The Beatles and The Rolling Stones famously shared a fractious relationship if you believed everything that was being printed by the tabloids at the height of their fame. In truth, however, a lot of that ‘rivalry’ wasn’t as intense as perceived and the two bands actually enjoyed a relatively tight-knit relationship. The Beatles played a remarkable role in the rise of The Rolling Stones and the moment that they first came down to watch their London counterparts remains a moment that will stick with Keith Richards forever.
Their so-called rivalry wasn’t built out of hatred for one another, it was quite the opposite and more out of admiration with an understandable competitive streak. The two groups had such a strong history, sharing the limelight for a rock and roll boom, that they are intrinsically linked. In fact, the very existence of Rolling Stones fame can be planted at the door of former Beatle George Harrison given that the guitarist famously helped his future rivals land their first record deal with Decca back in 1963.
The two bands even later shared material when The Stones recorded ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, a song that was originally written by The Beatles. The track, which got The Stones to Number 12 in the charts, showed that there was a level of respect between the contemporaries, even if John Lennon did his best to ruffle feathers in the years that followed. In reality, however, The Stones were his good friends and more than happy to let him off for the odd disparaging comment designed to whip up fanfare.
Members of both respected groups knew each other from the very early days, back when The Stones had zero platform but had started to circulate a small but strong reputation for themselves on the London circuit. In 2003, Richards answered a fan question on his website about his relationship with The Beatles which triggered an emotional reaction from the guitarist who, in turn, went on to reveal his precious memory of the first time that The Fab Four came to watch him play.
“They came to see us play,” Richards said with a level of amazement still in his voice despite the decades that had passed. “It was at The Station Hotel, Richmond — that was our gig, it was the only one we really had. We’re whacking our show out and everybody is having a good time y’know then I suddenly turn around and there is these four guys in black leather overcoats standing there.”
He added: “I’m thinking ‘fuck me, look who’s here’,” Richards comically recalled about his rush of nerves that suddenly kicked in. “This was just after ‘Love Me Do‘ like this was really early on and it was late ’62. I was like ‘oh god, they’ve come to check us out man’ (laughs) and there they were.
“From then on we were always good mates and we always made sure our new singles didn’t clash,” The Stones guitarist said as he gave out more priceless information about their friendship. “We would collaborate with each other to stop us going head to head because then outside you’ll have to be a Beatles fan or a Stones fan like it would never twain which is bullshit because we were both so similar. We all recognised that and that was one of the great things about it, between the two bands there was never a sense of competition, it was like co-operation really,” Richards blissfully recalled.
These words speak volumes and remains living proof—if anybody still needed it—that behind all the facade, the two bands were great admirers of one another. Even if John Lennon was slamming The Rolling Stones in public with an array of barbs, behind closed doors it was a completely different story and he was in truth great friends with his London counterparts.