There’s a fallacy circulating throughout popular culture as it pertains to music since the 1960s, and that is you either are on The Beatles side or The Rolling Stones side. This false narrative of mutual exclusion, while harmless, had been used by the media as a big talking point surrounding the question of whether The Beatles and The Rolling Stones really hated each other.
When it comes down to it, they never actually hated one other, although they were better friends when they first started out. They had shared plenty of enjoyable moments with one another. George Harrison was the catalyst in getting The Rolling Stones their record deal, Lennon became good friends with Keith Richards and enjoyed a riotous time or two, even performing with him and Eric Clapton as Dirty Mac for the Stones’ famous Rock and Roll Circus TV special.
As the sharp-tongued leader of The Beatles, John Lennon, however, wouldn’t stay sweet forever. The ‘Help!’ singer once divulged in a Rolling Stone interview in 1970, he seemed to resent Mick Jagger, although, by the time The Beatles had broken up, none of the members in each band really saw much of each other anymore.
“No, I never do see him. We saw a bit of each other around when Allen was first coming in — I think Mick got jealous. I was always very respectful about Mick and the Stones, but he said a lot of sort of tarty things about the Beatles, which I am hurt by, because you know, I can knock the Beatles, but don’t let Mick Jagger knock them.”
While there is some bitterness in his tone, it isn’t without reason. He brought up a good point; while the Fab Four were still a working unit, The Stones were always a couple of steps behind the Beatles. “I would like to just list what we did and what the Stones did two months after on every fuckin’ album.
“Every fuckin’ thing we did, Mick does exactly the same — he imitates us,” claimed Lennon. “And I would like one of you fuckin’ underground people to point it out, you know Satanic Majesties is Pepper; ‘We Love You,’ it’s the most fuckin’ bullshit, that’s ‘All You Need Is Love,'” Lennon scathingly stated.
As previously mentioned, Lennon does have a good point: The Beatles were always ahead of the Stones. The Beatles were the first to start; they were the first to get a record deal for their own material (which was a big deal back then) and the first to hit the heights of the charts.
In 1963, Lennon and McCartney were invited to go to De Lane Lea Studios in London where Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were trying to write their first single. Up until this point, the Stones had only released one single – a cover of a Chuck Berry song. Lennon and McCartney would end up writing ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ for the Stones right there and handed it to them. This was the Stones’ second single and reached number 12 in the UK charts.
This kind of camaraderie was a friendly one, as the two bands were friends throughout the ’60s. “That was a great period. We were like kings of the jungle then, and we were very close to the Stones. I don’t know how close the others were but I spent a lot of time with Brian and Mick,” recalled Lennon. “I admire them, you know. I dug them the first time I saw them in whatever that place is they came from, Richmond. I spent a lot of time with them, and it was great.”
In 2020, the conversation was opened up again, and it would be a bit of an overstatement to say that old wounds were reopened. Clearly, to this day, there is competition but it seems like a bit of fun for both Macca and Jagger. “The Stones are rooted in the blues. When they are writing stuff, it has to do with the blues. We had a little more influences,” McCartney commented when asked to reflect on their rivalry. “There’s a lot of differences, and I love the Stones, but I’m with you. The Beatles were better,” McCartney told DJ Howard Stern when he asked the surviving Beatle if he thought The Beatles were better.
In Jagger’s response, on the Zane Lowe music show, he brought up a good point. When the Beatles stopped touring in the late ’60s the Stones had reinvented themselves and established their own identity, about to embark on arguably their finest run of records. They would go on massive tours throughout the world and still do to this day. While it doesn’t necessarily speak to the innate talent of a band in regards to songwriting, it is a whole other skill set a band is required to learn. Touring is an art form of its own.
“But the Stones went on,” Jagger told Lowe. “We started doing stadium gigs in the ’70s and [are] still doing them now. 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.”
According to these various answers, it would seem that the two bands never truly hated each other. There was always a bit of competition, however, the two bands remained friends throughout all the years of pop highs and lows, and while Jagger and McCartney have most recently jabbed at one another, it seems that it is only a bit of brotherly competition.
Keith Richards said it the best by describing the relationship between the two. “Mick and I admired their harmonies and their songwriting capabilities, they envied our freedom of movement and image.” Mutual respect reigns supreme.