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Paul McCartney claimed the press “manufactured rivalry” between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Both bands needed the press, and the press needed them. However, it was still frustrating when certain claims from reporters stuck.

Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones at an event in 2001.
Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones | KMazur/Getty Images

The Beatles helped The Rolling Stones get a recording contract and a hit song

In their early careers, The Beatles helped The Rolling Stones many times. The Fab Four were fortunate enough to have landed a recording contract and had a couple of songs on the charts while Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones, and Bill Wyman were still playing blues clubs.

The Beatles knew The Rolling Stones and wanted to help their struggling friends. They helped them get a recording contract and a hit song. In The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, Paul recalled bumping into Jagger in Richards in London. Jagger told Paul and John Lennon that their band had finally landed a recording contract.

Paul knew this because The Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison “had got it for them.” The Rolling Stones had signed with Dick Rowe at Decca, the same record label that turned down The Beatles a year prior.

At a party, Rowe asked George if he knew any good groups and that he’d “made one mistake” already. George recommended The Rolling Stones. When Rowe saw them perform, he signed them “pretty much on the spot.”

Shortly after, The Beatles gave their friends a hit song, “I Wanna Be Your Man.” Paul wrote, “Our version was a bit more of a Bo Diddley shuffle; theirs is quite raw and distorted, almost punk-like, and it was their first big hit.”

Paul McCartney said the press ‘manufactured rivalry’ between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones

After The Beatles helped The Rolling Stones, the two bands became good friends. In The Lyrics, Paul wrote that they’d talk about what music they were making. He’d hang out with Richards and used to play American records for Jagger. George did, too, although he almost got arrested with Richards when the police raided Redlands.

Paul and John also sang on The Rolling Stones’ song – “We Love You” – in 1967. So the two groups “had a lot of interaction. Still, the press needed a story no matter how close The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were. A friendship between two of the most famous rock ‘n’ roll bands wouldn’t sell papers. However, a “manufactured rivalry” would.

Paul wrote that “the idea that we were rivals was just something started by the media, and then people started to ask, ‘Who do you like, The Beatles or the Stones?’ And it became an either/or thing. It wasn’t framed like that for the first couple of years, but it got built up by the press as we became more successful.

“And it just wasn’t true. So, that was the kind of relationship we had. But with the press, you need them and they need you, as we would discover throughout our careers, but things are said that can stick… You’d do something you wouldn’t even think about, but then it would be a huge story.

“Stones, Beatles – we were big buddies, forever and ever, but the fans started to believe there was some truth in the manufactured rivalry. There never was.”


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Paul thought The Beatles were better

Despite defending the friendship between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Paul firmly believes his band is better. How could he not think that? Paul is biased, but he also gave an interesting reason for thinking his band is superior to The Rolling Stones.

Getting a recording contract and a hit song weren’t the only things The Beatles did first. Paul said The Beatles were better because they thought of innovative things before anyone else. On The Howard Stern Show, Paul said he and The Beatles started to notice that whatever they did, The Rolling Stones did it shortly after.

However, Paul’s opinion is a little unfair. The Beatles just happened to do things first. That doesn’t mean they’re better. Each band had its strengths and success. At least we know where the bands’ “manufactured rivalry” originated.