It’s late June 1967 and Aretha is wrapping up recording sessions for what will be her second Atlantic album, appropriately entitled “Aretha Arrives.” But a few months earlier, she’s celebrating her first pair of Top 10 hits with “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” in March followed by “Respect” in May. After seven years bereft of the same kind of breakthrough success, Aretha is riding high and there’s much excitement surrounding what will be her sophomore LP for Atlantic.
There are a couple of original tunes included in the choice of material, overseen by producer Jerry Wexler, the Atlantic executive responsible for signing Aretha to the label towards the end of 1966: one, “Baby I Love You,” penned by Detroit songwriter Ronnie Shannon who also composed “I Never Loved A Man”) is selected as the first – and as it turns out only - single from “Aretha Arrives.” Towards the end of 45’s chart run in October, producer Wexler opts for a follow up left from Aretha’s February 1967 sessions but not included on “Aretha Arrives,” the now-timeless “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” which will become one of the key cuts on Aretha’s third Atlantic LP, “Lady Soul.”
Meanwhile, Atlantic’s European licensees – in particular Polydor Records in the UK – are clamouring for a follow-up single since “A Natural Woman” fails to make any impression on the British or European charts. Producer Wexler no doubt in conversations with Frank Fenter, the executive overseeing Atlantic in Britain, knows that an uptempo groove is what’s needed to keep some kind of momentum going.
Aretha’s rousing cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” looks like it will fit the bill. However, unlike “Respect” and “Baby I Love You,” the Aretha version of Mick Jagger & Keith Richards’ massive 1965 hit (also recorded by Otis Redding for his “Otis Blue” LP) has no background vocal parts.
Just in time for a December 1967 release date in the UK, Wexler smartly chooses to create a new version of “Satisfaction,” specifically aimed at European music buyers. Using the same rhythm track as the “Aretha Arrives” LP version (with Spooner Oldham on piano, Truman Thomas on organ, Jimmy Johnson and Joe South on guitar, Tommy Cogbill on bass and Roger Hawkins on drums) and Aretha’s original vocals, Wexler replaces the prominent horn parts on the album version with female background vocalists.
The Atlantic Records’ logs don’t identify the singers providing the memorable vocal parts (such as ‘wearing me down, it’s just wearing me down’), simply listing a November 15, 1967 New York City session as “new version with girls.” Unlike the familiar gospel-flavoured signature sound of The Sweet Inspirations or the Franklin sisters (Erma & Carolyn), it’s almost certain that the primary vocal background part is provided by famed Brill Building songwriter and session singer, Ellie Greenwich. Factually, Greenwich has been asked by Wexler to essentially rearrange the background vocal parts for “Chain Of Fools” which will be released in December 1967 as a single. While no documentary evidence can be provided, it seems highly likely that at the same time as she is working on new background parts for “Chain Of Fools,” adding to the Sweets and Franklin sisters’ existing vocals, she’s also crafting the “Satisfaction” vocals.
Wexler’s strategy works: the new version of “Satisfaction” is released in the UK on Atlantic 584157 as a double-sided single with “Chain Of Fools” in December 1967 and provides Aretha with a Top 40 British hit. Although never issued in the US until its’ inclusion on the 2021 “ARETHA” box set, the driving groove of “Satisfaction” proves to be a winner when Aretha performs it live during her first European tour in May1968, with her background singers recreating the vocal parts on the single. Satisfaction all around!