Jagger & Keith Richards
Recording date: October-December 1977 & April-July 1981
Recording locations: Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France; Mobile Unit, warehouse, Paris, France;
Atlantic Studios, Electric Ladyland Studios, Hit Factory & Power Station, New York City, USA
Producers: The Glimmer Twins Associate producer & chief engineer: Chris Kimsey
Performed onstage: 1981-82, 1989-90, 1994-95, 1997-99, 2002-03, 2005-07, 2012-19, 2021
Probable line-up:Drums: Charlie Watts
One of the great luxuries of the Stones is they have an enormous, great big can of stuff. I mean, what anybody hears is just the tip of an iceberg. You know, down there is vaults of stuff. But you have to have the patience and the time to actually sift through it.
It was from Emotional Rescue (sic) (note: the basic track is from Some Girls). It was just SITTING there, and no one had taken any notice of it. There were like 40 takes. What happened, I think, is we made it into a reggae song after, like, take 12, and said, well, maybe another time. I used take 2. And I found it, put it together... it was one of Keith's sort of tunes... I wrote the lyrics, put it on, and Keith said, I can't believe it, it's just wild.
I knew that (song) was there, and I knew it was so good. It's really what inspired me to say I'm sure I can put an album together with what's already there. That was my ground base, that song.
It was Keith's great riff, and I wrote the rest. The funny thing was that it turned into this reggae song after two takes. And that take on Tattoo You was the only take that was a complete rock and roll take. And then it went to reggae completely for about 20 takes. And that's why everyone said, Oh, that's crap. We don't want to use that. And no one went back to Take 2, which was the one we used, the rock track.
Start Me Up was a reggae track to begin with, totally different. 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... (laughs)... 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 (sic), but it was nowhere near coming through, and we put it aside and almost forgot about it. Then, when we went back in the can to get material for Tattoo You, we stumbled on a non-reggae version we'd cut back then and realized that was what we wanted all along.
Somewhere in the middle of a break, just to break the tension, I just... (mimics hitting guitar chord) and we hit the - Charlie and I hit the rock and roll version. And five years later, when somebody sifted all the way through these - after about 70 takes of Start Me Up and found that one in the middle, you know, it was just buried in there. Nobody remembered cutting it (laughs), nobody remembered doing it. You know, it was like time out kind of thing. And so we leapt on it and we did a few overdubs on it and... It was like a GIFT, you know, like all songs are gifts really.
(I)mmediately after Miss You was recorded, Start Me Up got straightened out. They'd been throwing it around as a reggae song, but they rearranged it and, within 24 hours of Miss You', Start Me Up was recorded. 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 didn't 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.
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. So, for Charlie it was especially difficult, because he would never know where anything was unless Mick was doing a guide vocal - that's why I got him to sing through the PA setup. Charlie would follow Mick to determine where the chorus was or whatever, and sometimes Mick would change it, confusing everybody even more. They'd all be on the edge, and that's why it was so great when they did get it right together... Throughout the recording, Charlie kept it very straight ahead and Keith just went for itIt was like Oh, I remember this, as they played along, and it just stuck together with a lot of space. That's the song's magic, really.
I have the impression that it was a riff that Mick brought along, like Don't Stop for Forty Licks - very much a Mick kind of idea, although in the end Start Me Up became a Mick and Keith-welded song with contributions from both of them. It was one of those genuine collaborations between the two of them, with a little magic from both sides happening instantly.
No, man. I love Start Me Up. I love Tumbling Dice.
Got something I want you to hear, (Keith) said. Memphis Minnie - and some other things. The tape started, indecipherable. Ah, it's not wound properly. Keith shook the recorder and it rattled as if it were about to fall apart. After a couple of shakes it was working fine, playing a tape of blues from the 20s and 30s - Minnie Douglas, Curley Weaver, Butterbeans and Susie. I went into my much-rehearsed speech about how the old bluesmen had been ripped off... The bellman arrived with our food and I was so relaxed and vaguely nauseated from the heroin that I took one bite of my hamburger and put it down. Keith didn't eat either. Lucille Bogan sang Shave 'Em Dry, which begins, I got nipples on my titties as big as the end of yo' thumb, I got something 'tween my legs can make a dead man come - and goes on from there to get dirty.
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