The Rolling Stones – “Start Me Up” Lyrics Meaning

Photo of author
Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

“Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones uses the metaphor of a car to express intense, possibly obsessive, passion. The song explores the themes of lust and desire, framed in the exhilarating thrill of being ‘started up’ and refusing to stop. The repeated lines about making a ‘grown man cry’ are suggestive of an overpowering emotion or obsession.

The songwriter expresses a need for continuous stimulation, an unending rush, which may not be confined to a person but could signify any life pursuit that triggers intense passion. The lyrics convey an enthusiastic willingness to embrace whatever brings such excitement, even if it ‘wrecks’ or ‘blows the top’.

Curious about the intricate symbolism in The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up”? How does a car metaphor encapsulate intense passion and desire? Let’s dive deep into this lyrical masterpiece.

“Start Me Up” Lyrics Meaning

The opening lines of the song, “If you start me up / If you start me up, I’ll never stop,” set the tone of relentless passion. Here, the ‘start’ acts as a metaphorical ignition, kick-starting the narrator’s fervor, which once started, refuses to cease. It’s the lyrical equivalent of a revving engine, ready to speed off at a moment’s notice.

“You got me wrecking gonna blow my top” signifies an individual pushed to their limits, perhaps dangerously so, by an intense feeling, mirroring the way an overheated engine might blow its top.

The repetition of the line, “You make a grown man cry,” could symbolize the raw power of the emotion experienced, so profound that it brings a mature, grown man to tears. This intense emotion could stem from both euphoria and desperation, reflecting the song’s inherent duality.

“Spread out the oil, the gasoline / I walk smooth, ride in a mean, mean machine” takes the car metaphor a step further. The person, or perhaps the situation or pursuit, that triggers the passion is compared to a smooth-running, high-performance car. It’s a metaphor for an addictive, all-consuming love or passion that, once ignited, can be dangerous, yet exhilarating.

“If you rough it up / If you like it you can slide it up” signifies a readiness to go along with whatever the object of desire presents, including challenges or rough patches. It speaks to an unstoppable passion that doesn’t shy away from hurdles but embraces them.

The Story Behind “Start Me Up”

“Start Me Up” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. During the writing process, Jagger was at a point in his life where he was constantly touring and performing, creating an incessant adrenaline rush. The song can be seen as a reflection of this state of constant movement and intense energy, mirrored in the continuous ‘starting up’ and refusal to ‘stop’.

Richards, the main contributor to the music, created an infectious guitar riff that complements the song’s central theme of unstoppable energy. The car metaphor reflects his own fascination with machinery, and also acts as a brilliant analogy for the way he viewed the band’s relentless energy and constant need for ‘fuel’ in the form of new experiences and adventures.

This background knowledge makes it clear that the song isn’t about a specific person but is rather an anthem of unyielding passion and pursuit. It’s about that drive and obsession that can make you feel like you’re running at full speed, non-stop – whether it’s for love, for art, for life itself.