The Beatles and The Rolling Stones sparred in the greatest rock ‘n’ roll rivalry, one which saw the two groups go toe to toe with classic after classic, songs which would go on to change the face of music. The ‘war’ was good-spirited and, in truth, didn’t see either band resorting to playground insults to one another. It meant that it was a fitting moment when The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their old sparring partner, Mick Jagger, was tasked with inducting them.
It wasn’t a rivalry built out of hatred for one another, it was quite the opposite and the competitive element made both artists up their game. The two groups had such a strong history, sharing the limelight for a rock and roll boom. The two bands are so intrinsically linked that the very existence of Rolling Stones fame can be planted at the door of former Beatle George Harrison, the guitarist famously helping his future rivals land their first record deal with Decca back in 1963.
The two bands also shared material when The Stones recorded ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, a song that was originally written by The Beatles. The track, which got The Stones to Number 12 in the charts, showed that there was a level of respect between the contemporaries—even if John Lennon did his best to ruffle feathers in the years that followed. “I like ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ but I think Mick’s a joke,” Lennon once remarked in 1970. “I always did. I enjoy it, I’ll probably go and see his films and all, like everybody else, but really, I think it’s a joke.”
While The Beatles were being added into the Hall of Fame in 1988, not all the surviving members of the iconic band would attend the event. George Harrison and Ringo Starr would arrive at the show without Paul McCartney. The singer boycotted the event as the result of ongoing business disputes but Mick Jagger not only inducted the band with an exemplary speech and then played his part in a Beatles supergroup alongside George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck and Billy Joel — which unsurprisingly absolutely tore the house down.
“When I got here tonight, I saw George (Harrison) and he said, ‘You aren’t going to say anything bad about me are you?’,” said Jagger, who opened his speech with to fits of laughter. “I couldn’t think of anything, really bad to say because in England during those very early days, just while The Beatles were recording their first songs, it was a real wasteland.”
“We were doin’ Chuck Berry songs and blues and things and we thought that we were totally unique animals,” Jagger noted in his speech before saying, “And then we heard there was a group from Liverpool and they had long hair, scruffy clothes.”
He then added how he felt sick to his stomach out of jealousy when he first heard ‘Love Me Do’ and realised just how good this long-haired Liverpool four-piece are: “But they had a record contract. And they had a record on the charts, with a bluesy harmonica on it, called ‘Love Me Do.’ When I heard the combination of all these things, I was almost sick.”
The Rolling Stones man then thanked The Beatles for gifting them with ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, saying, “we were very grateful for that ’cause that really broke us in England. The example of the way they wrote, and the original way that they crafted their songs wasn’t lost on us. And later on their success in America broke down a lot of doors that helped everyone else from England that followed. And I thank them very much for all those things,” Jagger added.
One thing that he didn’t appreciate at the time was whenever he went to New York he was mistaken for being a member of The Beatles, which he wasn’t grateful for but “learned to live with”.
“We went through some pretty strange times,” Jagger reminisced. “We had a lot of rivalry in those early years, and a little bit of friction, but we always ended up friends. I like to think we still are, ’cause they were some of the greatest times of our lives, and I’m really proud to be the one that leads them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” The Rolling Stones leader concluded.
Take in his iconic speech, below.