Sunday, November 23, 2008

What is the Rolling Stones' signature song?

Editor's Note: This is a special guest post from Otis!

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

Satisfaction 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?


Pauly said...

I'm in for Sympathy for the Devil... however, I'm also partial to Loving Cup, Emotional Rescue, Beast of Burden, and Mother's Little Helper.

Otis said...

Also, for what it's worth, of all those songs, I'd only say I like Sympathy and Paint it Black. I could take or leave the rest. If I'm sitting down for some Stones, I prefer Mother's Little Helper, Dead Flowers, Shake Your Hips, Get Your Rocks Off, and Honky Tonk Woman

BTreotch said...

nice post..

I'd say Satisfaction, followed by Start Me Up.. Both feel like huge stadium sports songs.. And neither are my favorite tracks by any means... Beast of Burden is my fave..

Julius_Goat said...

The signature song is probably "Satisfaction", i.e. the song most readily identified with the Stones across the board.

That said, it's one of my least favorite Stones songs. Put me down for "Paint it Black" or "Sympathy For The Devil."

This is probably common. I bet most bands' "signature" is one that has lost luster with hard-core to dedicated fans, either because it's widespread success was due to some simplistic or lowest-common-denominator element of the song, or just by over-use.

Best "Fletch" line is, of course:

"I hate Tommy LaSorda!"

Pauly said...

Best Fletch Quotes...

"I hate to pull rank on you. I'm with the mattress police. These mattresses do not have tags."


"Using the whole fist, doc?"

GMoney said...

I agree with BTreotch that strickly speaking, hearing the first five seconds of satisfacton or start me up is gonna be most recognizable to the average mouth breather out there.(Like every NFL kick off for instance) Can't stand either tune no more.
Possible new thread: What is the Stone's Song that is popular(Say in their top 20 most popular) AND best emcompasses all that is great about them/their sound?

My Pick: Brown Sugar

Pauly said...

Wasn't brown sugar written about a hooker and not smack like a lot have been mislead?

the joker said...

i kinda think "satisfaction"...only beacause i played that at a wedding one time and grandma got up and danced.

GMoney said...

Brown Sugar(as I am sure you already know Pauly) was really about the white plantation owner getting with the black slave women.

"Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields,
Sold in a market down in new orleans.
Scarred old slaver know hes doin alright.
Hear him whip the women just around midnight.
Ah brown sugar how come you taste so good"

But the critics would always write that it was an expression for a crude form of heroin-kinda like black tar today.

A good Double Entendre is always nice for any good rock song.

But i gotta go with the joker and "Satisfaction" if his grandma got up and did the "running in place Phish Dance" that clinches it!

BG said...

It's absolutely "Satisfaction," and it's also absolutely, "She said we had the same build. From the waist up I imagine."

Sugar, Mr. Poon?

Julius_Goat said...

"What kind of name is 'Poon'?"

"Commanche Indian."

Irongirl01 said...

My 5

Sympathy for the Devil
You cant always get what you want
Its Only Rock and Roll

Unknown said...

Honky Tonk Women - Keith's best guitar work
Dead Flowers - Mick Taylor's great country licks
Midnight Rambler - bluesy, great riffs, tough lyrics, great guitars and harmonica

Astin said...

Satisfaction was the first that came to mind. Looking at the list, I'd sling Start Me Up and Paint it Black as close to that.

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" seems sorely missed on peoples' suggestions though.

jeciimd said...

Start Me Up

Although Im not a huge Stones fan myself, when I got to the part about identifying the Stones' sound by just a couple licks, the guitar intro to Start Me Up jumped into my head.

And FWIW...that's Doctor Joe Sixpack :)

jeciimd said...

and Ill have a bloody mary and a steak sandwich...and a steak sandwich.

John said...

for the purpose of this question i'd have to go with satisfaction. i think timing has something to do with it ... it's usually a song that comes out fairly early in their career, at least with a long-lasting band like the stones.

Unknown said...

". . . the one song you could play that would make everybody think 'Rolling Stones.'" By the given standard, there is no question that the correct answer is "Satisfaction." Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Period.

Put it on the Underhill tab.

Kid Dynamite said...

"It's all about ball bearings these days!"

Sympathy for The Devil