I’m taking a short break from Doctor Sleep to write an entry. I’m trying not to rush through the book super fast—I want to savor it—so I watched more videos today in the History of Rock course. We’re at the point where we’re talking about the British Invasion, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.
As you can imagine, I’m a happy girl with these lectures!
I’m not going to debate the merits of each band here, or try to come to any sort of conclusion. I think that is a futile exercise, because I don’t think there is any way to convince someone who thinks the Beatles were the best that the Stones really were better, or vice versa. In fact, I came to realize today that it’s not exactly an appropriate comparison. Sure, they both worked on the same musical playing field in the ‘60s, competing for hits and airtime, but they came at it from different approaches, via different influences.
I had always thought that I preferred the Stones because they were the “bad boys” in the equation. That is definitely part of it; I prefer their raunchier sound, their more in-your-face (heh) sexuality, and their somewhat more sinister music. There is more to it than that, though. I was under the assumption that each of their influences were similar, that they both listened to similar American blues music (specifically, Chicago blues) that was all the rage in England at that time. Not so. The Stones, in London, definitely were part of that scene, and that was their major influence. But the Beatles, in Liverpool, were more into American pop than American blues. With Liverpool being a port city, sailors would bring back all these American pop records and sell them in Liverpool. Meanwhile, Keith and Mick and their friends were sending off mail orders for American blues records, and having listening parties where everyone brought their records. Each were steeped in different styles of American music.
I think these influences are obvious in their respective styles. As President Obama says, let me be clear. I love the Beatles, and they were some of the first rock music I remember listening to. But I’ve always been drawn to the Stones much more, and I think it’s because the blues influence is so much more prevalent in their music.
I think my preference also has to do with timing. I’ve read that the music you listen to in your adolescent and young adult years is the music that resonates the most with you for your entire life. My sister Diana, the Beatlemaniac (she’s the one who played their records that I heard when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old), will be forever true to the Beatles, because that is what she was listening to when she was in junior high and high school. By the time I got to that point, the Beatles had broken up, and the Stones were huge throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, which was my musical young adulthood.
So these lectures were a bit of an epiphany for me today. I was like, “A-ha! So THAT’S why I dig them more!” I had honestly thought that the Beatles had that same blues influence that the Stones did. To some extent, they did, but they weren’t as into it as much as Brian, Mick, and Keith. I think that shaped their entire sound, and while both are considered two of the greatest rock bands ever, I believe that comparing them is an apple and oranges endeavor. I stand by my assertion in the past that the Stones are the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band. If the Beatles had continued, would they have that title? Or would a more appropriate title be the World’s Greatest Pop Band?
Discuss amongst yourselves.