If you’re old enough to remember rock music first-hand from the 1960s and ‘70s, as opposed to learning about it on oldies radio, you’ll have been involved in “Beatles or Stones” conversations many times in your life. I sure have, nearly as often as the old “desert island” record discussions.
McMillian’s entertaining history of the relationship between the Stones and Beatles plays out primarily in the media and music industry of the times. The Beatles came from grungy Liverpool and paid their dues on the seamy streets and cellars of Hamburg, Germany, yet their ‘60s portrayal was of lovable mop-tops with nice smiles. At the same time, the Stones evolved out of art college backgrounds, a different class entirely, but from the early days of the ‘60s were termed dark, scary, dirty.
I was a Beatles fan; my first album purchase was The Beatles Second Album. Recently I teared up watching the Beatles special celebrating the 50th anniversary of their first Ed Sullivan Show appearance. I get all passionate about them; all these years later I still wish they’d gotten together on Saturday Night Live when they were all in town one night and Lorne Michaels was trying to convince them to show up.
But I’m a Stones guy first and foremost. To me, Keith Richards is the living epitome of a musical note. I burst into tears the first time I saw him on stage (“Not Fade Away”). Who is better than Charlie Watts as a rock drummer? Answer: not even Keith Moon! Don’t even get me started about John Bonham.
Beatles vs Stones is a rollicking journey back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, a more innocent era when this was one of the big questions in rock’n’roll. I learned a great deal; I’d never read that Jagger and Richards were at the Beatles Shea Stadium show, for example. McMillian’s insights are plentiful ,and his perspective rings right with me. Good stuff.
Simon & Schuster