Jul 16, 201310:12 AM
The Lighter Side

Exploring the humor and peculiarities of the Big Easy

The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones

Social media has blown up in the past few days with some serious hot-button issues and it has all inspired me to take some time off of the interwebs, Twitters, YouTubes and comment sections before I try to track down one of those "Men in Black" devices to wipe my mind of all the hateful vomit I've seen spewed across various social networks.


But in lieu of frying my brain, or finding some vampire to glamour me, I've decided to spend some time tackling a much more lighthearted debate, the unrelenting debate that's been going on for 50 years now: The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones.


Are The Beatles the number one rock band of all time? There certainly is a lot of evidence to support that claim, I suppose, but I've always been a Rolling Stones girl. For me, The Stones are the quintessential rock ‘n' roll band. They are undisputed. They reign supreme, and they always will. And I've been mulling over why that is the past few days mostly because of how much I enjoyed going to the 11th Annual New Orleans Beatles Festival at the House of Blues over the weekend.


It was my husband's birthday and his favorite band of all time is The Beatles, and in some crazy twist of fate he happened to marry a Rolling Stones loyalist as if we met in the year 1969 instead of 2009.


There were several bands that went on stage and my dear husband had been looking forward to it for weeks and weeks, but it took me a little while to get into it. Mainly because while I'm sure that The Molly Ringwalds are a great band, it's just that they happened to be playing a set dedicated to Wings' greatest hits. Apparently The Beatles Festival isn't just for any fair-weather Beatles fan, this was also for the Beatles "hipster" fans who are looking for something a little deeper. But Wings is not my favorite. Wings-era Paul McCartney is responsible for one of the worst Christmas songs of all time. Wings is responsible for the dentist chair favorite "Silly Love Songs." If you want to go with a former Beatles-member's side project, why not the Traveling Wilburys? Hell, the Plastic Ono Band? Anything but Wings! But I digress.


When the Top Cats came on stage to play a great variety of Beatles hits spanning their catalogue of rock masterpieces, I found myself getting into it. It really was a lot of fun and the musicians really brought all the songs to life while artfully edited video footage of the Fab Four played in the background. Great time. I highly recommend going next year.


But I couldn't help but think: Am I cheating on my one true love, The Rolling Stones?


The answer is – of course – hell no. It's possible to enjoy both and still know the truth deep down in your heart. It's possible to enjoy "Champagne Supernova" while loving Blur. And it's okay if you like other ‘90s grunge bands besides Nirvana.


My reasons for siding with The Stones are many, but here are a few:


I am biased. I admit it. My dad was and still is a major influence in my life in regard to what I listen to. While growing up, we had family photos hanging around the house, a nice picture of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and also images of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Robert Plant and the like adorning our walls. When I was little, my dad would say, "Annie, where'd you learn about David Bowie?" And I'd be like, "YOU, ALRIGHT!? I learned it from watching you!"


My dad and his friends were a part of the first ever rock 'n' roll superfans. They went to every every concert, whether it was The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or The Who, that they possibly could. And they still do to this day. Drives my mother crazy.


When I was little, our family dog was called Keifer. Not because of that actor who appears in "The Lost Boys" and "24," but because of Keith Richards' nickname.


And true story, many years ago my grandmother caught wind that my dad was planning on taking me to see Pink Floyd, and she was like, "Oh, hell no! I don't want my granddaughter ending up like one of those rock 'n' roll girls!" Whatever that meant. So I didn't get to go. But, nearly two decades later and several Rolling Stones, The Who, Page and Plant, David Bowie, White Stripes, Radiohead, Lollapaloozas, Bonnaroos, New Orleans Jazz Fests and countless other shows under my belt, and I'm like, "OOPS, sorry Grandma! Rock 'n' roll girl, right here!"


Anyways. I grew up with The Rolling Stones. They're in my blood. My brother and I always say that "the family who goes to see The Rolling Stones together, stays together." It's true.


I like honesty. The Beatles like to say, "I wanna hold your hand." The Stones just go ahead and say, "Let's spend the night together." That pretty much sums it up for me.


I like the sexier, grittier rock music, like the stuff that came with "Exile on Main Street." I'm not so keen on songs about magical mystery buses, yellow submarines, precious walruses, raccoons and black birds. I stopped thinking it was cool that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" sort of maybe meant "LSD" when I was a freshman in high school. To my knowledge, the Stones never sang about a magic bus or an egg man or a walrus, and for that, I thank them. 


The Rolling Stones are the better live band. Granted, this is not really The Beatles' fault because they only had a few years and The Stones have had 50, but I like listening to live recordings and watching concerts on DVD along with the tried and true studio recordings. While The Beatles' albums are brilliant and game-changing, The Rolling Stones far and away outshine them in this regard. I'll also go out on a limb and say that even if The Beatles had been blessed with the longevity that The Rolling Stones have had, the Stones would still be the better live band. I've seen Paul McCartney's live shows before; they always ends with "Hey Jude". Hey, never heard that song before! Hey, snore zzzzzzzzzzz... (In case you can't tell, I'm not the biggest Paul McCartney fan.)


The Rolling Stones can play country music like a boss. Have you ever heard that stupid song in which Alan Jackson sings, "Don't rock the jukebox, I wanna hear some Jones, cause my heart ain't ready for The Rolling Stones"? Well, it would seem that Alan Jackson has never bothered to listen past "Start Me Up," or "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll," because this group of old brits can play Americana music better than, well, certainly Alan Jackson. And while I love George Harrison with all my heart, I prefer the Stones experiments with country music and slide guitar to all the sitar playing. Sorry, George. Your songs are still my fave Beatles songs, though.


And like I said, those are but a few reasons that I prefer The Rolling Stones. There are certainly many more, but I'm going to pause here, because if you let me, I could probably go off on so many tangents that this blog post would be a mess and you'd probably get really bored or really angry because of my unpopular opinion that Yoko Ono is totally awesome.

Reader Comments:
Jul 16, 2013 11:39 am
 Posted by  raw

Good points. The Stones are arguably a better performing band, but they stopped growing artistically a long time ago - a major, entirely unnecessary, and giant bummer of a downside. I still love them, especially their dark side, but the Beatles were geniuses, collectively, and Lennon individually, and the best of McCartney (though Wings I agree is a bit pathetic), especially his melodies, stand with the best of all time. The Beatles were, and are, far more important in the heights of their unprecedented achievements and their impact on the world.

Jul 16, 2013 01:46 pm
 Posted by  Sonny Crockett

The Stones are a great band, especially live, but when you listen to the Beatles play live especially 1963-65 (when they were interested), you can hear what truly great players they were live. Shea Stadium is a great example of the music being exciting especially since they couldn't hear what they were playing. You always got the impression also, that the Beatles could do the "Stones" type music if they chose. A great example of this is Lennon's "Yer Blues" on The White Album. The Stones are the greatest 3 chord band ever (and that's no disrespect), who's best live performances probably were in the 80's and 90's. McCartney seems like an anomally, he is one of the greatest bass players in the world and still sings all those songs in the same key. Ringo, while never being mistaken for Pavaroti,singing with the All Star Band, still has the same voice and has gotten better as a song writer. Ringo's last 3-4 CD's have been very good. The Beatles changed the world; the Stone are lots of fun....still and I'm glad they we have them both...

Jul 16, 2013 02:40 pm
 Posted by  socialchairman123

Rolling Stones #1, Beatles #1A

Aug 16, 2013 03:35 pm
 Posted by  Vox

It's easy to argue the fundamentals of why one band might be better than the other. But I think inevitably, it comes down to taste. Both bands took from skiffle, blues, country, and from those styles they created their own rock and roll music, some songs similar, some not perhaps. So, even though they come from the same mold, their approach is different enough. Like the Stones, the Beatles' entire music catalog is divided into two chapters for me. The early stuff (early 60's), and the latter stuff (late 60's - early 70's). From their very early years, the "mop top years," with tracks like " I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1963)," which you reference, to the latter years, when the Beatles were at their best, you hear the strength of a band's passion to invent new sounds. I prefer to point readers to the end of Abbey Road as one of their pinnacle points in studio recording, but that's my opinion. Anyways, my point is, when comparing the Stones to the Beatles, one must keep the years in which songs/albums were released. It is absolutely essential that one knows a bands "discography." You can't fairly compare a song that the Beatles released in 1963, to a song that the Stones released in 1967. So much innovation happened from those early years to latter, for both bands, that release dates become crucial facts to know. While the Rolling Stones had "Let's Spend the Night Together (1967)," the Beatles had "Why Don't We Do It In The Road (1968)." Which band is more honest? Broad question, but within the song context that you created, and which I added to, I'd have to say they might be equally as honest. Overall, that is a toss up. Both I suppose.

Aug 16, 2013 03:36 pm
 Posted by  Vox

Who is sexier / grittier? Again, I think both bands have their fail safe tracks, you know, the songs that scream number one on the billboard charts. Songs that jump started their career as professional musicians, but not unique, revolutionary compositions. Where the Beatles had their cover song "Twist and Shout (1963)," the Stones had "Satisfaction (1965)." But both also have tons of tracks that were game changers for the music industry. After years and years of listening to the Beatles, I think any decent Beatles' fan would eventually grow tired of both their "mop top," early stuff, and also their latter psychedelic collection, and begin to lean more towards their straight up rock tracks, (i.e I've Got a Feeling, and Get Back). I'm not a huge Stones' fan, but when I am blasting their tunes, songs like Ruby Tuesday are generally skipped for "Wild Horses." Given all that, I do agree that the Stones' do lean more towards the grittier side of sound. But, if you really get into the Beatles, I think you'd find some 'grit' in their latter years.

Aug 16, 2013 03:37 pm
 Posted by  Vox

Although I love watching the Rolling Stones live, and totally agree that the Stones probably would out shine the Beatles if both bands were currently touring, I'm going to skip the live band comment. it's just too ridiculous to say the Rolling Stones are the better live band, when there is just nothing real to compare to. The Beatles stopped touring early in their career, because, among other reasons, they were overwhelmed by the "Beatlemania." Their small, VOX amps couldn't compete with the sound their audiences were creating. The Beatles thought the audience was there more to see them, not listen to their music. So, they re-treated to Abbey Road. If you haven't already, watch the live concert the Beatles performed at Shea. It's on Youtube. They had great chemistry on stage, and if they were still performing today, I think that would hold true. Mick does have an edge with his dancing though.

Aug 18, 2013 11:24 pm
 Posted by  Quincychris1

The reason I think this question is debated with such passion & conviction is while the Beatles were more talented as a band & on an individual basis (yes even when Brian Jones was a live & well !) The Rolling Stones in the beginning copied everything The Beatles did as we all know the Beatles wrote The Stones first hit for them but really if you go back for any Beatles success the Stones soon to follow up with something similar ---alright now to answer the question who is the better "Rock n' Roll" Band ? . That title would & should most certainly go to The Rolling Stones Because while the Beatles were more talented musically the Stones have all the hallmarks of a "Rock n' Roll" band they are really the first band to live the life & set the standard of what a "Rock n' Roll" band is .I mean come on I know for a fact that no one will dispute that the Stones have a WAY better band logo (the tongue) I think to be crowned the greatest rock band of all time you have to meet certain criteria the beatles might have been more talented as musicians that is not enough to claim the throne you also have to have an infamous concert tour or two under your belt (Altamont anyone?) people killed, Hell's Angels as crowd control ! now that is Rock n' Roll !!! Mick Jagger is the epitome of a rock band frontman & Keith Richards antics too many to list ! The chemistry between the glimmer twins is unmatched the fights the girl swapping ? legendary to say the least & yes Mick's "is he gay? straight ? who knows! is he a rich snob or a "Street Fighting Man?" The song titles? pure genius ! . "Gimme Shelter" "Under My Thumb" "Sympathy for the Devil" & Just how Many rolling Stones songs are in some of the greatest movies (ie Goodfellas, Casino and many more) .I am running out characters so I'll summarize ..to be the the best rock band there is far more criteria then the ability to be a great musician ,it's a group effort & the Beatles are 4 individuals where The Stones a true rock band .

Aug 20, 2013 05:28 pm
 Posted by  dpj0122

There is NO question that the Rolling Stones are the greatest rock band. Fifty years is fifty years. They virtually invented the modern rock concert and Mick is undoubtedly the front man of all front men. Their catalog spans rock, pop, country, blues, R & B, gospel, reggae, disco, rockabilly, folk, even jazz . This concept that the Beatles were superior songwriters is nonsense. The Beatles were better POP songwriters, but I'll give the edge to the Stones every time when it comes to raw butt kicking rock and as I've already noted, their music is much broader than they are generally given credit for. I'd put YCAGWYW and SFTD and Gimme Shelter, for example, up against any of the Beatles best compositions, artistically and creatively. The Beatles were trendsetters but flamed out in a caldron of egos and greed . The Stones have put the band first, despite their frequent squabbles, and have thrived as a BAND. But most of all, the Stones are the greatest rock band because of that swagger. That swagger IS rock and roll. And they still have it as senior citizens.

Oct 3, 2013 01:03 am
 Posted by  zoyelque

The Beatles had Swagger but it was more classy than the Rolling Stones, it was a genius swagger.

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The Lighter Side

Exploring the humor and peculiarities of the Big Easy


Annie Drummond is a graphic designer and artist from Columbus, Ohio. She has a degree from the Columbus College of Art & Design. Two years ago she made the move from the Midwest to New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood and fell deeply in love as she discovered the rhythms and traditions of her new city. In addition to The Lighter Side, she writes about food, art and design (and other stuff) at www.AnniedelaDolce.com.




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