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Start Me Up

"Start Me Up"
Single by The Rolling Stones
from the album Tattoo You
B-side "No Use in Crying"
Released 14 August 1981
Format 7"
Recorded January–March 1978 (Basic Track), April–June 1981 (Vocals and overdubs)
Genre Rock and roll, hard rock[1]
Length 3:34
Label Rolling Stones
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones singles chronology
"She's So Cold"
"Start Me Up"
"Waiting on a Friend"
Tattoo You track listing
Music video
"Start Me Up" on YouTube

"Start Me Up" is a song by The Rolling Stones featured on the 1981 album Tattoo You. Released as the album's lead single, it reached #1 on Australian Kent Music Report, #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the UK Singles Chart.


  • Writing and recording 1
  • Release 2
  • Music video 3
  • Pop culture 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6

Writing and recording

The basic track "Start Me Up" was recorded between the January and March 1978 sessions for the Rolling Stones' album Some Girls[2] The song was at first cut as a reggae-rock track named 'Never Stop', but after dozens of takes the band stopped recording it and it was shelved. "Start Me Up" failed to make the cut for the album, being shelved into the vault. Of the song's history, Richards has commented:

"It was one of those things we cut a lot of times; one of those cuts that you can play forever and ever in the studio. Twenty minutes go by and you're still locked into those two chords... Sometimes you become conscious of the fact that, 'Oh, it's "[3]

In 1981, with the band looking to tour, Kimsey proposed to lead singer Mick Jagger that archived songs could comprise the set. While searching through the vaults, Kimsey found the two takes of the song with a more rock vibe among some fifty reggae versions. Overdubs were completed on the track in early 1981 in New York at the recording studios Electric Ladyland and the Hit Factory.[2] On the band's recording style for this track in particular, Kimsey commented in 2004:

"Including run-throughs, 'Start Me Up' took about six hours to record. You see, if they all played the right chords in 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..."[2]

The infectious "thump" to the song was achieved using mixer Bob Clearmountain's famed "bathroom reverb", a process involving the recording of some of the song's vocal and drum tracks with a miked speaker in the bathroom of the Power Station recording studio in New York City.[2][4] It was there where final touches were added to the song, including Jagger's switch of the main lyrics from "start it up" to "start me up."

The song opens with what has since become a trademark riff for Richards. It is this, coupled with Charlie Watts' steady backbeat and Bill Wyman's echoing bass, that comprises most of the song. Lead guitarist Ronnie Wood can clearly be heard playing a layered variation of Richards' main riff (often live versions of the song are lengthened by giving Wood a solo near the middle of the song, pieces of which can be heard throughout the original recording). Throughout the song Jagger breaks in with a repeated bridge of "You make a grown man cry", followed by various pronouncements of his and his partner's sexual nature. Although the lyrics to the song might be read as double entendres referring to motorcycle racing, they are clearly sexual in nature.

Percussion (cowbell and guiro) by Mike Carabello and handclaps by Jagger, Chris Kimsey and Berry Sage were added during overdub sessions in April and June 1981.[5]


"Start Me Up" peaked at #7 on the UK Singles Charts in September 1981, where it remains a significant single as the Rolling Stones have not been back into the UK top 10 since. In Australia, the song reached #1 in November 1981. In the US, "Start Me Up" spent three weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in October and November 1981, kept from the summit by "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" by Christopher Cross and "Private Eyes" by Hall & Oates.[6] It also spent 13 weeks atop the Billboard Top Tracks chart.[7]

The B-side is a slow blues number called "No Use in Crying" which also featured on Tattoo You.

"Start Me Up" is often used to open the Rolling Stones' live shows and has been featured on the live albums Still Life, Flashpoint, Live Licks, Shine a Light, and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live. It also features on several Stones live concert films: Let's Spend the Night Together (1983), Stones at the Max (1992), The Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Live (1995), Bridges to Babylon Tour '97–98 (1998), Four Flicks (2004), The Biggest Bang (2007), Shine a Light (2008), and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013).

The song has been included on every major Stones compilation album since its release, including Rewind (1971–1984), Jump Back, Forty Licks and GRRR!.

Music video

A popular music video was produced for the single, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.

Pop culture

  • The song was one of three played by the Rolling Stones at halftime during Super Bowl XL in 2006 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. It was speculated that some of the more objectionable lyrics along with those in "Rough Justice" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" had been censored without the singer's consent. It was later discovered that Jagger had agreed prior to leave out the lyrics.[8]
  • Microsoft used this song in their Windows 95 marketing campaign, although paying significantly less than the $14 million rumored. This was the first time that the Rolling Stones allowed another company to use their songs in an advertising campaign.[9]
  • Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the 8th Best Sports Anthem.[10]
  • In 2012, a remixed version of the song was used as the soundtrack to an Omega advertising campaign for their role as official timekeepers of the 2012 Summer Olympics.[11]


  1. ^ "The Top Hard Rock Songs". Allmusic. 
  2. ^ a b c d Buskin, Richard. "Classic Tracks: Start Me Up". Sound on Sound. SOS Publications. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  3. ^ "Start Me Up". Time Is On Our Side. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  4. ^ Jackson, Blair. The Rolling Stones "Start Me Up". Mix Magazine Online. 1 June 2002 (accessed 12 April 2007).
  5. ^
  6. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of #1 Hits, 5th Edition (Billboard Publications), pages 548–549.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 539.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Rolling Stone
  11. ^ Rolling Stone

External links

Preceded by
"You Weren't in Love with Me" by Billy Field
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
9 November 1981
Succeeded by
"Physical" by Olivia Newton-John
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