It is a question debated for decades; who’s “better,” The Beatles or The Stones? Everyone’s got an opinion and if you don’t believe it, ask the question at your next cocktail party, barbecue or night out with friends. The Beatles Vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions of the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Rivalry features Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of “the only rock’n’roll radio talk show” taking sides in the argument every music fan has engaged in at some point. The book is reconstructed from taped conversations of the two hosts and it’s a format that works well; the banter back and forth reads easily.
The arguments are generally viewed from a macro level — singing, writing, drumming, myth-making, etc. — and only once in a while drill down to specifics: the psychedelic forays Sgt. Peppers Vs. Satanic Majesty’s Request (slam dunk in favor of The Beatles), or the double albums The White Album Vs. Exile On Main Street (give it to The Stones on this one!).
There’s a surprising number of “ties,” which might bother hardcore fans. I’ll admit to mentally checking off “Stones” on the subject of “Guitars,“ but the authors do a nice job presenting the case of The Beatles. Exhibit A is the opening chord of the song “Help!” — and that's one hell of a chord — but I’m still going to give the tie-breaker to Mick Taylor. And that’s the fun of this book – and it is a fun read — that it will likely have the reader shaking his or her head in approval and disagreement. The authors are likeable, knowledgeable and engaging, as is the book. It’s also loaded with fantastic photos and some rare posters, buttons and other collectibles, along with detailed timelines and some individual call-out pages (“Keith Richards: The Best of the Human Riff,” “Charlie and Ringo: In The Pocket,”“Fingerprint File: The Scandals and The Tragedies”...).The 3D lenticular cover, which jumps between a photo of each band, is also very cool.
I would have loved more in-depth exploration: perhaps a comparison of Chuck Berry covers —The Stones did “Oh Carol” and “Little Queenie,” while the Fab Four took on “Rock and Roll Music” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” Or which of their symphonic classics is most essential: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Hey Jude” or “Let It Be.” An exploration of cover art would also have been interesting; both bands were trendsetters in visual art and fashion. But that’s nitpicking. Hey... there's always another "discussion" to be had on this topic and maybe I’ll just weave that into the follow-up book!
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