Song of the Week: “I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters

by Douglas Cowie on 26 October 2018

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters:

In his book The Third Coast, Thomas Dyja describes the results of the April 1948 recording session that produced “I Can’t Be Satisfied” as “the musical equivalent of watching a prehistoric fish climb out of the primordial ooze, sprout legs, and run,” which is about as good a description of almost anything I could hope to read. In this case it also accurately captures the thrill of listening to music history changing forever on the genius of a single performer. If you listen to “Good Lookin’ Woman” and “Mean Disposition” you can hear exactly what Dyja is talking about. They’re good, solid recordings of standard blues, but don’t sound, with Sunnyland Slim’s piano and Big Crawford’s bass accompanying Muddy’s guitar and voice, too many steps down the road from “Memphis Blues,” which swims in something not far removed from Dyja’s primordial ooze. “I Can’t Be Satisfied” is all guitar and voice, all sex and menace, all electric charge flying around inside a bottle and threatening to smash it to pieces, a whole new way of playing and singing and listening to the blues flying out of the studio and onto your record player and back out again in a million different ways.

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