The conventional wisdom claims both bands loved each other; any rivalry was only hype. Historian John McMillian marshals evidence, gleaned from chronicles, biographies, interviews, and his own expertise as a scholar of the underground press, that suggests the contrary.
While carefully allowing for mutual respect and admiration between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, he reveals that the competition between the perennial “toppermost of the poppermost” and their scruffier, sleazier runners-up motivated the Stones to match the success of pop’s lads from Liverpool, who were then driven to keep ahead of those equally calculating London blues-rockers, during much of the ‘60s. McMillian examines the creation of the marketing images for both groups, and he demonstrates how they were both, despite denials by members, complicit in their Fab Four models and thug five poses.
He begins with the clichés. They merit qualifications but endure as plausible. The dichotomies emerge. The Beatles as Apollonian, the Stones as Dionysian; one pop, the other, rock; erudite vs. visceral; utopian as opposed to realistic. Sean O’Mahony, publisher of both bands’ official fan magazines starting respectively in 1963 and 1964, crafted and softened their public images. He opines: “The Beatles were thugs who were put across as nice blokes, and the Rolling Stones were gentlemen who were made into thugs by Andrew (Loog Oldham, their manager).” McMillian accepts this as closer to the truth than the bands or their fans might admit during the next half a decade…
Read the remainder of this review in the Oct. 24 edition of CityLife, or at
This review originally ran on the website www.popmatters.com. John L. Murphy, Ph.D. coordinates the Humanities sequence at DeVry University’s Long Beach, California, campus.
BEATLES VS. STONES, by John McMillian, Simon & Schuster, 320 pages, $26 harcover, $10.67 Kindle. Book release Oct. 29.