The debate of an older generation: The Rolling Stones vs. The Beatles

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Yesterday while at a bar with my roommate and a good friend of ours someone played several Rolling Stones songs.  Some were classics like ‘Paint it Black’ and ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ but others I’ve never heard before.  So I brought up the topic of who is better, the Rolling Stones, or the Beatles. This has been discussed between music fans for practically 50 years at this point.  My friend Joe thought that musically the Beatles were better musicians. Tim and I veered towards liking the Stones better. This blog entry may not bring any new input to a standard rock and roll debate from an older generation, but why not put my two cents in.

First I’ll state what I’ve listened to.  Growing up my dad had Sargent Peppers by the Beatles on CD, and I listened to that quite a bit. In college I remember I purchased the White album, and I believe I started to listen to Abby Road, my dad had the record of it. Post college and perhaps in grad school at Kent State, I got the Forty Licks compilation of the Rolling Stones greatest hits, that I listened to a lot, and I have it in my itunes que now. So for about the past ten years I’ve only listened to the Rolling Stones, and for whatever reason never bothered to attain Beatles CDs or now digital music. About a year ago I also read Life, by Keith Richards, and that reading solidified that I am a fan of the Stones music.

Even though I not the hugest fan or listened to all the music I can still have an opinion. I like the Rolling Stones because they are aggressive, and their songs have an edge to them. One of the lyrics to the song ‘Under my thumb,’ is this: ‘she’s a squirmy dog who just had her day.’  That is not a romantic thought, and in general I don’t think the Rolling Stones are equated with peace and love. They are from the 1960’s time period but since they did not focus on the hippie movement it is more timeless in my opinion.

Yesterday Joe said that The Beatles had better albums than the Stones.  That may be true, that an album like Sargent Peppers you can sit through the whole thing and be amazed. A quick Internet search states that The Beatles had 12 albums, which is a substantial amount considering it’s a timeframe of less than a decade. But I value the Rolling Stones producing great singles over several decades. There is an answer to not having great albums, and it’s called greatest hits or compilations. Now that every song is digital, most people download singles, as opposed to albums. Is there any value to the album anymore? So I would rather have a Rolling Stones greatest hits collection than a single Beatles album any day.

One more thing about this debate I had yesterday at the bar. With a certain triumph I said ‘you hear Rolling Stones songs in bars all the time, but you never hear Beatles songs in bars.’ At first Joe agreed but then he went over to the jukebox. He found out that the new fancy Internet jukeboxes don’t allow downloading of Beatles songs.  The songs are boggled down in some ownership copyright woes because Michael Jackson owned the rights to them. If the Rock and Roll enthusiasts want this music to last centuries they need to make them available to hear. Younger generations are not going to associate The Beatles as great music if they never hear them anywhere. Liking particular music goes hand in hand with memories, and the good ones can make an experience. Maybe the reason this past decade of my life I’ve preferred the Rolling Stones is because I’ve heard them more regularly and the tunes are ingrained with nostalgia for me.

Lastly, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles are two of the best Rock n Roll bands ever. And even though they are compared each other so regularly because of the huge fame that started at about the same time, they both have signature sounds that stand apart from the rest of music.

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