Start Me Up

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Start Me Up"
Single by the Rolling Stones
from the album Tattoo You
B-side"No Use in Crying"
Released14 August 1981 (1981-08-14)
  • January & March 1978 (basic track)[1]
  • April–June 1981 (vocals and overdubs)
GenreHard rock
LabelRolling Stones
Producer(s)The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones singles chronology
"She's So Cold"
"Start Me Up"
"Waiting on a Friend"
Music video
"Start Me Up" on YouTube
Tattoo You track listing
11 tracks
Side one
  1. "Start Me Up"
  2. "Hang Fire"
  3. "Slave"
  4. "Little T&A"
  5. "Black Limousine"
  6. "Neighbours"
Side two
  1. "Worried About You"
  2. "Tops"
  3. "Heaven"
  4. "No Use in Crying"
  5. "Waiting on a Friend"

"Start Me Up" is a song by the English rock band the Rolling Stones from their 1981 album Tattoo You. Released as the album's lead single, it reached number one on Australian Kent Music Report, number two in Canada, number two on the Billboard Hot 100, number seven on the UK Singles Chart, and the top ten in a handful of European countries north of the Alps.

Writing and recording[edit]

The basic track "Start Me Up" was recorded during the January and March 1978 sessions for the Rolling Stones' album Some Girls.[1] The song began as a reggae-rock track named "Never Stop", but after dozens of takes it was abandoned. "Start Me Up" was not chosen for the album and was saved for later use. Richards 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 "Brown Sugar" again,' so you begin to explore other rhythmic possibilities. It's basically trial and error. As I said, that one was pretty locked into a reggae rhythm for quite a few weeks. We were cutting it for Emotional Rescue, but it was nowhere near coming through, and we put it aside and almost forgot about it.[2]

In 1981, with the band looking to tour, engineer Chris 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 City at the recording studios Electric Lady Studios and The Hit Factory.[1] 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.[1]

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.[1] 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.

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

Billboard said that "its catchy refrain easily worms its way into the memory."[3] Record World said that the song is highlighted by "biting, raunchy guitars and a rhythm kick that spanks hard."[4]

A music video was produced for the single, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.[5] According to Lindsay-Hogg's recollection, Jagger and Watts proposed the collaboration to him over lunch with Jagger particularly keen to emulate the style of video shown on MTV, which he regarded as "the future".[5] The subsequent production became one of the most programmed videos of MTV's early years.[5]


"Start Me Up" peaked at number seven on the UK Singles Charts in September 1981 and remains the last Rolling Stones song to appear in the UK top 10. In Australia, the song reached number one in November 1981. In the US, "Start Me Up" spent three weeks at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in October and November 1981, the Stones' biggest hit of the 1980s in the United States.[6]

It also spent 13 weeks atop the Billboard Top Tracks chart.[7] This set a record for most weeks at #1 that was not broken until 1994, when Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song" spent 15 weeks on top. The B-side is a slow blues number called "No Use in Crying", which is also included 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 (recorded 1981, released 1982), Flashpoint (recorded 1989, released 1991), Live Licks (recorded 2003, released 2004), Shine a Light (recorded 2006, released 2008), and Hyde Park Live (2013). It also features on several Stones live concert films and DVD/Blu-ray sets: Let's Spend the Night Together (filmed 1981, released 1983), Stones at the Max (filmed 1990, released 1991), The Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Live (filmed 1994, released 1995), Bridges to Babylon Tour '97–98 (filmed 1997, released 1998), Four Flicks (2003), The Biggest Bang (filmed 2006, released 2007), Shine a Light (filmed 2006, released 2008), Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013), and Havana Moon (2016, bonus track). The song was the first of three songs played by the Stones at halftime during Super Bowl XL in 2006.[5]

The song has been included on every major Stones compilation album since its release, including Rewind (1971–1984), Jump Back, Forty Licks and GRRR!. Writing for AllMusic, Stewart Mason noted, "there were hits after 'Start Me Up,' but at this remove, it's undeniable that this 1981 single was the last great Rolling Stones song."[8] Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the 8th Best Sports Anthem.[9]


Credits sourced from Sound On Sound.[10]

The Rolling Stones

Additional personnel



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[28] 3× Platinum 210,000
Italy (FIMI)[29] Platinum 70,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[30] Platinum 600,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Commercial usage[edit]

Microsoft paid about US$3 million to use this song in their Windows 95 marketing campaign.[31][32] This was the first time that the Rolling Stones allowed a company to use their songs in an advertising campaign.[33] 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.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Buskin, Richard. "Classic Tracks: Start Me Up". Sound on Sound. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  2. ^ "Start Me Up". Time Is on Our Side. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  3. ^ "Top Single Picks". Billboard. 15 August 1981. p. 83. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  4. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. 15 August 1981. p. 1. Retrieved 1 March 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d Fornatale, Pete; Corbett, Bernard M.; Fornatale, Peter Thomas (2013). 50 Licks: Myths and Stories from Half a Century of the Rolling Stones. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 201–202. ISBN 9781608199211.
  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. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Song Review: Start Me Up". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Music | New Music News, Reviews, Pictures, and Videos". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 3 May 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  10. ^ Buskin, Richard (April 2004). "Classic Tracks: The Rolling Stones 'Start Me Up'". Sound On Sound.
  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, New South Wales: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  13. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  14. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0400." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  15. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Start Me Up". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 38, 1981" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  17. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  18. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  19. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up". VG-lista. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  20. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  21. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  22. ^ "Rolling Stones: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  23. ^ "The Rolling Stones Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  24. ^ " – The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  25. ^ "National Top 100 Singles for 1981". Kent Music Report. 4 January 1982. p. 7. Retrieved 11 January 2022 – via Imgur.
  26. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1981". Ultratop. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  27. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1981". Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  28. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2023 Singles" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association.
  29. ^ "Italian single certifications – The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 4 January 2022. Select "2021" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Start Me Up" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  30. ^ "British single certifications – Rolling Stones – Start Me Up". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  31. ^ McNamara, Paul (29 June 2011). "What Microsoft paid The Stones to help launch Windows 95". Network World. Archived from the original on 25 October 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  32. ^ "Toronto’s Jingle King still crooning" Archived 5 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine Toronto Star, Christopher Reynolds 5 June 2016
  33. ^ "Rolling Stones Sell Microsoft Right To Use Song In Ads". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  34. ^ "Rolling Stones Help Launch Omega Olympic Campaign with 'Start Me Up'". Rolling Stone. 31 May 2012. Archived from the original on 25 October 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2016.