The fight between The Rolling Stones and The Beatles exists merely in the pages of music magazines. The fact is, the two bands were often more than happy to share the studio, the stage and even a few substances along the way. Overall, the band members were satisfied to play nice in person and battle it out on the pop charts. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some angry words exchanged between the groups, of course.
Even last year, when Paul McCartney was encouraged to take aim at the Stones and suggest that The Beatles were the best band ever, he did so with aplomb. Mick Jagger, longtime Stones frontman, replied with a barb of his own, laughing at the fact The Beatles don’t even exist anymore while the Stones were still ploughing on. But the most volatile moment between the groups came when Lennon took aim at Mick Jagger, These Satanic Majesties and a particular Rolling Stones song that pushed him over the edge.
Speaking with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, Lennon was ferocious in his bringing down of The Rolling Stones and, in particular, two releases from Jagger and the band. Lennon famously said: “I can knock the Beatles, but don’t let Mick Jagger knock them.” But the real retort came when Lennon suggested the Stones had been copying their Liverpudlian counterparts and Lennon’s band. “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, decisive in his anger and pointed in his words.
“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,” continued the singer. He also offered up examples, though we might say they’re a little ragged. “You know Satanic Majesties is Pepper,” says Lennon perhaps accurately noting the Stones’ turn towards psychedelia may have been prompted by the Fab Four. However, considering the entire nation was swept up in the kaleidoscopic wave of psyche-rock, it feels a little churlish to land it all on one band. Lennon’s next attack on Jagger and the band is even more ludicrous.
“‘We Love You,'” says Lennon picking out The Rolling Stones hit from 1967, “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 sonically.
Lyrically, the track does mirror a lot of the same tone that ‘All You Need Is Love’. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards even appeared in the chorus for the song when it was aired as part of the One World satellite broadcast back in 1967. But to call this song a copycat of a Fab Four number is still a bit of a stretch and, even so, Lennon can’t claim the themes of universal love for his own — It’s not really in-keeping with the theme.
What makes the anger even more bizarre is that ‘We Love You’ also features two notable singers providing backing vocals, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, himself. While the image of McCartney and Lennon shuffling into a studio to provide backing vocals for their apparent pop rivals is the stuff of pop culture gold, it does the beg the question, why didn’t Lennon bring it up at the time?
Listen to both of the songs below and decide for yourself, did The Rolling Stones copy The Beatles song ‘All You Need Is Love’ with their track ‘We Love You’?