“The story here is the miracle that we ever found that track. 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. 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.”
— Keith Richards on Start Me Up
Since today is Oscar Sunday, let’s start the day with a video that was directed by an Oscar winner.
Hal Ashby got his start as an editor and a favorite collaborator of director Norman Jewison. Ashby won his only Oscar for editing the 1967 best picture winner, In the Heat of the Night. Ashby then went on to become a director himself and, in that role, he was responsible for some of the most important films of the 1970s. Check out this list of credits: Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound for Glory, Coming Home, Being There, and Let’s Spend the Night Together. All of these films were directed by Hal Ashby.
Let’s Spend The Night Together was a Rolling Stones concert film and I imagine that his work on that film is probably what led to Ashby directing this music video. Like a lot of the great 70s directors, his career struggled as people like Don Simpson took over Hollywood and the industry’s focus shifted away from empowering directors to keeping studio executives happy. While Ashby found himself practically unemployable in Hollywood, he was still able to make a living with work like this video and directing television episodes.
Hal Ashby died in 1988 of pancreatic cancer. Bruce Dern famously said that the way Ashby was treated in Hollywood was the “most disgusting thing” that he had ever seen over the course of his long career. Fortunately, movies are forever and Ashby’s work has since been rediscovered and continues to influence aspiring filmmakers all over. Richard Linklater is a huge fan and paid homage to Ashby with Last Flag Flying.