The Rolling Stones song that made John Lennon accuse them of copying The Beatles
John Lennon was one of the most vocal rock stars around during his all-too-brief career. Never afraid to speak his mind, The Beatles man was particularly scathing of his own band in subsequent interviews, often taking shots at the Fab Four whenever presented the opportunity.
While it was fine for Lennon to try and bring The Beatles down a peg or two, the ‘Imagine’ singer wasn’t happy for any of their counterparts to do the same. After Mick Jagger took it upon himself to make a few comments on the band he found out first hand what annoying Lennon could provoke.
During John Lennon’s now-iconic interview with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, The Beatle was asked about his relationship with The Stones frontman and what he thought of their new music, his answer was particularly scathing. “I think its a lot of hype,” answered Lennon flatly.
“I like ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ but I think Mick’s a joke,” replied Lennon. “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.” The Stones and The Beatles had once been a part of the same swinging scene, even exchanging songs on occasion but, by 1970, things had clearly changed between the groups.
When asked if he catches up with Jagger any more, Lennon replied: “No. I never do see him.” What follows is a slightly tyrannical and, perhaps more likely, affronted dressing down of Jagger and The Rolling Stones. “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.”
But the real powerful retort came when Lennon suggested the Stones had been copying their Liverpudlian counterparts. “I would like to just list what we did and what the Stones did two months after on every fuckin’ album,” fired Lennon across the tape.
“Every fuckin’ thing we did, Mick does exactly the same – he imitates us. 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’.” This is where things get a little tricky, while the albums could be intrinsically linked, though we’d imagine everyone got a little trippy in ’66, the songs are worlds apart.
Firstly, let’s just all note down that ‘We love You’ and ‘All You Need Is Love’ are very far apart sonically. In fact, apart from the overarching theme of love, it’s hard to see Lennon’s point at all on this song. What’s more, is that the song was apparently constructed with the help of Lennon and McCartney themselves.
According to the book The Rolling Stones – All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, Lennon and McCartney joined Keith Richards and beat poet Allen Ginsberg in the studio on a summer’s day in 1967. It led to a session which saw Lennon, McCartney and Mick Jagger share vocal duties and Ginsberg describing the trio as the angels and musical deities of Botticelli’s paintings.
Perhaps the real point of Lennon’s anger at the Stones was frustration. While they had a rough early ride as the darker side of pop music, by 1970 the band were The Rolling Stones were now being heralded as the future of rock and roll. It would’ve been enough to put John’s nose out of place: “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. But they are not in the same class, music-wise or power-wise, never were.”
It’s hard to say that The Rolling Stones weren’t inspired by The Beatles but we think on this one, John Lennon was barking up the wrong tree.