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Beatles vs. Stones

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  526 ratings  ·  103 reviews
A lively examination of the most legendary (and least understood) rivalry in the annals of rock ’n’ roll: “Beatles vs. Stones is one of the best rock biographies I have seen this year…If you thought you knew everything there was to know about these two groups, think again” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

In the 1960s an epic battle was waged between the two biggest bands in t
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Simon Schuster (first published October 29th 2013)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Whatever passing allegiance for this or that newly fashionable group, being a pop fan in 1964 Britain depended on one fundamental question: 'Are you Beatles or are you Stones?,' asked with the searching ferocity of rival factions in a football crowd." -- Philip Norman, author / journalist

When these groups first came to prominence, they were often compared to (or pitted against) each other in music journalism or by fans. It was really sort of 'apples and oranges.' The Beatles were influenced by
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book looks at how, in the Sixties, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were pitted against each other as rivals by the press, fans and, despite claims by both sides that they were not in competition, sometimes by the bands themselves. In the early Sixties, the Rolling Stones were portrayed as the Beatles polar opposites - the Beatles wanted to hold your hand, the Rolling Stones wanted to burn down your town, went the old quote. The Rolling Stones were rebels, the Beatles lovable mop tops; th ...more
Gaylord Dold
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McMillian, John. Beatles vs. Stones, Simon and Schuster, New York 2014
(304pp. $26)

Before they were the Beatles they were four teenage “scousers” from Liverpool who seemed unlikely to be remembered by anyone. Save for Ringo who lived in bone-crushing poverty and possessed a genuinely sweet nature, the lads were profoundly working-class and also juvenile delinquents who dressed in black, slicked their hair, smoked cigarettes, and did petty crimes. Lennon was the only one who grew up in a home with
Dec 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure if the author would like for me to call his book 'breezy' but that's what it is. Mainly a treatise on how both bands came about and subsequently viewed each other, the book is a quick read. As a previous commenter stated, the most informational parts of the book are how each band's manager shaped and directed their respective charges in the 1960s. As McMillian writes, in the early days one was either a Beatles person or a Stones person. Today that seems a bit trite as any discerning ...more
John Porcellino
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, music
This easy, breezy, entertaining read follows the trajectories of these two bands from their original meeting shortly after the Beatles relocated to London from Liverpool, through their joint misadventures with Allen Klein, and up to the Beatles eventual dissolution (with a quick look at the Stones' post-Beatles history).

I've been reading about the Beatles since I was 12, and this book offered me a few new stories and perspectives. I enjoyed it a lot.

The author has written in the past about the L
Courtney Smith
The best part of this book came when McMillian played to his strengths and explained the politics of both bands, busting at the notion in the late '60s that the Stones were a more politically active and involved group than the Beatles. ...more
Tim Hoiland
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arts-music, 2016
Verdict: Beatles win.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(nb: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss)

Beatles or Stones? I can’t even ponder how many of those once-popular Internet memes have asked that question. Sure enough, though, there it is among the twenty or thirty “getting-to-know you” questions. “Have you ever had surgery?” “What brand of toothpaste do you use?” “Beatles or Stones?”

In the 1960’s, it was even more common, and far more relevant. The Beatles were cuddly and parent-approvable, at least in
Todd Stockslager
May 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pop-culture
Review title: Not much masquerading as something

The title might suck you in like it did me in this intertwined thumbnail parallel sketch of the careers of the Beaches and the Rolling Stones. After all, I am just old enough to remember when that was a question that might seriously be posed to a fan of rock and roll music, because the answer to the question meant something about what you thought about music and life.

But after making his thesis statement McMillian really has little more to go on t
Familiar territory for the most part but the author spins an angle I haven't really seen before on The Beatles image. McMillian posits that their public posture as cheeky and relatively non-threatening rebels whitewashes a more 'thuggish' (author's word) reality. Likewise, The Stones' branding as greasy, ape-like hoodlums who don't wash their hair and piss on petrol station walls served to hide their more middle-class, educated, and an near-academic like appreciation of American blues/rhythm & b ...more
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
So interesting how Brian Epstein cleaned up the Beatles from small town troublemakers to be made acceptable by parents. Whereas the Stones were all good kids with attitudes that Andrew Oldman decided to exaggerate and market as the anti Beatles. Only to an extent because in NO way is Keith Richards fake. The relationship between the bands are fascinating to me along with individual band stories and personal ones. I can’t get enough.
Jan 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
2.5 stars. The title makes you think that this book is another baby boomer music critic attempting to settle this hoary debate for once and at all, but in fact it's written by a historian who attempts to trace the course of the supposed rivalry between Britain's 2 biggest rock bands from their beginnings to the early '70s. McMillan notes that both bands frequently denied that a real rivalry existed and that it was largely a media concoction intended to sell newspapers. He convincingly documents ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Attempts to dissect the decades old controversy, “Beatles or Stones.” McMillian, an historian, presents a well-researched discussion of the media contrived rivalry between the two groups. He also gives an interesting expose of the difference between the reality and the marketing; the Beatles, a rough-and-tumble bunch from northern England, were presented to the world as clean-cut, innocent youth, while the Stones, from middle-class upbringing and above-average educational opportunities, were por ...more
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a love story of sorts, of a historian devoted to chronicling two iconic bands and an amazing era in music, and of the rise of two bands themselves: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. John and Paul were raised in working class homes, and they always wanted more money. Why do this or that? Money , they each said. Did you know Mick studied economics and, contrary to his edgier, grittier image, he grew up in more socio-economic prosperity than The Beatles? Both bands started as cover bands, ...more
This was an interesting book, but I don't really think there was ever a true rivalry between the Stones and the Beatles, at least on the part of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The Beatles seemed to be confident enough in their own abilities to be able to enjoy, admire, and appreciate the work of others, instead of simply being made jealous by it. Why, indeed, should they have been jealous of anyone? Were there moments of bad blood and pettiness between the Beatles and the Stones? Apparently, yes ...more
Matt Lohr
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Don't let the title of John McMillian's book fool you. This book is NOT about deciding who is better among arguably the two greatest bands in the history of rock music. Instead, McMillian examines the complex ups and downs of the relationship between Mssrs. Lennon, Jagger, McCartney, Richards, et al., and finds intriguing and intelligent revelations about the bands' relationships to sex, money, political engagement, art, drugs, and of course music. McMillian is willing to be unsparing in his dep ...more
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
Mr. McMillian states that everyone has an opinion. Who do you like, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Most people can answer that question. Mr. McMillian lets you know that the differences may be less than they appear. He gives you a look at the state of the music business in the early 60s and what both groups were doing at the time. He looks at how much news was media created and gives you some looks behind the PR. He goes on to trace The Stones as they continue to tour and record music long a ...more
Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an ever-devoted Rolling Stones fan, I was really interested to hear how John McMillian compared two of the greatest rivals in rock history. And, I have to say, I wasn't disappointed. In fact, his unbiased approach was so convincing that I still am unsure as to whether he's a Beatles or Stones fan.

McMillian brought up both sides to the infamous stories, and I appreciated that (even the ones that made Jagger and the rest of the Stones look a little bad). I thought his take on the "what-if" Beat
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title alone inspired me to read this. I remember as a kid in the late 60's, I bought a Beatles album in the record section of a dept. store. A bunch of older boys chided me, saying that only girls liked The Beatles. Boys liked the Stones. And I was buying the "White Album"!
Beatles Vs Stones traces the basic concurrent histories of the groups and the concocted and real rivalries between them. The rapid ascendance of the Beatles popularity required control of the band members activity and pub
An interesting read for anyone who is a fan of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or the music industry in general. Beatles vs. Stones offers a glimpse behind the curtain at the business, lives, and personalities of (at least) the main players in these bands. My one "gripe" about this book is the ending. The mention of John Lennon's death as the final paragraph felt disjointed, almost like it was an afterthought, "Oh yeah, forgot to mention Lennon's death. We'll just drop that here so it makes it ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meticulously researched, precisely reported, not overlong. McMillian does a great job of identifying the areas of overlap - lots of cooperation and competition and both - between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, without reducing the dynamic to binary extremes. He strips away layers of myth, making it clear where oft-told stories don't fit the facts while offering plausible suppositions in their place (always stated as such). Though the writing style is engaging and accessible, the book is bes ...more
Caroline Elfland
Nov 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading Beatles vs. Stones. It clarified that though members of each group had their words about one another any major hostility was a myth created by the media. At times it seemed to be all over the place because the chapters were few, but definitely understandable to anyone with previous Beatles and Stones knowledge. I would recommend it to a fan of either group who, again, has prior knowledge.
Jun 24, 2016 marked it as to-read
* 14 Books From 2013 Every Music Lover Should Read

The rivalry of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones through the ’60s may seem like a tired topic, but it’s fresh and compelling in the hands of John McMillian. He peels away a lot of the conventional wisdom around the Beatles/Stones dichotomy and reveals the ways the actual lives of the bands differed from their images, and how much the bands and their managers played off each other to establish their brands.
Bob M.
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
As an unabashed beatle fanatic, I was pleased to find several things in this book that caught me by surprise. And knowing a fair amount re the stones, mostly after reading "My Life", this book served ss an education. I loved that time for a variety of reasons, not the least of which, the music. McMillans effort captures it all beautifully. ...more
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great in-depth look at how the Beatles and the Stones are similar and different, inspired each other, and made music itself better. Any music fan would love this book - it's well written, well researched, and thoughtful. Most interestingly, McMillian manages to NOT tip his hand - he doesn't choose a side in the "are you a Beatles or a Stones person" debate, which makes this a much stronger book. ...more
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book for any Beatles or Rolling Stones fan. It pairs them up, battling the age old question of who is better. In my opinion it's The Beatles. Hands down! RS were total posers and just followed what was popular and total fakes. ...more
Raza Syed
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and well presented book. It dives into the complex and instantly evolving relationship these two greats bands enjoyed from the 60s to the 80s...
Written in a simple and easy style; fun to read...
Paul Wilson
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty good overview of both bands' early years that doesn't QUITE live up to its title. The book comes off more like a dual biography of the two groups rather than an exclusive overview of their supposed "rivalry." Still, it's a solid cultural history of the era and its music. ...more
Kirk Astroth
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Very intriguing.
Erin Miller
Starts out great, doesn't go the distance. ...more
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Hi! I'm an associate professor of history at Georgia State University, in Atlanta. Previously, I've taught in the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature at Harvard, and I earned my Ph.D. from Columbia. I've recently begun a new project, "Welcome to Fear City," on crime, policing, and police corruption from the early 1960s until 2001. ...more

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