Since they initially burst onto the scene in the early 1960s, The Rolling Stones have played a significant role in the development of rock and roll. The Stones introduced a distinctive energy to the genre with their hard-hitting and gritty style, fusing blues, country, and rock to produce an unmistakable sound that has impacted other bands and genres over the years. With such a great career, they had a Caribbean-style song which deemed, ‘crap’ but went on to become one of their most loved classics.
Reggae music’s origins in the 1960s are sometimes attributed to The Rolling Stones. They did draw some influence from the sounds of Jamaica and incorporated them into their own music, despite the fact that they were primarily interested in rock and blues. Some claim that a well-known reggae song served as the inspiration for their most famous song, “Sympathy for the Devil.” Whether or not the Rolling Stones had a genuine passion for reggae music, they had an indelible impact on it.
In the ‘Under the Influence’ documentary, Richard has stated, “What I love about reggae is that it’s all so natural, there’s none of this forced stuff that I was getting tired of in rock music. Rock ‘n’ roll I never get tired of, but ‘rock’ is a white man’s version, and they turn it into a march, that’s [the modern] version of rock. Excuse me, I prefer the roll.”
Back then, when they had to go through a lot when ‘Start Me Up’ was in production. Start Me Up’s riff may be one of Keith Richards’ favorites, but while the 1981 hit was being transformed into a reggae song, it was on the verge of being forgotten. During his interview with Guitar World, he said, “I was convinced that was a reggae song…. We did 45 takes like that. But then on a break I just played that guitar riff, not even really thinking much about it; we did a take rocking away and then went back to work and did another 15 reggae takes.”
During the recording, Mick Jagger even said that the song was “crap”. It was too many takes for such a band. Richards has always had his finger on the reggae and roots music pulse. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Johnny spoke favorably of the time The Rolling Stones were recording Goats Head Soup in Jamaica in 1973.
He said, “[It was] very memorable, especially in that year. Because that was ’73. That was the year that [Bob] Marley and the Wailers put out Catch A Fire. I remember being in Jamaica. There was this feeling in the air, actually, that Jamaica was starting to make a mark on the map. It was a great feeling.”
After many years the band had changed and that’s when Jagger discovered the rock version of the riff which Richards had made. It was the ideal song to demonstrate that they could succeed with something visceral in the stilted era that followed the death of punk. The “crap” song was therefore adapted and quickly turned into a timeless hit.
During an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Keith told, “Mick wrote it, I wrote the music, he did the words. Get a single together. What’s amazing about that one for me is the sitar. Also, the fact that we cut it as a comedy track. Bill was playing an organ, doing a take-off of our first manager who started his career in show business as an organist in a cinema pit, We’d been doing it with funky rhythms, and it hadn’t worked, and he started playing it like this and everybody got behind it. It’s a two-beat, very strange. Brian playing the sitar makes it a whole other thing.”
Richards has contributed a strong and recognizable guitar riff to the song, which serves as the foundation for the remainder of it. A show-stopping rendition of the song by The Rolling Stones during their 1981 tour had the audience singing along. The song “Start Me Up” went on to become a timeless classic and one of the band’s biggest hits.