The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had a friendship and a rivalry that defined the 1960s. While they initially patterned themselves off The Beatles’ mop-top suit and tie era, the Stones eventually morphed into the anti-Beatles: no ties, shaggy hair, raw blues, and a volatile public perception. While The Beatles were beloved by all, there was a palpable sense of danger and edge that followed the Stones.
Still, any bitter rivalry between the two bands was purely commercial. The members of each group were known to hang out in clubs and parties around the London scene, and in 1963, John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave the song ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ to the upstart Stones for them to record. Brian Jones participated in the recording of ‘Yellow Submarine’, while Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sang backing vocals on ‘All Your Need is Love’, with the Stones quickly returning the favour by having Lennon and McCartney sing backup on ‘We Love You’.
By 1969, The Beatles and the Stones had established their own unique signature sounds. At the same time, both bands were more than willing to incorporate new technology, additional sounds, and wide-ranging influences into their music, including psychedelia, music hall, and orchestral pop. The Beatles were already big into orchestration, thanks to the assistance of producer George Martin, but the Stones had plenty of orchestral backing tracks as well, notably on the songs ‘She’s a Rainbow’ and ‘Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing in the Shadows’.
But when The Beatles riled up a full orchestra on the eight-minute-long epic ‘Hey Jude’, that’s when Mick Jagger really took notice. “I liked the way the Beatles did that with ‘Hey Jude’,” Jagger said in 1969. “The orchestra was not just to cover everything up—it was something extra. We may do something like that on the next album.” The Stones were in the studio creating Let It Bleed at the time, and the influence was most clearly heard on ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.
Featuring french horns and a choral accompaniment from the London Bach Choir, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ stopped short of incorporating the full 36-piece orchestra that ‘Hey Jude’ had, but the connections between the two songs and their sweeping grandeur is clear. Even though their creative rivalry was just heating up, the Stones soon found themselves without a major opponent: less than four months after Let It Bleed was released, The Beatles officially disbanded.
Check out the audio for ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ down below.