Wednesday, 19 September 2012

FaceOff: The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones

The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones

Welcome to FaceOff, where I will be taking two similar or equally influential pop culture figures, and compare them. Please note that this is not a typical ‘who’s better’ blog, as that is just a pointless exercise in brain power and is ultimately a futile experience. Not to mention that I will be attacked by rabid fans no matter which way I turn, so I’d rather not bring that pressure on myself
Moving on.
So, as I said ,this is not your typical comparison. Instead, what I will be comparing is how two bands who started at the same time, but had fundamentally different approaches in their music, grew to where they are today.

I’d rather not go into details, as both these bands’ origin stories have been repeated so often that there’s no point in me repeating a tired tale. Here’s how it goes.
Liverpool. Skiffle. Mommy issues. Aunty issues. Hamburg. Death. Drums Issues. Hamburg. Record Deal. (Almost) Instant Stardom.
The Beatles: John, Paul, George and um...sorry, can't place the last one

And on the other end, London. Blues Incorporated. Phone Calls. Unfiled Muddy Waters LPs. Embarrassed Decca. Various changes. England’s Newest Hit-Makers.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.Wrinkles, on the other hand..

In contrast to the Beatles’ clean-cut image, the Stones presented themselves as the wild boys of rock n’ roll. This was done deliberately, in order to appeal to that section of society that found the Beatles “too poppy” (Yes, even in the 60s, when things were just getting started, pop music was derided. Go figure). However, both these images were manufactured. The Beatles’ image was manufactured by their manager, Brian Epstein, in order to replace their previous, raucous, wild stage personas. Indeed, if one were to look at their origins, the Beatles (working class Liverpudlians) might be considered even more rowdy than the Stones (middle class Londoners). The Stones were manufactured by their manager, Andrew Oldham. A former publicist for the Beatles, Oldham saw potential in the group being positioned as an "anti-Beatles" - a rougher group compared to the "cuddly moptop" image of the Beatles at that time.  This, by the way, proves that selling out doesn’t necessarily mean losing artistic credibility and/or talent (You’re welcome, punk rock bands).
Oh, they were manufactured too. Sorry, punk rock fans.

Both groups have a varied and diverse soundscape, but I’ve always found the Beatles to be the more innovative of the two. In fact, the Stones were seen as a throwback to the R&B and blues bands of old. Also, I’ve always found that the Stones seemed to ape whatever trend was in fashion at the moment, be it psychedilia (Their Satanic Majesties Request) or glam rock (It’s Only Rock n’ Roll), while the Beatles were constantly paving new ground. I’m sure I’ll get some criticism for that view point, but it is what it is. Sure, the Stones rocked harder, but at the end of the day, it was the Beatles that made rock n’ roll what it is today.
A masterpiece in psychedilia...

Sure, it doesn't break any new ground, but who said that's a requirement for good music?

Live Performances
No contest here. The Beatles were a fine live band in their own right, but they didn’t hold a candle to the Stones. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that what the Rolling Stones did for live performances was as ground breaking as what the Beatles did for studio innovation. Some may cite the fact that the Beatles stopped touring in the mid-60s as a reason for this setback, but I don’t think they’d ever be able to match the Stones. The Stones were raw, and showed us the wild side of rock music. (Of course, neither of the groups holds a candle to the Who in this category, but that’s a topic for another post).

Have some sympathy for the Beatles...or don't, seeing as they could buy your sympathy and then make it do the waltz with your dignity, and then they all laugh at your overly long captions...

So there you have it. Not a very thorough list, but I just wanted to highlight what I felt were the two groups’ biggest strengths. While the Beatles represented the creative and genius of rock n’ roll and pop music in general, the Stones showed us its wild and beautiful side.