John Lennon was always one to wear his influences on his sleeve. While in The Beatles, he helmed a number of classic rock and roll covers like ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Please Mr. Postman’ and, while outside the group, he arranged an entire covers album appropriately titled Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The Rolling Stones, in turn, never shied away from their gratitude for The Beatles influence. One of the Stones’ first hits was a take on the Lennon-McCartney song ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, and as The Beatles embraced psychedelia in a much grander fashion, The Stones followed suit with Their Satanic Majesties Request. The bands were friends, peers, and rivals, but rarely ever was there any major swipes or acquisitions of riding coattails.
That was until 1980, however, when Lennon believed that the Stones took a chunk of one of his solo songs to make what would be their final number one hit in America. Lennon’s ‘Bless You’ is a jazzy track from Lennon’s 1974 album ‘Walls and Bridges’, and its floaty openness owes a fair amount to the contemporary R&B sounds of the mid-1970s that would later morph into disco. According to Lennon, Mick Jagger was listening to him while the Stones were exploring their own take on R&B and disco.
“I think Mick Jagger took ‘Bless You’ and turned it into ‘Miss You,'” Lennon told interviewer David Sheff in 1980. “The engineer kept wanting me to speed that up. He said, ‘This is a hit song if you’d just do it fast.’ He was right. ‘Cause as ‘Miss You’ it turned into a hit. I like Mick’s record better.”
Musically, ‘Bless You’ and ‘Miss You’ don’t really have all that much in common. They’re both rooted in the key of A, but ‘Bless You’ is in A Major while ‘Miss You’ is in A Minor. ‘Miss You’ has a strong central riff and a bluesy thump, while ‘Bless You’ utilises major 7th and suspended chords to create a dream-like sound. From my listening, ‘Bless You’ and ‘Miss You’ don’t have a single chord in common, but it seems like Lennon was saying that the Stones copied the song’s feeling more than the direct melody or chords.
Perhaps Lennon was just grousing. He admits that he likes ‘Miss You’ better than ‘Bless You’, and there’s a decent chance he was just looking to give Jagger a hard time. Listen to both tracks below and decide for yourself whether there are any similarities.