It’s been nearly 60 years since the British Invasion began, but the debate rages on: Beatles or Stones? Fans have been arguing the point for generations, and with the music industry basically shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger are getting in on the action.
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McCartney called into The Howard Stern Show earlier this month to promote Get Back, Peter Jackson’s upcoming Beatles documentary. Stern brought up the rivalry and was adamant about his preference for the Liverpudlian foursome.
“You know you’re going to persuade me to agree with that one,” McCartney said. “The Stones are a fantastic group. I go to see them every time they come out because they’re a great, great band.”
“They are rooted in the blues,” McCartney continued. “When they are writing stuff, it’s to do with the blues, whereas we had a little more influences. … There’s a lot of differences, but I love the Stones, but I’m with you: The Beatles were better.”
Appearing last week on an Apple Music show hosted by New Zealand DJ Zane Lowe, Jagger laughed when Lowe brought up McCartney’s comments.
“There’s obviously no competition,” Jagger replied, refusing to clarify what exactly he meant in a sort of tongue-in-cheek manner. Then, Jagger clarified what he saw as the “big difference” between the groups.
“Slightly seriously, the Rolling Stones have been a big concert band in other decades and other eras when the Beatles never even did an arena tour, you know Madison Square Garden with a decent sound system. They broke up before that business started, the touring business for real.”
“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.”
So there you have it: Paul says the Beatles’ willingness to explore new sounds made them better, while Mick says that the Stones’ longevity and mastery of the arena concert gives them the edge.
It will, as always, be a matter of taste. But thankfully, your rock ‘n roll dads are keeping the rivalry friendly. They’ve known each other for decades, and they can doubtlessly understand each other’s life experiences better than nearly anyone else.
When the Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the one chosen to introduce them was none other than Mick Jagger.
“We had a lot of rivalry in those early years, and a little bit of friction, but we always ended up friends, and I like to think we still are,” Jagger said. “Those were some of the greatest times in our lives, and I’m really proud to be the one that leads them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Reading that and pondering their respective oeuvres, it’s hard not to feel lucky that we even get to choose a favorite.