Despite the rumours of rivalry, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were brothers in arms, and as time gets further away from the heady days when both were at their peak, we understand more acutely just how important both bands were to the advancement of popular music and culture. The Beatles were undoubtedly the most consequential out of the two, but this should not negate the impact that The Stones had. If The Beatles were sugar, then The Rolling Stones were salt, and both had a significant role in changing the world.
Both outfits are so closely linked that there are two songs they recorded during the early days, reflecting exactly how they emerged from the same artistic standpoint. The first originated in America, and would be the earliest indication of both band’s fascination with R&B and soul.
When Barrett Strong recorded his version of Berry Gordy’s ‘Money (That’s What I Want’ for the Motown subsidiary, Tamla in 1959, nobody believed that the following year, it would become Motown’s first hit record. It kicked off a dynasty that would produce some of the most important artists of all time.
At the time, The Beatles, who were just starting to cut their teeth as a band, were massive fans of the track, which eventually led to them recording a cover that appeared on their second album, 1963’s With the Beatles. Interestingly, The Stones were also fans of the track. They recorded their own rendition of the track for their debut EP, 1964’s The Rolling Stones.
Both With the Beatles and The Rolling Stones were recorded in the summer of ’63, and it was during this period that The Beatles established themselves as one of Britain’s hottest products. Duly, the wiley manager of The Rolling Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham, got in contact with them and enquired if John Lennon and Paul McCartney had a track for his clients to record.
The story is a well-known one. Lennon and McCartney wrote ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ quickly in the corner of a Richmond, London club when The Stones were rehearsing.
In 1968 Rolling Stones frontman, Mick Jagger said: “We knew [the Beatles] by then and we were rehearsing and Andrew brought Paul and John down to the rehearsal. They said they had this tune, they were really hustlers then. I mean the way they used to hustle tunes was great: ‘Hey Mick, we’ve got this great song.’ So they played it and we thought it sounded pretty commercial, which is what we were looking for, so we did it like Elmore James or something. I haven’t heard it for ages but it must be pretty freaky ’cause nobody really produced it. It was completely crackers, but it was a hit and sounded great onstage.”
Looking back on the track in 2016, when speaking to Rolling Stone, McCartney recalled: “We were friends with them, and I just thought ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ would be good for them. I knew they did Bo Diddley stuff. And they made a good job of it.”
The Rolling Stones recorded ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, shortly after the meeting with Lennon and McCartney, and released it on November 1st, 1963. Tying the two groups together forevermore, it became their first UK top-20 hit, peaking at 12 on the British chart. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Beatles also recorded their version of the track, and famously, it was sung by drummer Ringo Starr, and was released as part of With the Beatles, and the US release, Meet the Beatles! Featuring the tremeloed open E-chord, in the years following its release, the band were dismissive of its quality.
Lennon quipped in 1980: “It was a throwaway. The only two versions of the song were Ringo and the Rolling Stones. That shows how much importance we put on it: We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”