Paul McCartney reckons the Beatles are better than the Rolling Stones – now Mick Jagger has waded in! Some rivalries don’t die, especially when they’re connected to rock ‘n roll royalty. The Beatles and the Stones were formed a couple of years apart from each other in the Sixties. For many they were the 2 defining groups of that era, providing the soundtrack to many people’s lives. But despite sharing a rich musical heritage, the question remains… who was the best?
It’s an ancient hornet’s nest that Howard Stern was happy to poke, when he called McCartney on the phone for his radio show recently. Stern – never shy of giving an opinion – said he preferred The Beatles to the Stones. McCartney agreed with him, but for specific reasons. For the Liverpudlian lyric master, the Stones are a blues band first and foremost. Claiming the Fab Four had a broader base to work from, McCartney went on to say “There’s a lot of differences, and I love the Stones, but I’m with you. The Beatles were better.”
Jagger appeared with fellow Stone Keith Richards for Zane Lowe on Apple Music. And of course the subject of this age old “battle of the bands” was brought up! “He’s a sweetheart” the frontman commented light-heartedly. However he also had a bit more to say on the subject. While McCartney stresses musical influences, Jagger mentions his long association with touring, trumpeting those live credentials at full blast.
“The Rolling Stones is a big concert band in other decades and other areas when The Beatles never even did an arena tour, Madison Square Garden with a decent sound system” Jagger said. “They broke up before that business started”. Jagger thinks that while they sing the blues, the Stones went on to embrace something that The Beatles never lasted long enough to enjoy. He added “the Stones went on, we started doing stadium gigs in the ’70s and [are] still doing them now.”
He saved a friendly sucker punch of sorts for last: “That’s the real big difference between these two bands. One band is unbelievably luckily still playing in stadiums and then the other band doesn’t exist.” Thankfully for music fans, the pair shared a billing for the One World: Together At Home Concert Special. McCartney performed ‘Lady Madonna’, while Mick and the boys jammed from their respective homes for a rendition of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.
The Stones have also just released ‘Living in a Ghost Town’. This track was already in progress, but the decision was made to finish it in order to reflect what was going on in the world. Responses to the release have been mixed, but it’s gone straight to the top of the chart on iTunes.
One surprising detail about The Beatles and the Stones is a secret message hidden in an album cover. Their Satanic Majesties Request was issued in the same year as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Because the Beatles released first and the Stones chose a wildly psychedelic design, it’s assumed Jagger and co. imitated the Fab Four.
Turns out they did, but it was a loving tribute rather than a snarky knock off. Far Out quotes Adam Cooper, son of Stones snapper Michael, who spoke about the eye-catching cover containing hidden images of John, Paul, George and Ringo. He revealed, “they presented this bad-boy image of the Stones and the clean image of the Beatles and all of that. It was a complete invention by the press. People believed it, so the Stones, by 1967, said: ‘We’ve had enough of this sh**. Let’s try to communicate through the cover to tell the public this is not the truth.’”
Sgt Pepper famously features a doll wearing a “Welcome the Rolling Stones” t-shirt. Both McCartney and Jagger took care to stress how much respect they have for each other, and still do so today. But sometimes the thornier side of rock super-stardom rears its glittery head…!