Story of the Song - Start Me Up, The Rolling Stones (1981)

Robert Webb
Wednesday 17 July 2013 06:40

Under Kimsey's guidance at the Pathé Marconi studio – Paris's Abbey Road – they produced the album Some Girls. Among the candidates for what many see as their last great hurrah was an idea they had sketched out in 1975. Then, it had got no further than a typical Keith Richards' ad-libbed riff on a reggae pulse. On the same December day in 1977 (one of the most profitable in their career) they laid the rhythm for "Miss You", the lead single from Some Girls, then returned to Richards' guitar slab, tentatively titled "Start It Up".

"It came together very quickly," recalled Mick Jagger. "Start It Up" was beginning to sound like a goer after all. But when Richards listened to the playback, it sounded like something he'd heard on the radio – possibly Jay Ferguson's "Thunder Island", whose same stop-start riff was on the Billboard charts. Kimsey was instructed to "bin that". Luckily, he didn't wipe the tape. The Stones took another stab at it during 1979 sessions for Emotional Rescue, but again it bit the dust. Two years on Kimsey suggested to Jagger and Richards there were enough decent but incomplete recordings for an album of "new" material. "I know of several songs you've forgotten about," he told them, dusting off the tape of "Start It Up".

"It was just buried in there," said Jagger. "Nobody remembered cutting it ... it was like a gift." In a Paris studio, Jagger added new lyrics, using as many car metaphors as he could get away with. It was mixed in New York by Bob Clearmountain, whose reverb was achieved in a cloakroom. Jagger howled his vocals and renamed it "Start Me Up". "I never realised how loud he could sing," said Clearmountain. It was the flagship for Tattoo You, the Stones' so-so album of outtakes, and their last Top 10 appearance. It has since become a traditional opener for the Stones' road show.

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