Why Do I Have To Choose by
(303 Stories)

Prompted By Beatles vs Stones

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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!


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  1. Great title for a great claim. Although we all probably grokked the difference between the two groups, I welcomed new arrivals from both groups equally.
    I really enjoyed imagining you ‘rewriting’ the lyrics that needed correction. Good instincts in a pre-feminist era… or is it ERA? Change was in the air.

    Tell us what your winning Sadie Hawkins corsage was made of. We all want to know.

    • Suzy says:

      The claim being that I didn’t see the need to prefer one group over the other? Took me a while to find that Willie Nelson song, he’s not in my usual repertoire. My second choice song was “Torn Between Two Lovers” but that seemed a little presumptuous.

      The corsage was made from a stalk of celery that I decorated somehow. It was more of a bouquet than a corsage, because my date carried it, he didn’t wear it. But apparently it still qualified. I wish I had a picture of it, but alas, I don’t. Such a different time from now, when we take pictures of everything, no matter how trivial!

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Just a great, resonating story, Suzy, especially the fundamental point about there being no reason to have a favorite between the Beatles and the Stones. I mean, this isn’t exactly “Sophie’s Choice.” And you brilliantly encapsulated their good boy/bad boy personas in their own words with this line: “The Beatles wanted to hold my hand, and the Stones wanted to spend the night together.” Perfect!

    Having also grown up in the NY Tri-State area, I can very much identify with your choice of radio stations and DJ’s, and also marvel that Cousin Brucie is still out there on sat radio, and not sounding that much differently (or more — or less — coherent). And I am very impressed that you still have all your old albums. Do you pull out a KLH and play them ever?

    • Suzy says:

      I do still have ALL my old albums, in a bookcase in the living room that we specially made to have shelves the right height for LPs. Five shelves of records between Ed and me, divided between classical (mostly his) and rock (mostly mine), and in alphabetical order in each category. We also have a turntable in our living room, hooked up to speakers, although they are not KLH. I play my records sometimes, but not that often. It’s so much easier just to find a song on youtube and play it on my computer!

  3. John Zussman says:

    I love your take on this prompt, and the fact that you got out all your old albums and photographed them as documented proof of your affection for both! So many great details. Even growing up far from New York, I knew about Murray the K and Cousin Brucie, probably from camp friends, so those references resonated. And your line “The Beatles wanted to hold my hand, and the Stones wanted to spend the night together” truly sums up both bands. Why choose, indeed?

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, I am late to the discussion here, and everyone else has made great comments, but I’d like to chime in my assent. Why does one have to choose. In my own story, I talk about both bands a bit, saying that I enjoyed dancing to both. Great music from both bands and clearly you enjoyed them all. You really know your rock and roll!

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