It is well known that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were great friends even if the entire world – and particularly the media – desperately wanted them to be fierce rivals. They would frequent the same clubs during the swinging sixties period of the London music scene, generally thriving alongside one another as the era’s two most prominent bands.
The two groups first met back in 1963 when The Beatles were just starting to make waves in the UK. During this period, The Stones were still finding their feet, acting solely as a blues covers band. At this point, The Beatles were a couple of steps ahead of their contemporaries and had already been through their formative Hamburg years.
Later on their journey, the Stones frontman, Mick Jagger, famously attended the orchestral recording session for the 1967 Beatles song ‘A Day in the Life’. Late founder Brian Jones also added a saxophone contribution to the Liverpool band’s hectic B-side, ‘You Know My Name (Look up the Number)’.
It was via The Stones’ manager, the somewhat eccentric Andrew Loog Oldham, how the two groups first came into each others’ orbit. He brought John Lennon and Paul McCartney along to a Stones rehearsal, and, shortly after, The Beatles offered up the song ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ as a freebie to the Stones. Short, sweet and commercially viable, this was the type of number that The Stones needed to truly break into the charts.
As if working exactly as it should, later that year in the UK, the song became The Stones’ first hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The story goes that Lennon and McCartney finished the song in the corner of the Richmond club whilst Mick Jagger and Keith Keith Richards were having a conversation. Lennon even labelled the song a “throwaway” in 1980. This is so ironic, as The Rolling Stones owed a lot to The Beatles and this seemingly worthless song.
Given that it was the first time Mick Jagger had come across The Beatles, it left him with a funny first impression of the Lennon and McCartney. When recalling this momentous incident some years later, Jagger labelled The Beatles’ songwriting duo as “hustlers”. During these early days, Lennon and McCartney were acutely aware of the money that could be made from songwriting credits, so when Loog Oldham and The Stones came knocking, they were ready.
Discussing the thought of Lennon and McCartney pushing their songs to buyers in Rolling Stone in 1968, Jagger offered some insight into those heady and important times. “They said they had this tune, they were really hustlers then,” he said. “I mean the way they used to hustle tunes was great.”
In the interview, Jagger remembered Lennon saying to him: “Hey Mick, we’ve got this great song”. Clearly, The Stones thought so too. It is said that decision was made almost instantly to take Lennon and McCartney’s track.
The first brilliant meeting between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones would tie Britain’s two biggest bands together forevermore, and it would be the first story of many that the two groups would go on to share.
Listen to ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ below.