Start Me Up

Album: Tattoo You (1981)
Charted: 7 2
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  • The Stones first recorded this at the Some Girls sessions in 1977. After the first two takes, they recorded it with a reggae beat a bunch of times, but didn't like the result. They put it away until four years later, when they needed a song for Tattoo You. They went back to the second take and reworked it for the album.
  • Keith Richards: "The story here is the miracle that we ever found that track. I was convinced - and I think Mick was - that it was definitely a reggae song. And we did it in 38 takes - 'Start me up. Yeah, man, cool. You know, you know, Jah Rastafari.' And it didn't make it. And somewhere in the middle of a break, just to break the tension, Charlie and I hit the rock and roll version. And right after that we went straight back to reggae. And we forgot totally about this one little burst in the middle, until about five years later when somebody sifted all the way through these reggae takes. After doing about 70 takes of 'Start Me Up' he found that one in the middle. It was just buried in there. Suddenly I had it. Nobody remembered cutting it. But we leapt on it again. We did a few overdubs on it, and it was like a gift, you know? One of the great luxuries of The Stones is we have an enormous, great big can of stuff. I mean what anybody hears is just the tip of an iceberg, you know. And down there is vaults of stuff. But you have to have the patience and the time to actually sift through it." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Microsoft paid $10 million to use this for their Windows '95 advertising campaign. Although it became common practice in years to come, this was one of the first times a hit song was used in a major marketing campaign.
  • The Stones first recorded this in Paris the same day in 1977 that they recorded "Miss You."
  • As he did with "Honky Tonk Women" and some other Stones songs, Keith Richards played this in open G tuning. The guitar tablature contains notation for just the top 5 strings. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • This became a staple at sporting events. It is usually played before some kind of action or the start of a game.
  • The Stones used this to open their 1989 Steel Wheels tour.
  • Ford used this in ads that started just after midnight on January 1, 2003. It was part of a campaign to reintroduce their cars to the American public, with commercials airing on sporting events as well as an episode of The Simpsons where Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were guest stars. This was the first time a Stones song was used in a car commercial.
  • The Stones played this at halftime of the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit. Two years earlier, Janet Jackson had her famous "Wardrobe Malfunction" during her performance, so the NFL wasn't taking any chances - they cut the volume on the line "You make a dead man come."
  • Producer Chris Kimsey recalled in the book Classic Tracks: The Real Stories Behind 68 Seminal Recordings by Richard Buskin: "After they cut it, I said, 'That's bloody great! Come and listen'. However, when I played it back Keith said, 'Nah, it sounds like something I've heard on the radio. Wipe it.' Of course, I didn't, but he really did not like it and I'm not sure whether he likes it to this day. I don't think it's one of his favourite songs, although it's obviously everyone's favourite guitar riff; his guitar riff. Maybe because Keith loves reggae so much, he wanted it to be a reggae song, but that wasn't to be."

    "Including run-throughs, 'Start Me Up' took about six hours to record," Kimsey added. "You see, if they all played the right chords at the right time, went to the chorus at the right time and got to the middle eight together, that was a master. It was like, 'Oh, wow!' Don't forget, they would never sit down and work out a song – they would jam it and the song would evolve out of that. That's their magic."
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Comments: 36

  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaUsed to hear it on the old NBA broadcasts.
  • Melinda from AustraliaAmazing song. And I’m really glad they lost it for a few years. And didn’t release it till 1980 I think. It was the first single I ever bought when I was 15. The delay meant that for my generation we were introduced to a whole new era of The Rolling Stones. Yeah we knew their old songs. And loved them. But Start Me Up was picked up hugely by the 1980’s kids. It was modern rock.
    And don’t worry, we picked up the saucy lyrics, and loved it. This song was huge. And clearly about sex.
    And I loved it when Microsoft used it for their 1st ad on TV in 1995. It was a really appropriate song to usher in the more modern world of mass computers to us. And we thought, well if they are using our song, this is for us. Us office workers were already using computers by 1995, but Microsoft Windows was about the future. The name of the song Start Me Up was a play on the start icon of the internet explorer screen. Pure genius advertising.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 9th 1981, the Rolling Stones' 'Tattoo You' tour made a stop at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles...
    At the time the quintet's "Start Me Up"* was at #7 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; sixteen days later on October 25th it would peak at #2 for 3 weeks...
    {See third post below}...
    Opening for the Stones was Prince, who was dressed in bikini briefs and a trench coat, his performance lasted 15 minutes due to extreme booing and the crowd’s throwing of beer cans...
    * "Start Me Up" was the 22nd song in the group's 26 song set.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 25th 1995, Bill Gates' Microsoft introduced its latest operating software, 'Windows 95'...
    And on that same day in 1981, "Start Me Up" was in its second week on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, it was at position #35...
    {See next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 17th 1995, Microsoft announced that the company bought the rights to use the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" in their advertising campaign for their Windows 95 software...
    And exactly fourteen years earlier on August 17th, 1981 the song was in its first week on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, it was at position #61...
    {See next post below}...
    It peaked at #2 on the Top 100 for three weeks; the first week it was at #2, the #1 record was "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" by Christopher Cross and for its 2nd and 3rd week at #2, "Private Eyes" by Daryl Hall and John Oates was in the top spot for both those weeks.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 16th 1981, "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #61; and on October 25th, 1981 it peaked at #2 {for 3 weeks} and spent almost a half-year on the Top 100 {24 weeks}...
    And on August 30th, 1981 it reached #1 {for an amazing 13 weeks} on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart...
    In Australia it also reached #1 {for 1 week}, that was on November 9th, 1981 on the Kent Music Report chart...
    It was their second record that peaked at #2 on the Top 100, "19th Nervous Breakdown" made it to the runner-up spot for 3 weeks in 1966 {the boys have had eight records make it to #1 on the Top 100}.
  • Jeff from Beverly Hills, MaWhen the Stones were playing at Fenway Park, a local female reporter began her live spot by saying "start me up!" she obviously did not get the sexual aspect of the lyrics. It still makes me laugh to think about it.
  • Brian from Boston, MaGreat song.When I first starting playing guitar this is one song I tried many times to play.I just assumed it was all barre chords,not so. This song is played with an alternate tuning known as open G. I wish I had known this when I tried so many times unsuccessfully to play it.Keith Richards uses Open G on many of the Stones songs.Such as Brown Sugar Can't You hear me knocking and others.He also plays these songs without the botttom or low E string.I play this and other Stones songs in open G now and they sound great and are fun to play.So to any new guitar players out there don't waste your time trying to play these songs in standard tuning they just wont sound the same.Also the Black Crowes whos' sound has been compared to that of Stones use open G tuning on many of their songs as well.such as Twice As Hard Jealous Again and Hard to Handle
  • Brenda from Danville Pa, PaThe Rolling Stones are the most awesome ever next to Aerosmith they are on top of my list there are times i can't decide which i like the best so it is a very close second Angie and Dream on are my favorite Songs LOve you guys keep Rocking. Mick and Steven
  • Leslie from San Diego, CaKeith Richards had an old (circa 1935) blues album of Lucille Bogan "Shave em Dry" which contains some pretty explicit and naughty lyrics on the album's signature track. The line "I got somethin' between my legs'll make a dead man come" contains the phrase that Richards lifted up from that track hook and sinker. Start me up is definitely a tongue in cheek sexual metaphor about sex couched as a love of a car/motor cycle. Incidentally the Bogan album has lyrics that the Richards/Jagger combo could never dream of writing in today's culture!!
  • Jesus Herrera from Mexico, --Back in the 80s, there was this very, very popular radio station in Mexico City, called Rock101. When they started, at 06:00 AM of June 1st, 1984, the first song aired was Start me up
  • Ben from Sd, Albaniasomeone told me Smoky Robinson recorded Start Me Up before the Stones. Where can I get info on this?
  • John from Brisbane, United StatesIt is good to know that the Rolling Stones reinvigorated the good old days of disco music.Disco Duck is bad,just aweful but I can really dance with this song.I can boogie oogie oogie all night long with this song. Eat your heart out K C and the donna suumer sunshine band.
  • Stephen from Dublin, IrelandThe line Jagger closes the song with is a nod to the 30s recording by Lucille Bogan (pseudonym Bessie Jackson) which featured the verse:

    'I've got nipples on my titties as big as you thumb,
    I've got a ***** between my legs'd make a dead man cum'.

    (Bill Wyman mentions this recording in an interview with Conan O'Brien in the 1990s in reference to his blues anthology publication.

    Rock on!)
  • Steve from Troy, NyThe beginning drum intro played by Charlie Watts was a studio blunder. Charlie had a difficult time finding beat one due to the odd riff by Keith and messed up on the recording but quickly fixed it once the song kicked in. They decided to keep it due to its odd feel.
  • Susan from Toronto, CanadaThe line "Little chicken you will blow my top" is answered in the Stones 2005 song ROUGH JUSTICE with the line, "One time you were my baby chicken, now you've grown into a fox."
  • Skip from Mandeville, LaIt's been well documented over time and in Goldmine magazine that Start Me Up was recorded for Black And Blue, which was from late 1974 through early 1976 (as were 2 other tunes on Tattoo You). Hence when Keith says five years, 1977 is not five years and besides, the drum sound alone does not fit Some Girls.
  • Craig from Melbourne, AustraliaOften used to start concerts, in Sydney they started with Jumping Jack Flash. Start me up was performed in the middle of the show. A wall of flames shot across the mammoth stage as Keith started the intro.
  • Rock Rules from Chennai, Indiai would say keith richards he has written most of the lyrics and riffs for some of the most popular stones songs
  • Dylan from Branson, MoThey played this in the Bridges To Babylon tour in 1997-00'
  • Steve from Winnipeg, Canadaamazing song my friend says if he"ll start me up ill never stop
  • Bj Gumby from Wilmington, De"Start Me Up" was also covered by The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Schearer) in the soundtrack for the mockumentary "A Mighty WInd." They try to do it as a folksong with very funny results.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI thought the Stones were OK at the Superbowl, but it, in my opinion, wasn't the best thing ever or anything.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI guess he didn't listen closely enough to the lyrics. The guy from Ontariothat is.
  • Bram from Zoetermeer, NetherlandsMick or Keith?
  • Steve from Ottawa, CanadaFormer Ontario Premier Mike Harris wanted to use this song for his re-election campaign in the 1990s, until he was told it was about sex which didn't really fit in with his "Common Sense Revolution".
  • Andrej from Ljubljana, OtherI just love this song
    The lyrics sucks,but the song just starts me up everytime=)
  • Ethan from Portland, OrHey Mike,

    did we watch the same performance? The Stones were awesome at the Superbowl! what exactly was your complaint?
  • Mike from Warwick, RiThe Super Bowl XL performance proved that the Stones still make a lot of money for over-the-hill rockers...rubbish, pure rubbish.
  • Rick from Seattle, WaThe Stones played this song during halftime at Super Bowl XL. The last two lines were censored by ABC. ABC had announced that they were instituting a 5-second delay for the half-time performance on the Friday afternoon prior to the game. However, they didn't use the delay, they just turned off Mic's microphone during those lines. They did the same thing during the song "Rough Justice', deleting one word at the beginning of that song.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaTurning Japanese was my first songfaq. But I forgot about the site for about 3 months. Then I searched "Jets" by Paul McCartney and then I got back into songfacts. You guys rock. Live forever.
  • Renee from Corona, Cai saw the rolling stones in concert in august, in CT. they opened with start me up. pretty good song.
  • Jonathan from Oklahoma City, OkI remember hearing this on The Simpsons. Very good episode.
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Ctstart me up was my first song fact!!
    it was about a year ago and at that time i was really into this song, i wanted to know more about it ya know. i wanted to know the year the meaning, the lyrics, exc. anyway so im searching for any info on it, and i come across this site, needles to say i was very satisfied and after lookin at some other songs i decided to join, and that was that.
  • Taal from Brisbane, AustraliaThis song also featured in the 1996 film, "The Fan" starring Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes. DeNiro sings it when it comes on the radio when he is driving his son to Baseball Open Day?.
  • Mitch from Colton, CaAt the end of the song when Jagger repeats the line "You make a grown man cry", he also sings something else. The song fades out with Jagger singing "You make a dead man cum". This line is from some really old blues song from the 1930's. I forget what it's called or who it's by.
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