Remembering John Lennon's brutal put-down of Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones
(Credit: Olavi Kaskisuo / Joost Evers)

Remembering John Lennon’s savage attack on Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones

Recently, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney have been trading barbs about their bands and transporting us back to the 1960s. Once again, it would seem, the question has arisen; who is a better band, The Rolling Stones or The Beatles? According to the late John Lennon, there’s no question.

We’re dipping into the Far Out vaults and taking a trip back to December 1970, just a few months after The Beatles announced their decision to break up, John Lennon sat down with Rolling Stone co-founder and editor Jann Wenner for a no holds barred interview.

In what was intended as a conversation designed to promote Lennon’s debut solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band turned into a wide-ranging, tell-all, and untethered insight into his emotions, his future plans, home truths about the Fab Four’s split and plenty more to boot. The interview was so in-depth that Wenner held back plans to run the story in Rolling Stone magazine and instead published the entirety of the quotes as a book.

Lennon, who was accompanied by Yoko Ono for the interview, opened up in his typically abrasive fashion, making repeated cutting comments about his former bandmates and, it has to be remembered, also took aim at his songwriting partner Paul McCartney with an unrelenting quiver of barbed arrows. While his comments about The Beatles were met by disappointment by from the group’s feverish fans at the time, Lennon’s defence of the band against Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger just about made up for it.

When asked what he thought of The Rolling Stones, Lennon replied: “I think its a lot of hype. I like ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ but I think Mick’s a joke, with all that fag dancing, I always did. I enjoy it, I’ll probably go and see his films and all, like everybody else, but really, I think it’s a joke.”

Wenner, sensing that the Beatle had more to get off his chest in regards to the Stones lead singer, pursued the subject and asked if the two had ever crossed paths: “No, I never do see him,” Lennon answered abruptly.

“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 Yhe Beatles, which I am hurt by, because you know, I can knock the Beatles, but don’t let Mick Jagger knock them.”

The Beatles - Paul McCartney - John Lennon, live in 1965
John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (Credit: Bent Rej)

John Lennon had his say on Mick Jagger’s Rolling Stones

Taking things a step further, Lennon made the not-so-subtle hint that Jagger and the Stones regularly copied 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.”

It’s quite the accusation. The two bands have clearly always been pitted as rivals but on very few ocvcassions has it been confirmed. Lennon believed his band were being copied across their career: “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’.

“I resent the implication that the Stones are like revolutionaries and that the Beatles weren’t. If the Stones were or are, the Beatles really were too.”

Lennon doesn’t want to climb down though, “But they are not in the same class, music-wise or power-wise, never were. I never said anything, I always admired them, because I like their funky music and I like their style. I like rock and roll and the direction they took after they got over trying to imitate us, you know, but he’s even going to do Apple now. He’s going to do the same thing.”

Lennon concluded: “He’s obviously so upset by how big the Beatles are compared with him; he never got over it. Now he’s in his old age, and he is beginning to knock us, you know, and he keeps knocking. I resent it, because even his second fuckin’ record we wrote it for him. Mick said ‘Peace made money’. We didn’t make any money from Peace. You know.”

Listen to the audio, below.

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