When Microsoft released Windows 95, they didn’t skimp on the publicity. Their promotional campaign for the operating system even included television spots soundtracked with the Rolling Stones’ hit “Start Me Up.” The lyrics of its chorus neatly suited the product, which came with a re-engineered interface featuring a then-novel feature called the Start menu. Though hardly new even then, the song did also carry faint associations with innovation, having originally been released on August 14, 1981, just two weeks after the launch of a cable channel called MTV. Its music video thus received a great deal of airplay, proving to the public that the Stones could stay on the cutting edge.
By the 1980s, relevance was by no means guaranteed to any band formed in the 1960s. More than proven though the point may be today, the Michael Lindsay-Hogg-directed music video for “Start Me Up” demonstrated that even a group of rockers in or near their forties could perform with the same uncontainable vitality they always had.
Even now, forty years after that, the group’s surviving members show no inclination to retire, and the highest technology has only just begun to catch up to them. I refer, of course, to Spot, the model of robot dog previously seen here on Open Culture moonwalking and twerking to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” In the years since then, it seems he’s learned to move like Jagger — as well as Richards, Wyman, Wood, and Watts.
In “Spot Me Up,” four Spot models together replicate about a minute of the “Start Me Up” video. That each robot really does seem to convey traces of the personality of its particular Stone — even the one tasked with replicating a glance from the late Charlie Watts, a force of subtlety behind the drum kit for more than half a century — speaks to the engineering skill marshaled by Boston Dynamics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff where Spot was invented. Not everyone has warmed to the lifelike movements of their robots, a lineup that also includes the formidable humanoid Atlas. But dance videos like these serve as a form of public relations for its products, which were designed for not the stage but factories, mines, and power plants — places where they can do what any fan of the Stones in the 80s would surely call the dirty work.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.