Tom Wolfe once said that “The Beatles want to hold your hand but the Stones want to burn down your town” after comparisons were made between the two iconic British bands in the 1960s. The truth is, however, the two bands drew a striking resemblance in the early ’60s after the Stones were given a helping hand from their Liverpudlian friends.
Believe it or not, one of the first major hits for The Rolling Stones came after a chance meeting with The Beatles which led to the release of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’. The song, originally written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was released as the Stones’ single on 1 November 1963 and went on to peak at number 12 on the British chart.
McCartney had originally penned the song before Lennon took over and finished the track while Macca was supposedly in the corner of a room talking to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Stones historian, Bill Janowitz, claimed that Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham “had almost literally bumped into Lennon and McCartney as they stepped out of a cab” and ushered them into the studio with Jagger and Richards.
Apparently, after having lunch together, the topic of the Stones lack of material for a new single had arisen and, by sheer coincidence, Lennon and McCartney had just finished up completing ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ earlier that day at De Lane Lea Studio.
Recalling the incident, Stones’ frontman Jagger once said: “We knew [the Beatles] by then and we were rehearsing and Andrew brought Paul and John down to the rehearsal. 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.”
Later Lennon would refute Jagger’s memory of how the Stones’ came to release the track, detailing in”The Beatles Anthology” that the band had already recorded the track for themselves but decided they would never release as a single and, in turn, offered it up to Jagger and the Stones.
The Beatles themselves would eventually go on to release it a year later anyway, appearing on the group’s second UK album, With the Beatles, with the vocals provided by drummer Ringo Starr. Discussing the track, Lennon was dismissive of its credibility: “It was a throwaway. The only two versions of the song were Ringo and the Rolling Stones. That shows how much importance we put on it: We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”
McCartney, though, was a little less blunt in discussing the song. In an interview dated in 2016, McCartney said: “We were friends with them, and I just thought “I Wanna Be Your Man” would be good for them. I knew they did Bo Diddley stuff. And they made a good job of it.”
As the Stones’ version of track earned them some commercial and mainstream success, a growing sense of animosity began to emerge around its development. Off the back of Lennon’s comments, Stones bass player Bill Wyman said: “We kind of learned it pretty quickly ’cause there wasn’t that much to learn. Then Brian got his slide out, his steel (guitar) out and dadaw … dadaw … and we said, ‘Yeah, that’s better, dirty it up a bit and bash it out’, and we kind of completely turned the song around and made it much more tough, Stones- and Elmore James-like.”
It’s probably easier if you make your own mind up and, below, you’ll find the renditions of the song by both bands.