Keith Richards Said This Rolling Stones Song Was Initially a ‘Reggae’ Song

The Rolling Stones have primarily stayed within the rock n’ roll genre, but there are a few times when they have veered off course. Fans were divided when the Stones released “Miss You” as a disco track, and many believed they were selling out. According to guitarist Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones almost went in an unexpected direction as one of their biggest hits was originally a “reggae” song.

Keith Richards said The Rolling Stones ‘Start Me Up’ was almost done as a ‘reggae’ song

Many rock bands found reggae music fascinating. It blends many different genres into an intriguing sound fused with Caribbean culture. Some bands attempted reggae, such as Led Zeppelin with “D’yer Mak’er”. According to Songfacts, Keith Richards said they tried to do a reggae song with “Start Me Up”.

The plan was to record “Start Me Up” as a reggae track and release it on their 1978 album Some Girls. After many takes, the Stones realized it wasn’t good enough and cut it from the final draft of the album. However, the band decided to do one take of the song as a rock n’ roll tune, but it got buried under all the other reggae takes. It wasn’t until a few years later that they unearthed it and decided to release it on their 1981 album Tattoo You.

“The story here is the miracle that we ever found that track,” Richards explained. “I was convinced – and I think Mick was – that it was definitely a reggae song. And we did it in 38 takes – ‘Start me up. Yeah, man, cool. You know, you know, Jah Rastafari.’ And it didn’t make it. And somewhere in the middle of a break, just to break the tension, Charlie and I hit the rock and roll version. And right after that we went straight back to reggae.”

“And we forgot totally about this one little burst in the middle, until about five years later when somebody sifted all the way through these reggae takes,” he continued. “After doing about 70 takes of ‘Start Me Up’ he found that one in the middle. It was just buried in there. Suddenly I had it. Nobody remembered cutting it. But we leapt on it again.

“We did a few overdubs on it, and it was like a gift, you know? One of the great luxuries of The Stones is we have an enormous, great big can of stuff. I mean, what anybody hears is just the tip of an iceberg, you know. And down there is vaults of stuff. But you have to have the patience and the time to actually sift through it.”

How did ‘Start Me Up’ perform on the charts?

“Start Me Up” was released in 1981 as the first single to Tattoo You. It reached international success, peaking at No. 1 in Australia, No. 2 in the U.S., and No. 7 in the U.K. While it wasn’t a No. 1 hit in the U.S. or the U.K., it has become one of their most popular songs and is often played at their concerts and various sporting events. It’s better that they went with the rock n’ roll version, as the reggae version might have been too strange for their most passionate fans.

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