‘Battle’ of the Beatles and Stones: McCartney, Jagger Weigh In

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Charlie Watts’ drum kit

It’s the Battle of the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones: 2020 edition. In this corner… weighing in at 77 years and 10 months… Paul McCartney. The challenger… at a spry 76 years and 9 months… Mick Jagger.

It was an eventful week for two of the most legendary figures in all of popular music. Both appeared on the April 18 broadcast/streaming special, One World: Together at Home, each performing one of their classic rock hits. “Lady Madonna” for Sir Paul. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from Sir Mick (with his Rolling Stones bandmates).

Days earlier, McCartney had phoned in to The Howard Stern Show on SiriusXM to plug the event. The shock jock is truly one of the great interviewers, able to get his subjects to open up about topics that are often considered taboo. Stern said: “I’m not asking you to be pompous about this. The Beatles are better than the Rolling Stones. Correct.”

Ringo Starr’s drum kit

McCartney laughed and said, “Well you know, Howard, you know you’re going to persuade me to agree with that one. The Rolling Stones are a fantastic group. I go see them every time they come out. They’re a great, great band. Mick can really do it, the singing and the moves. And Keith, and now Ronnie, and Charlie. They’re great. I love ‘em.

“Their stuff’s rooted in the blues. When they’re writing stuff, it’s to do with the blues, you know. Whereas we had a little more influences. Keith once said to me, ‘You’re lucky, man. You had four singers in your band. We’ve got one.’

“There’s a lot of differences. I love the Stones. But I’m with you: the Beatles were better.”

Stern then brought up the Stones’ response to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album.

“We started to notice that whatever we did,” came the reply, “the Stones sort of did it shortly thereafter. So, we went to America and had huge success. Well then the Stones went to America. We did Sgt. Pepper, the Stones did a psychedelic album. You know.

“There was a lot of that. But we were great friends, you know. Still are. We admire each other.”

Listen to Stern’s interview with McCartney

Then on April 23, the Stones surprised their fans with a great, new recording, “Living in a Ghost Town,” their first new song since 2012.

Watch the official video

Jagger did an interview via Skype – from “the middle of nowhere” – with Zane Lowe of Apple Music’s Beats 1. After talking about the new song, the host then changed subjects to the Stern interview. He relayed McCartney’s “the Beatles were better” comment to which Jagger smiled. “There’s obviously no competition.”

“I’m a politician,” said Jagger

Lowe pressed him for more. “I’m a politician,” said Jagger. “You know the big difference though is, it’s sort of slightly seriously, [pauses to collect his thoughts], the Rolling Stones have been a big concert band in other decades and other eras when the Beatles never did an arena tour… Madison Square Garden or a decent sound system. They break up before they even… that business started. The touring business for real. It didn’t start until the end of the Sixties. The first like that for us was 1969 so there was real sound, your own sound systems, your own stage. Touring around America, going to hockey, basketball arenas, looking all the same. That business started in 1969 and the Beatles never experienced that.

“Yet they played and did a great gig at Shea Stadium and I was there. The Stones started doing stadium gigs in the Seventies and still doing them now. That’s the real difference between these two bands. One band is unbelievably luckily still playing in stadiums and the other band doesn’t exist.”

“The Stones invented the live scale touring experience,” offered the interviewer.

Jagger replied, “Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were two of the other bands that were doing that stuff almost in the same time frame. Zeppelin and us were doing big shows with lights and all the stuff. Pink Floyd did big stadium shows.”

Watch Jagger’s interview with Zane Lowe of Beats 1 on the day of the new song’s release

On Saturday, April 25, the Beatles will be hosting a free live stream of a singalong edition of the Yellow Submarine film on their Youtube Channel at 9 a.m. PDT / 12 p.m. EDT / 5 p.m. BST.

As of April 24, the 2020 edition of McCartney’s Freshen Up tour is still scheduled. Tickets are available here.

The Stones have postponed their 2020 North American No Filter tour. Once it’s been rescheduled, tickets will be available here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

9 Comments so far

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  1. RedRoc
    #1 RedRoc 25 April, 2020, 00:57

    The Beatles are overrated. Only so-called no nothing music critics rate them as the greatest. So what if each member can sing, it’s not a recipe for greatness, and, none is a great singer. Other bands admire them, but don’t consider them as such, they think their own band is instead. There are a dozen or more British bands that are so much better, and, in America they’re several dozens. The Beatles are great poets who sing in a band, they are not great musicians. For instance, who is their Jack Bruce? Who is their Ginger Baker? Who is their Eric Clapton? This is the perfect example when three are better than four. The Bees aren’t good enough to carry Cream’s instrument cases.

    Reply this comment
    • Yazmatazz
      Yazmatazz 25 April, 2020, 10:42

      Thanks for the good laugh mate, really. I’m not sure how old you are, but perspective can make a difference. I’m 64, so I grew up in the 60s and listened to the Beatles and yes, Cream, in real time. Unless you were there to experience it, it is sometimes hard to understand the impact. I will agree with you that Cream was the ultimate power trio. Eric, Jack and Ginger were all rock gods. But as good as they were, did they have the same impact On music of the 60s as the Beatles? I have a very good friend of mine who is 52 years old and feels the exact same way that you do about the Beatles. But he didn’t experience them in real time either. I know so many people that love and admire the Beatles, while at the same time, an equal number that simply loathe them. I’ve never seen one musical group generate so much love and hate at the same time. But I guess it’s just the way the world. Stay safe and don’t let the crazies get you down!

      Reply this comment
    • Daytripn
      Daytripn 25 April, 2020, 11:11

      “I’m so glad” who is the genius that wrote those lyrics? “The painting had a beard” more nonsense. Cream was terrible that is why Clapton left, he didn’t want to be associated with tin ear musicians.

      Reply this comment
      • RedRoc
        RedRoc 25 April, 2020, 22:14

        Daytripn, Clearly, you are clueless. Eric Clapton has repeatedly stated that Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker are the greatest musicians he has ever been associated with. Also, pease quote the reference where he said he left Cream because Jack and Ginger weren’t good. And while you’re at it, can you expertly explain why you disagree with Geddy Lee and the late Neil Peart about the greatness of Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker respectively?

        Reply this comment
    • TheWalrus
      TheWalrus 26 April, 2020, 17:09

      I agree with you about the musicianship of Cream. I wish I enjoyed listening to them more but I get bored quickly with their sound. I have limited patience for jam band music. I love melody, harmony, hooks, etc. It’s really a matter of taste. If you feel that great jamming makes a song great then that’s your taste. Personally, I don’t really care about what Rush thinks. Geddy Lee said Paul McCartney was a bass influence for him. Look for the quote, you’ll find it. Rush is another group of great musicians who make jam band music. Every song has to show off their skills. It’s a formula like any other formula. However, there is a whole history of great songs that don’t require great skill to play. A great song is a great song because it’s a great song, regardless of it’s level of difficulty to play it. It’s not an opinion that The Beatles had a greater impact on music and the music industry than Cream. It’s a fact that has been proven over and over in numerous ways. Eric Clapton would agree with that. Clapton, in fact, was good friends with The Beatles. Keep loving Cream and Rush. I agree they are great bands and great musicians. No need to crap on The Beatles. No need to diminish their impact. There’s enough room for all the music to exist.

      Reply this comment
    • nick
      nick 6 May, 2020, 17:11

      Al that needs to be said is – YOU NO NOTHING!

      Reply this comment
    • M The Kingbee
      M The Kingbee 17 May, 2020, 09:20

      Total bollocks.The Beatles were the greatest British band on all fronts.The best British rock and roll band too.The great musicians bit doesn’t hold water either, who cares? the sum of the four parts is what mattered.Great singing is also musical too.The best 2 british rock and roll singers were in the same band.Nobody equals McCartney on Long tall Sally, except Lennon on Twist and Shout.I love Cream by the way.

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  2. RedRoc
    #2 RedRoc 25 April, 2020, 01:03

    BTW. Ringo Starr is the most talented Beetle as singer and musician.

    Reply this comment
  3. Jim4est
    #3 Jim4est 29 April, 2020, 14:25

    The Beatles are far greater than the sum of their parts and their contribution to British music,fashion and culture are immeasurable. With regards to the Stones, great band as they were and are their overall contribution is totally eclipsed by the Fab Four

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