“Start Me Up” is a song by The Rolling Stones featured on the 1981 album Tattoo You.
“Start Me Up” was first recorded in Munich during the 1975 Black and Blue sessions, and later in the 1978 Some Girls sessions under the working titles “Never Stop” and “Start It Up.” The song was originally recorded as a reggae-rock track, but after dozens of takes the band stopped recording it, as it reminded them of something currently on the radio. In 1981, with the band looking to tour, producer Chris Kimsey proposed to lead singer Mick Jagger that archived songs could comprise the set. While searching through the archives, Kimsey found two takes of the song with a more rock vibe among some fifty reggae versions. Overdubs were done on the track in early 1981. 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. 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.”
Although the lyrics to the song might be read as double-entendres referring to motorcycle racing,
“Spread out the oil, the gasoline; I walk smooth, ride in a mean, mean machine…”
“Kick on the starter give it all you got, you got, you got; I can’t compete with the riders in the other heats…”
“My eyes dilate, my lips go green; My hands are greasy; She’s a mean, mean machine…”
they are clearly sexual in nature:
“I’ve been running hot; You got me ticking gonna blow my top; If you start me up, If you start me up I’ll never stop.”
The song opens with what has since become a trademark riff for Keith 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. 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;
“You make a grown man cry (x2); Ride like the wind at double speed; I’ll take you places that you’ve never, never seen.”
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.
The song reached No. 2 in the US and No. 7 on the UK Singles Charts in August 1981, and no. 1 in Australia in November 1981. It remains a significant single as the Stones have not been back into the UK Top 10 since. It was #1 during 13 weeks on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks. The B-Side was a slow blues number called “No Use In Crying” which also featured on the Tattoo You album. A popular music video was produced for the single, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
“Start Me Up” is often used to open the Stones’ live shows and has been featured on the live albums Still Life, Flashpoint, Live Licks, and Shine a Light. It has been included on every major compilation since its release, including Rewind (1971-1984), Jump Back, and Forty Licks.
* A former MuchMusic program used this title in the 1990s.
* The song was one of three played by the Rolling Stones at halftime during the Super Bowl XL in 2006. 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 Mick Jagger had agreed prior to leave out the lyrics.
* Microsoft Corporation used this song in the 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. The song was subsequently parodied by Bob Rivers, as “Windows 95 Sucks,” a song often attributed to Weird Al Yankovic, in response to Microsoft’s use of the song in their marketing campaign.
* In 2003, “Start Me Up” became the first Rolling Stones song used in a car commercial when it was used in a campaign for Ford.
* The song was covered by The Folksmen and is heard on the soundtrack for the film A Mighty Wind, although it is not included in the film itself.
* Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the 8th Best Sports Anthem.
* Liam Kyle Sullivan’s Myspace alter ego “Kelly” paid tribute to this song in the song “No Booty Calls,” a song between Kelly and her horny ex-boyfriend. He states, “Start me up, you make a dead man come” to which she responds, “Then you can just drop dead, cause you ain’t gettin’ some.”
* Tay Zonday recently made a cover of the song using the karaoke version (the only instrumental version available) while wearing a wig to represent himself as a stereotypical rock star. However, he has covered other songs but removed them due to focusing on original material.
* The Blue Angels use this song when starting up their engines before a performance.
* The song appears in the game Karaoke Revolution Party.
* The song was voted #94 on VH1′s 100 Greatest Songs of the 80s.
* The Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bulls, Montreal Canadiens and Iowa Hawkeyes football team are among those known to use the song during sporting events.
* The portion of the song was used on the album Il cielo ha una porta sola by Italian singer Biagio Antonacci.
* Ruff Ruffman parodied the song for Season 3 of FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman, as “FETCH! is startin’ up”.