The song was first released as a single in the United States in June 1965 and was also featured on the American version of the Rolling Stones album Out of Our Heads, released in July of the same year. "Satisfaction" was a smash hit, giving the Stones their first number one in the United States. In Europe, the song initially played only on pirate radio stations because its lyrics were considered too sexually suggestive. In Britain the single was released in August 1965, and shot to number one in the United Kingdom; it was the Rolling Stones' fourth UK number one. (The British version of Out of Our Heads, released in September 1965, did not feature "Satisfaction"; it was not standard practice in the United Kingdom at that time to include previously-released singles on albums.)
Richards was concerned that the riff sounded too much like Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" (a song that, coincidentally, Jagger would cover with David Bowie in 1985 as a charity single). Jagger later said: "It sounded like a folk song when we first started working on it and Keith didn't like it much, he didn't want it to be a single, he didn't think it would do very well... I think Keith thought it was a bit basic. I don't think he really listened to it properly. He was too close to it and just felt it was a silly kind of riff." Jagger has also pointed out that the title lyrics closely resemble a line from Chuck Berry's "30 Days". (In actuality Berry's lyric is "If I don't get no satisfaction from the judge".)
Like most of the Stones' pre-1966 recordings, "Satisfaction" was originally released in mono only. In the mid-1980s, a true stereo version of the song was released on German and Japanese editions of the CD reissue of Hot Rocks 1964-1971. The stereo mix features a piano (played either by Ian Stewart or by session player Jack Nitzsche) and acoustic guitar (played by Brian Jones) that are barely audible in the original mono release (both instruments are also audible on a bootleg recording of the instrumental track). This stereo mix of "Satisfaction" also appeared on a radio-promo CD of rare stereo tracks provided to US radio stations in the mid-1980s, but has not yet been featured on a worldwide commercial CD; even the currently-available German and Japanese Hot Rocks CDs feature the mono mix, making the earlier releases with the stereo mix collectors' items.
"Satisfaction" was not immediately released by Decca Records in Great Britain. Decca was already in the process of preparing a live Rolling Stones EP for release, so the new single only came out in Britain in late July, featuring "The Spider and the Fly" on the B-Side. The song peaked at number one for two weeks, replacing Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe", between 11 September and 25 September, before being toppled by The Walker Brothers' "Make It Easy on Yourself".
In the decades since its release, "Satisfaction" has repeatedly been acclaimed by the music industry. In 1976, Britain's New Musical Express listed "Satisfaction" 7th among the top 100 singles of all time. In 1991, Vox listed "Satisfaction" among "100 records that shook the world". In 1999, BMI named "Satisfaction" as the 91st-most performed song of the 20th century. In 2000, VH1 listed "Satisfaction" first among its "Top 100 Greatest Rock Songs"; the same year, "Satisfaction" also finished runner-up to "Yesterday" in a list jointly compiled by Rolling Stone and MTV. In 2003, Q placed the song 68th out of its "1001 Best Songs Ever". In 2004, Rolling Stone's panel of judges named "Satisfaction" as the second-greatest song of all time, coming in second to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". Newsweek has called the opening riff "five notes that shook the world".
Jagger has said of "Satisfaction": "It was the song that really made the Rolling Stones, changed us from just another band into a huge, monster band. … It has a very catchy title. It has a very catchy guitar riff. It has a great guitar sound, which was original at that time. And it captures a spirit of the times, which is very important in those kinds of songs … Which was alienation." Richards claimed that the song's riff could be heard in half of the songs that The Rolling Stones had produced, saying that "there is only one song — it's just the variations you come up with."
The song has become a staple at Rolling Stones shows. They have performed it on nearly every tour since its release, and concert renditions have been included on the albums Got Live if You Want It!, Still Life (American Concert 1981), Flashpoint, Live Licks and Shine a Light. One unusual rendition is included in Robert Frank's film Cocksucker Blues from the 1972 tour, when the song was performed by both the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder's band as the second half of a medley with Wonder's "Uptight".
The song opens with a guitar riff, launching straight into Jagger's vocal line: "I can't get no satisfaction". The title line is an example of a double negative resolving to a negative, a common usage in colloquial English. Jagger sings the verses in a tone hovering between cynical commentary and frustrated protest, and then leaps half singing and half yelling into the chorus, where the guitar riff reappears. The lyrics outline the singer's irritation with the increasing commercialism of the modern world, where the radio broadcasts "useless information" and a man on television tells him "how white my shirts can be - but he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me." Jagger also describes the stress of being a celebrity, and the tensions of touring. The reference in the verse to not getting any "girl reaction" was fairly controversial in its day, interpreted by some listeners (and radio programmers) as meaning a girl willing to have sex. Particularly shocking to some people was a reference to a girl having her period (being "on a losing streak"). The song closes with a fairly subdued repetition of the song's title, followed suddenly by a full shout of the line, with the final words repeated into the fade-out.
In its day the song was perceived as disturbing because of both its sexual connotations and the negative view of commercialism and other aspects of modern culture; critic Paul Gambaccini stated: "The lyrics to this were truly threatening to an older audience. This song was perceived as an attack on the status quo". When the Rolling Stones performed the song on Shindig! in 1965, the line "trying to make some girl" was censored. Forty years later, when the band performed three songs during the February 2006 Super Bowl XL halftime show, "Satisfaction" was the only one of the three songs not censored as it was broadcast.
Similarities have been noted between the melody of the song's pre-chorus ("and i try, and i try, and i try, and i try") and the chorus melody of Bob Dylan's 1962 song "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" ("and it's hard, and it's hard, and it's hard, and it's hard").