we could give to the rest of the guys without being sent out of the room. If I’d gone to the Rolling Stones with “As Tears Go By,” it would have been ‘Get out and don’t come back.’ Mick and I were trying to hone it down. We kept coming up with these ballads, nothing to do with what we were doing. And then finally we came up with “The Last Time” and looked at each other and said, let’s try this with the boys. The song has the first recognizable Stones riff or guitar figure on it; the chorus is from the Staple Singers’ version, “This May Be the Last Time.” We could work this hook; now we had to find the verse. It had a Stones twist to it, one that maybe couldn’t have been written earlier—a song about going on the road and dumping some chick. “You don’t try very hard to please me.” Not the usual serenade to the unattainable object of desire. That was when it really clicked, with that song, when Mick and I felt confident enough to actually lay it in front of Brian and Charlie and Ian Stewart, especially, arbiter of events. With those earlier songs, we would have been chased out the room. But that song defined us in a way, and it went to number one in the UK.
The follow up did even better, giving the band their first international hit. It undoubtedly remains one of their most iconic tracks – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The band’s popularity had been steadily growing up until this point, but “Satisfaction” elevated the band to an entirely different level. Richards recalled: “Then we were on a roller coaster. I remember after ‘Satisfaction’, which was a time of great triumph, a worldwide hit, Mick and I were sitting back in some motel room, in San Diego, if I remember rightly. We gave this big sigh of relief and it was exactly at that moment that there was a knock at the door and the phone started ringing and people wanted the next hit…..”
The follow up single, “Get Off of My Cloud,” would take that pressure and turn it into a massive hit, establishing the band’s signature attitude. The song was written by Jagger and Richards in response to the overwhelming success of “Satisfaction and the pressure to follow up with another hit. Richards explained: ”‘Get Off My Cloud’ was basically a response to people knocking on our door asking us for the follow up to ‘Satisfaction,’ which was such an enormous hit worldwide. This, to us, was mind-blowing. I mean not only was it a #1 record but, boom! We thought, ‘At last. We can sit back and maybe think about events.’ Suddenly there’s the knock at the door and of course what came out of that was ‘Get Off Of My Cloud.’ Because within three weeks, in those days hey, they want another single. And we weren’t quite ready for that. So it was our response to the knock at the door: Get off of my cloud. And I’m surprised that it did so well. I mean it has a certain charm but I really remember it as a knee-jerk reaction. And it came out better than I thought.”
Jagger called it “a stop-bugging-me, post-teenage-alienation song” in response to the restrictive society of the sixties, and the lyrics to the chorus absolutely capture that frustration. The verse lyrics are particularly interesting for their accessibility. Like the verses in “Satisfaction” we find little vignettes of frustration. The verses are not necessarily the complaints of rock stars (although the noise complaint certainly fits the bill). Instead, they are the frustrations of everyday life; frustrations to which their fans could all relate: advertisements and solicitations, noise complaints and parking violations.
The song opens with Charlie Watts’ iconic drums. They set the tone and illustrate his classic sound. Watts had learned his technique observing the world of jazz – the records of Thelonius Monk, Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker. Inspired by the drumming of Chico Hamilton (who had played with Charles Mingus and Dexter Gordon) Watts had created his first snare drum out of a banjo head:“I wanted to play like that, with brushes. I didn’t have a snare drum, so I put the banjo head on a stand.” “Get Off of My Cloud” may not employ that brushed, drum sound, but it does perfectly illustrate the elegant swing of his heavy pulse.
The song also relies on the same guitar riff-based formula as “Satisfaction”, as does “The Last Time.” All three are riff-based songs that are propelled forward by Watts’ energetic groove. The twin guitars are played by Jones and Richards, further establishing what we now hear as that iconic Stones sound. If you listen carefully you can hear Ian Stewart’s subtle piano line alongside the rhythm guitar. Richards explained: “I think that was just a matter of saying, “Stu, this sounds a bit thin. Can you just play a little piano under it?” ….that was just one of those things you could do in those days—shadow a guitar with a piano. As long as you didn’t make it obvious, it would add some different air to a track. ‘Cause that was all four-track time. Basically, you had to get it in the room. There was no, “What if we overdubbed added violins?” The only choice was to decide whether you’d got it or if you had to do another take.”
“Get Off of My Cloud” was recorded at RCA studios in Hollywood on September 6 and 7, 1965. RCA’s original location had been near NBC studios since 1959, but in April of 1964, the studio had moved to its new location on Sunset Blvd where it remained until the late seventies. This was the space in which the Rolling Stones would record many of their classic tracks, as would Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Eartha Kitt, Elvis Presley and Henry Mancini.
The song was produced by Oldham with Dave Hassinger as the engineer. The sessions were quick, trying to capitalize on the band’s immediate popularity. The track was released only a few weeks later, on September 25 in the US and October 25 in the UK. It immediately became a hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 on November 5, 1965. It also held the number one spot in the UK, Canada and Germany and the number two spot in several other countries including Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, and the Netherlands.
And it remained a hit – a staple of classic rock radio and a beloved classic for generations. In 1989, the Stones were inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll hall of fame, and they remain active performers to this day. As one of the band’s biggest early hits, “Get Off of My Cloud” helped establish The Rolling Stone’s legacy as rock’s original bad boys, and certainly one of the biggest (and longest lasting) bands in rock history.
Written by Caitlin Vaughn Carlos
Watch the video below to learn more about “Get Off My Cloud”!