The rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones during the mid-1960s was mostly just a marketing push. The Stones were looking to differentiate themselves within the crowd of mop-top teeny-bopper bands, and manager Andrew Loog Oldham saw the benefit of providing a bit of counter-programming to the clean-cut, suit-wearing Fab Four of the early to mid-decade. They had blues roots and some inherent anti-authoritarian views, so the dichotomy between The Beatles and The Stones was amplified within pop culture.
In person, the two band’s were friendly, if not somewhat separated, due to their respective hectic schedules. Still, Loog Oldham managed to cajole John Lennon and Paul McCartney to visit the Stones’ rehearsal space in 1963 and possibly provide the upstart band with a new song. This was before Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had formed their songwriting partnership, and the band were looking for more commercial material to add to their repertoire. Lennon and McCartney quickly polished off one of McCartney’s in-progress songs, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, for the band to record.
“We knew [the Beatles] by then and we were rehearsing and Andrew brought Paul and John down to the rehearsal,” Jagger recalled in 1968. “They said they had this tune, they were really hustlers then. I mean the way they used to hustle tunes was great: ‘Hey Mick, we’ve got this great song.’
“So they played it and we thought it sounded pretty commercial, which is what we were looking for, so we did it like Elmore James or something. I haven’t heard it for ages but it must be pretty freaky ’cause nobody really produced it. It was completely crackers, but it was a hit and sounded great onstage.”
A few weeks before The Stones released their version of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ as a single, The Beatles took a crack at it themselves with Ringo Starr on lead vocals. While The Stones’ version is more explicitly R&B influenced, with stinging guitar lines and a slightly slower tempo, The Beatles turned it into a frantic rock and roll number with a bit more pop and Chuck Berry-esque pep to it.
Speaking of Berry, both The Beatles and The Stones had Berry tunes in their respective repertoire, but both made sure not to have any crossover. The Beatles would play ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and ‘Rock and Roll Music’, while The Stones would play ‘You Can’t Catch Me’ and ‘Carol’. The Stones were more direct disciples and incorporated Berry tunes into most of their early setlists in a greater number than The Beatles one or two Berry covers.
Little did either band know that, just a few months prior to the shared release of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, the two bands had separately and nearly simultaneously recorded another song: Barrett Strong’s ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’.
Both The Beatles and The Stones were Motown fans, but this time it was The Beatles who beat The Stones to the punch, releasing their version on the song on With The Beatles in November of 1963 while The Stones’ version appeared on their self-titled EP in January of 1964.