Friday, June 22, 2007


My friends and I have been arguing Beatles vs. Stones forever, or so it seems. My friends are dyed-in-the-wool Stones fans. I, on the other hand, grew up on the perfect pop of the Beatles. I was only 6 or 7 when I fell in love with John Lennon's voice on "Tell Me Why." Then of course, there was Paul...Hey, when I was a kid, they were ubiquitous. On the radio. On television. In the movies. On your lunchbox. I didn't even know who the Stones were until several years after the Beatles broke up. (Yeah, ok, I was a little bit sheltered, but I did listen to Top 40 radio...)

Unfortunately, the 35th anniversary (can you believe it?) of what is arguably the best pure rock'n'roll album of all time, Exile on Main Street, is upon us, and with it, a steady stream of articles in the music press about what geniuses they were on this disc, etc. Well who can argue? I'm not even gonna try. If you want reasons, read Bill Janovitz's excellent addition to the 33-1/3 book series, aptly titled The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street (wow, how did they think of that title?). Anyway, much to my great disappointment, all these articles have done nothing whatsoever to bolster my case because not one music journalist has stood up for the Fabs as being equals, at least none that I have seen. What the?

Anyway, the debate has been revived amongst us for the umpteenth time because some ninny on the network of the OTHER New York baseball team hosted the great Little Steven on his show and one of the totally dumbass questions he asked him was (apropos of his Underground Garage empire), "Beatles or Stones?" What an idiot! You have one of the great rock'n'roll historians in for a Q&A and that's what you ask him? Unbelievable.

So we were discussing Steven's guest appearance on that network [shudders] prior to watching the final Sopranos episode, and the subject came up. It was, naturally, 3 against 1--not even close. (Where are all my Beatlefriends when I need them?) I got creamed with the "World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band" argument once again. Ouch. It was truly ugly. Of course, I thought of all my snappy comebacks on the drive home. As a matter of fact, it wasn't until a week or so later that I finally had the proper ammunition with which to counterattack, and by then it was far too late. Figures.

Well, in my humble opinion, there shouldn't even be an "either/or" question when it comes to The Beatles and The Stones. They were both unbelievably great, and it's apples and oranges. But since most of the rock world insists on forcing the issue, I'll play along. So, without further ado, below are some of the arguments I've seen and heard on this issue. C'mon, which side are you on? Read and decide for yourself...

Beatles: They came, they saw, they rocked, they broke up.
Stones: Still around 30 years later. Um, why?
Beatles: 3 out and out geniuses in one band, and the 4th guy wasn't bad either
Stones: Mick & Keith.
Beatles: 4 solo careers, a couple of which have been pretty damn impressive in their own right. Two of them are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as solo artists, for god's sake.
Stones: Xpensive Winos aside, not even a question.
Beatles: They did it all first: met Dylan, smoked pot, went psychedelic, etc.
Stones: They're bad boyz playin' rock'n'roll. It's all about stealing from your influences. Who cares who did what first?
Beatles: They could go from raw and raucous to unabashedly sexual to poppy and sweet to joyfully alive to heartbreakingly sad all on one record -- and it was never forced.
Stones: Um, Exile on Main Street.
Beatles: They practically invented power pop, but who's counting.
Stones: They are a genre unto themselves.
Beatles: Perfect and polished on vinyl, raw and real live.
Stones: Sloppy and messy and unforgettable. The essence of rock'n'roll.

I would say it's a draw. But my Stones friends always insist that they win because the Stones play rock'n'roll--understand the American musical tradition--better than the Beatles ever could. To which I say, check out the following Beatles covers:

"Please Mr. Postman"
"You Really Got a Hold on Me"
"Anna (Go With Him)"
"Long Tall Sally"
"Roll Over, Beethoven"
and last but most definitely NOT least:
"Twist and Shout" - the definitive version of a definitive rock'n'roll song. Yes, it's rock'n'roll, not pop, because it comes from R&B roots. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, pal...

I rest my case.

Oh, and Paul's new record is pretty good for a 64 year old. Sigh.

Beatles vs. Stones? Who cares? It's all great! Just to show that I have no allegiances, I will state that though my new favorite record is by this L.A. duo called The Red Button who play note perfect Brit pop--and they're both huge Beatleheads to boot--shocking, I know (please do check out their new disc, She's About to Cross My Mind--totally rules, right?)--though I love love love this record, I do also love (on the more rockin' side) The Shys and their most excellent garage rock. And they're also from L.A. Wait'll I tell my Stones friends. Could be a new battle in the making. Stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment