147) The Rolling Stones – “Get Off of My Cloud”

When an artist scores a big hit, typically the aim is to try to replicate that success on some level. Often this replication is quite literal, with the follow-up expressly geared to trigger fond memories of its predecessor. One approach is to hew as closely to the previous hit as possible, changing just the minimum number of variables to qualify the new record as a separate song (see The Supremes). The other option follows the Hollywood sequel formula: everything you liked about the original but kicked up a notch, resulting in a record that is bigger and (theoretically) better. “Get Off of My Cloud,” then, is the big-budget redux of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” with a busier arrangement and an even headier attitude.

The two songs adhere to the same basic template – Mick Jagger drawls out a few anecdotes about things that are pissing him off, interspersed with a refrain emphasizing how pissed off he is – but “Cloud” ups the stakes. Whereas the Jagger of “Satisfaction” was griping about his own inability to be satisfied (“I can’t get no”), in “Cloud” he’s directing his anger outward to encompass anyone daring to get in his way (“hey, you, get off of my cloud”). The detergent salesman from “Satisfaction” is no longer just on TV; now he appears in person (and loud clothes) at Jagger’s apartment. Jagger’s reference to the man’s “Union Jack” suit suggests his role as avatar of consumerism in the previous song has expanded to include governmental interference as well. The political references resurface in the third verse, where Jagger isn’t even free to sit in his car without getting swamped in parking tickets (described as “flags stuck on my windscreen”). As with “Satisfaction,” though, Jagger doesn’t really concern himself about the meaning behind what’s holding him down. He’s more interested in describing the feeling of being young and disaffected – and, in the case of “Cloud,” asserting himself in opposition to a world that seems set against him, even if he knows it’s ultimately useless.

The bigger-and-more mentality of the lyrics also turns up in Andrew Loog Oldham’s production, where each member of the group seems to be playing on their own cloud, oblivious to what their bandmates are doing. It sounds under-rehearsed and poorly mixed, especially in comparison with the previous hit, but the sloppiness actually works in its favor. The lean meanness and repetition of “Satisfaction” emphasized its single-minded frustration; the churning, overcrowded “Cloud” reflects the busyness of the world Jagger’s trying to escape. Only Charlie Watts’s drums have enough force to punch through the sonic murk. His intro, like Keith Richards’s “Satisfaction” riff, encapsulates the song’s exasperation, bouncing discontentedly in place before accelerating into a fury, like fists punching a wall in frustration.

Often the problem with sequels is that the surface extras are meant to mask a shortage of ideas. But while “Get Off of My Cloud” isn’t quite the bolt from the blue that its predecessor was, the Stones’ antisocial shtick and songwriting craft are still strong enough to delay the onset of diminishing returns. Nevertheless, the Stones recognized the danger of repeating themselves. The week “Cloud” went to #1, it shared the Top 10 with Bob Dylan’s even nastier “Positively 4th Street,” while a procession of vicious garage rock singles bubbled up below. For the follow-up, then, the band played against type by releasing the strings-laden “As Tears Go By,” a gentle, wistful ballad that couldn’t have been further from their two prior singles – a sign that their ambitions extended beyond endless reiterations of the same formula, no matter how good they were. 8

Hit #1 on November 6, 1965; total of 2 weeks at #1
147 of 1014 #1’s reviewed; 14.50% through the Hot 100

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4 Comments

Filed under 08, 1965

4 responses to “147) The Rolling Stones – “Get Off of My Cloud”

  1. Pinstripe Hourglass

    I actually like “Cloud” much more than its predecessor, though I’ve never been sure if that’s because of “Cloud”‘s merits or “Satisfaction” being so overplayed. I’ve never been able to enjoy “Satisfaction” very much – it’s brought down by all the self-important weight put on it, fairly or unfairly (I feel the same way about “My Generation”). “Cloud” feels looser, unrestrained by critical hemming and hawwing, which lets the song’s individualism shine where “Satisfaction”‘s doesn’t.

  2. “Cloud” gets points for being frequently misheard. A colleague in middle school once told of the time her dad heard her singing “Get off of My Clown.”

  3. col1234

    when i was very young, I thought this song was called “under my thumb” (I knew the Stones had a song w/that name, having seen it on a record sleeve). So I believed the chorus was: “HEY! YOU! Get UNDER MY THUMB!” And it’s a murky enough recording that I don’t think I was completely clueless to think so.

  4. Pinstripe Hourglass

    The mix is so bad I assume it was an artistic decision. It’s hardly two steps above “Louie Louie”!

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