Ever since the Rolling Stones first made the charts back in 1963 with their initial hit, 'I Wanna Be Your Man' - ironically, a Lennon McCartney song, a debate has raged, off and on, about which is the better band. By then The Beatles had already enjoyed three huge UK hits with 'Please Please Me', 'From Me To You' and 'She Loves You'.

Amusingly, despite being well into his eighth decade now, Paul McCartney recently re-entered the fray by saying, “I love the Stones and always have. But the Beatles were the better band back in the day. The Stones rooted their material and style in the blues, whereas The Beatles had a far wider range of influences. And Keith Richards once commented to George Harrison and me that, 'You were lucky, you had three great songwriters and four singers in your band; we had one singer' - and, essentially, that's true.

“Both bands were great on stage and made good records but, in all modesty, I do believe The Beatles were more innovative and led the way. Back in the Sixties we also started to notice how, whatever we did, the Stones kind of followed. We went to America and had our big success; then they went there. We did Sgt. Pepper and then the Stones did a psychedelic album, 'Their Satanic Majesties Request'. There was a lot of that."

“I recall George causing an upset in the Sixties when he commented to a newspaper reporter that 'Mick Jagger is a bit of a copy-cat, always lurking in the background, never wanting to miss an opportunity to ape what The Beatles are doing'". George had a point and, although we enjoyed the company of the guys in the Stones, I do think we were all wary about that constantly happening. And of course their manager then, Andrew Loog Oldham, had briefly done some work with our manager Brian Epstein – so there was a link there, too. And, when he took on management of the Stones, Andrew made no secret of his ambition to repeat the success Brian had enjoyed with The Beatles.”

Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger's girlfriend in the mid-1960s, has often referred to the intriguing relationship between Jagger and The Beatles. In her autobiography Marianne describes Mick's 'sycophantic relationship' with McCartney. “Whenever the two met, Mick would always go to Paul's house, never the other way round. There was always a real rivalry there. But never from Paul, none at all. Paul was oblivious but there was always something from Mick, a bit of an edge,” she writes. And she makes it clear that there was always an eagerness, almost a desperation, from Mick Jagger to learn from McCartney, Lennon and the whole Beatles machine. So George Harrison and Paul McCartney might have been right about the Stones' urgent wish to replicate some of The Beatles' work in those early days."

In his recent comments, Paul McCartney went on to say, “I also know John Lennon was always irritated that the Stones were marketed as being more hip and rougher-edged than The Beatles, who some of the cool folk chose to see as too soft, cuddly and artifical - which of course we absolutely never were! And the Stones were more middle class than us with ex-Boy Scout patrol leader Keith Richards, Brian Jones from a very comfortable family home in Cheltenham and Mick Jagger who was an undergraduate at the London School of Economics! They'd also never been exposed to playing in places like Hamburg or Liverpool, either. So they had never actually developed that tougher edge to their playing.

When comparisons were made, John was characteristically blunt about it. "Listen, the Stones are not in the same class either music-wise, power-wise or originality-wise," he would tell interviewers in the 1960s. "Mind you, like all of us, the Stones developed a lot over the years and are a fine live-performing band these days!”

Mick Jagger, 77 later this year, compared with McCartney's almost 78 years, has now responded to McCartney's recent comments.

“There is a big and important difference between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones,” Jagger says. “The Stones are still one of the biggest concert bands on earth and have been constantly through six decades! The Beatles never even did an arena tour. How could they? They broke up before the touring business started for real. The Stones started stadium gigs in the early 1970s and have done them ever since. The Beatles broke up half a century ago. We are luckily still playing live to huge audiences; The Beatles don't exist! That's the difference. End of story!”

However, to the legions of fans of both bands, that won't end the rivalry! Many in The Beatles' camp would argue that the break-up of the “Fab Four” in April 1970 simply and permanently consolidated their dominance over the Stones. After all, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly...even Beethoven or Bach are no less great for no longer being with us... And The Beatles' story had a beginning, a middle and an end whereas the Stones have had a start and a hugely elongated middle...to the point where some would now see them as having almost become their own tribute band.

On the other hand, as any Stones fan will tell you, The Rolling Stones are undoubtedly one of the very best live acts on the planet – even if the combined age of their current four leading members does exceed 300 years! Their achievements have been remarkable and their longevity is astounding. Surely, as he nears his 78th birthday, even Paul McCartney would readily acknowledge that!









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