You know how arguments like this get started. You're sitting in a bar, the conversation has lagged a bit, and you need a way to get people talking again. Matters of frivolous debate--about Kevin Costner's worst movie, the best line from Fletch, or the exact moment at which X band sold out--can turn into a full night of discussion.
As it happened, the wife and I were in a 45-minute car line and growing increasingly frustrated with the changes on XM radio since the Sirius merger. [I could probably write another whole post on how the change from X-Country to Outlaw Country has nearly ruined the station for me. That is for another day.]
Last night, a song came on Classic Vinyl that immediately made me think "Rolling Stones."
Now, there are a ton of songs by the Stones I could identify by their opening five notes and even more I could pick out using one lick. To the general public, though, there are fewer songs that stand out as purely Stones. That inspired a conversation with the wife in which we tried to pick out the Rolling Stones' Signature Song--the one song you could play that would make everybody think "Rolling Stones."
I put out a quick internet poll among my friends and there was a little bit of confusion about what I meant. Some people thought I was looking for their favorite. Others thought I was looking for the most popular. At the time, I didn't have a perfect definition other than "the song that everybody thinks of when you say Stones."
I think that definition does the trick, although if you want to take it a little farther down the road, you case use the Wikipedia definition: "the one song (or, in some cases, one of a few songs) that a popular and well-established singer or band is most closely identified with, even if they have had success with a variety of songs." In this case, think "Margartiaville" for Jimmy Buffet, "Tiny Bubbles" for Don Ho, or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for Nirvana.
When I put the Stones question out there, there were five answers more common than the rest. I've pulled various You Tube videos of the five tunes. You choose which one you think says "Stones" to the general public.
Gimme Shelter live
Sympathy For the Devil live at Altamont (Hells Angels version)
Paint It Black live
Start Me Up live
My wife and I discussed it for a bit and then I talked about it more with other folks later. Some folks made a pretty strong argument for "Gimme Shelter." I was nearly swayed.
Here's the thing, though. I'm neither a Rolling Stones scholar or even that big a fan. However, I do think I have a pretty good idea of what Joe Sixpack thinks. If there was actually a "right" answer to this question, I think "Start Me Up" would take the gold. I could spend another 500 words explaining why, but I think my wife summed it up best.
She said, "When I hear Start Me Up, I immediately think of Mick Jagger strutting across the stage."
What say you?