I always thought it was a sillly competition. Why did people expect you to declare allegiance to only one band, the Rolling Stones or the Beatles? I loved them both! I see now that I bought 13 Beatles albums and only 10 Stones albums (and I have photographed both sets on my living room carpet), but I don’t think you can quantify my love for them based on record purchases or any other measure. I have seen the Stones in concert twice, once in the ’80s and once in the ’90s, and both times were magical. I have seen the Beatles in concert . . . never! I was too young to go to Shea Stadium when they played there in 1965 (and nobody could hear them over the screaming fans anyway). But I did see Paul McCartney in concert a few years ago, so maybe that counts as one fourth of a Beatles concert.
Both the Beatles and the Stones first hit the charts in 1964, when I was in eighth grade. I listened to rock ‘n’ roll music all the time – waking up to it on my clock-radio, in the car on the half-hour drive to and from school, before falling asleep at night – and I learned all the lyrics to all the songs I heard, most of which I can still remember now. My favorite radio station was WINS 1010, which had Murray the K and his Swingin’ Soiree. I also liked WABC with Cousin Brucie, and WMCA with B. Mitchell Reed (who?). Amazingly, more than 50 years later, Cousin Brucie can still be heard on Sirius Radio playing the hits from the ’60s. He is turning 83 this month!
The first Beatles song I remember was “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which was released at the end of December 1963. But I didn’t really focus on them until I saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. And yes, I was totally smitten once I saw that show. I bought each of their albums as soon as it came out, with the exception of Sergeant Pepper, which my mother surprised me with when I came home from a summer program at Syracuse.
The Rolling Stones had their first hit single with “It’s All Over Now” in July 1964, five months after the Beatles were on Sullivan. I liked that song, but didn’t focus on the group until I received their album called 12 x 5 as the prize for winning the corsage contest at my school’s Sadie Hawkins Dance in February 1965. It was one of my first LPs, and I played it over and over. It had fabulous songs on it, not only “It’s All Over Now,” but also “Time Is On My Side,” “Good Times, Bad Times,” and one of my personal favorites, “Susie Q.”
The Beatles wanted to hold my hand, and the Stones wanted to spend the night together. I could imagine both scenarios, although neither was going to happen any time soon, and both songs were equally great to dance to.
For some reason, I really loved the song “Under My Thumb.” Even in 1966 I recognized that the lyrics were extremely sexist (although that word wasn’t in my vocabulary yet), but I loved it anyway. And the Beatles had sexist songs too. Think about “Run For Your Life” or “You Can’t Do That.” I happily sang along with all these songs despite the fact that they were putting women down.
My equal love for both groups changed in 1968, the momentous year when I graduated from high school, got teargassed at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and joined Harvard SDS when I got to college. That was the year the Beatles had the song “Revolution” on their White Album, with the line “when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.” I always sang “count me IN” when I was singing along with the song. The Stones, that same year, released “Street Fighting Man,” saying “The time is right for violent revolution.” As I said in my earlier story, Street Fighting [Wo]man, that was when the Rolling Stones became my favorite band. For a while anyway.
The Beatles broke up in 1970. The Stones are still going strong, even though they are all in their seventies. In my collection of Stones albums, the alert observer will notice that the most recent one is Some Girls, which was released in 1978. I must admit I haven’t paid attention to any of their music of the last 40 years. But I do still love their old stuff. And I love the Beatles’ music too. In short, don’t make me choose!
To find an appropriate song title for this story, I had to turn to Willie Nelson, and a totally different genre!