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Who is better: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

Who is better: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
WRITTEN BY
02/03/21
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Bill (The Beatles)

The Beatles were a cultural phenomenon--they ushered in the British Invasion of the 1960s, which changed pop culture and defined a decade. Their impact was so enormous that their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, 1964, drew 73 million viewers—an incredible 45% of Americans saw their performance. As Life magazine famously stated at the time, 'In 1776 England lost her American colonies. Last week the Beatles took them back.' The Beatles' pop culture reach included movies and television, as well as a vast merchandising empire.

They were singularly successful—like no other musical act before or since. And they produced the most chart-topping singles in history. Fifty years after their breakup, the Beatles were the most-streamed rock artist of the first half of 2020 and are the most-streamed artist overall since the introduction of digital music. It is estimated that they have sold over two billion albums. Apple Records reported a 2019 Beatles-related revenue of over $68 million, and it doesn't even own the Beatles' back catalog of music.

The volume and quality of the Beatles' output are unmatched—a remarkable 200+ songs released between 1962 and 1970, with the most songs (23) of any group or artist judged by Rolling Stone magazine to be among the 500 greatest ever. The Beatles had three remarkable songwriters in John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. 

Finally, the fab four (including Ringo Starr) went on to achieve solo success after the band's breakup. They ultimately were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame individually as well as part of the legendary Beatles—cementing their legacy.


Andrew (The Rolling Stones)

They say that no one can work a room like Mick Jagger. His legendary stage presence inspired the song 'Moves Like Jagger' by Maroon 5. Ranked number four of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, Keith Richards has been one of the most respected and authentic guitarists for decades. And his off-stage exploits have literally come to define the stereotype of a rockstar. Add in support from guitarists Brian Jones, Mick Taylor, or Ronnie Wood, and saxophonist Bobby Keys, who knows the true cost of a bathtub full of Dom Perignon, and you have the incredible Rolling Stones.

The Stones have always been a blues band, but they have managed to elevate this often-overlooked art form for all the world to see. They've also embraced improvisation and long-format jams that show off their individual abilities as well as collective musicality.

While the Beatles are often regarded as the more innovative band for their novel recording developments, the Stones also have a laundry list of firsts. They were the first to embrace home and mobile recording, the first with an instantly recognizable logo without words, and the first to make the premier unplugged rock album. Not to mention that they consistently pushed the boundaries of modern design with their album covers.

It all comes down to longevity. The Rolling Stones have outlasted the Beatles by more than five decades, released eighteen more studio albums than the Beatles, and continue to tour today. This matters because sustained creativity is hard!

If a band is judged by its members' abilities, artistic merits, innovation, and staying power, the Rolling Stones are clearly the better of the two Brit rock bands.

Fact Box

  • Around 1957, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison first met as teenagers while playing together in a band called The Quarrymen. Ringo Starr wasn't recruited to their new band, The Beatles, until 1962.
  • The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were elementary-school classmates in the early 1950s and lost touch until reconnecting on a train platform in 1960 on their way to different colleges. Both avid music fans, they played together, along with Brian Jones, in Rollin' Stones—the first incarnation of the band—in July 1962. 
  • The Rolling Stones' famous mouth logo is purported to be 'inspired by the Indian Hindu goddess 'Kali the Destroyer,' although Jagger's own tongue and lips were surely also an influence.'
  • In terms of commercial success, The Beatles have scored more chart hits than The Rolling Stones, with 71 songs charting on US Billboard Charts, including 20 number-ones. The Rolling Stones have 57 chart hits and nine number-ones.
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