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Meaning of the song ‘Start Me Up’ by ‘The Rolling Stones’

Released: 1981

“Start Me Up – Remastered 2009” by The Rolling Stones is a hard-hitting, energized rock anthem that encapsulates the thrill and relentless spirit of rock ‘n’ roll itself. This song isn’t just about igniting something; it’s a metaphorical blast—a rallying cry for anyone who’s felt the push to begin, to move, to not just start but to never stop. It’s about endurance, passion, and the raw, exhilarating power of music to invigorate the soul.

The opening lines, “If you start me up/If you start me up I’ll never stop,” set the stage for a song that’s essentially a declaration of unstoppable motion and a relentless drive. Like a well-oiled machine or a car that roars to life with the turn of a key, once The Stones are set in motion, there’s no slowing down. This is a signature of their long-lasting career—once they hit their stride in the early days of rock, they just kept going, powering through decades of music evolution without ever hitting the brakes.

“I’ve been running hot/You got me ticking, now don’t blow my top” uses the metaphor of an engine running at full capacity. It’s Mick Jagger signaling that he’s at his peak, fueled and fired up, but there’s a plea not to push it too far to the point of overheating. It’s a fine line between burning bright and burning out, a line The Rolling Stones have skillfully navigated throughout their career.

The chorus, with its repetition of “You make a grown man cry,” could be interpreted several ways. On one hand, it might reflect the emotional impact of a powerful force, be it love, life, or the sheer force of rock ‘n’ roll, capable of moving even the most stoic to tears. On another, it’s perhaps a nod to the vulnerability hidden beneath the surface of even the toughest exterior—an acknowledgment that everyone has their breaking point.

“Spread out the oil, the gasoline/I walk smooth, ride in a mean, mean machine” continues with the automotive imagery, likening himself or the band to a powerful, well-maintained vehicle. This metaphor might be about maintaining one’s edge, staying in top form, ready to conquer whatever road lies ahead. It’s as much about the allure of speed and power as it is about the craftsmanship behind it—the artistry of rock music that’s both raw and refined, just like a high-performance engine.

The phrase “Ride like the wind at double speed/I’ll take you places that you’ve never, never seen” promises an unforgettable journey. It’s an invitation from The Rolling Stones to their listeners, offering an experience that’s not just about the destination but the thrill of the ride. It speaks to the adventurous spirit of rock music, urging us to push boundaries and explore uncharted territories.

Finally, “You make a dead man come” closes with a provocative assertion of the song’s—and by extension, rock music’s—power to invigorate, to bring back to life, to stir the spirit in ways nothing else can. It’s a bold claim, but then again, The Stones have never been known to shy away from boldness.

In essence, “Start Me Up” is a celebration of the enduring power and vitality of The Rolling Stones and of rock music itself. It’s a song that refuses to be quieted, embodying the spirit of a band that, once started, truly never stops. Beyond its catchy riff and electrifying vocals, it’s a testament to why The Stones have remained icons: their unyielding commitment to keeping the heart of rock beating, loudly and proudly.

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