I still believe the Stones could perform a fabulous concert if they wanted to. They could book a show at a really cool nightclub: Iguana's in Tijuana, for instance, where three tiers of balconies jut out over the stage so nearly everyone in the club is about 10 feet from the band. They could practice together all day every day for a month. And they could let me choose their songs.
I'd make them sing things that could still conceivably mean something '' Gimme Shelter,'' for instance, whose lyrics (''War, children; it's just a kiss away'') haven't exactly become dated. I'd force the Stones to cover great old rhythm & blues numbers, the way they used to do when they started out. Maybe then they'd start remembering what attracted them to rock & roll in the first place.
For a quick shot of much-needed credibility, I'd have them perform a brief acoustic interlude, with Keith and Ron sitting on the drum risers banging away on ''Wild Horses'' with their acoustic guitars. For encores, I'd want them to prove they still love music enough to pay attention to other groups. So I'd suggest they play Aerosmith's ''Walk This Way,'' which, with its riveting guitar riff and overtly sexual thrust, is perhaps the greatest Stones rip-off tune of all time.
Lastly, I'd choose their best possible opening act: the Replacements, a raucous American rock band that exemplifies the Stones' own spirit of edgy, dangerous abandon. The Stones should play the Replacements' song ''Anywhere's Better Than Here'' and invite singer Paul Westerberg onstage to sing along. Westerberg would choke, of course, from sheer awe. He, like me, is of a generation for whom the Stones will always be the supreme rock & roll band, even if they never live up to what they are in our imagination.