Listen to the 1963 Song the Beatles Gave to the Stones; Then Hear Them Sing Backup on a 1967 Stones Tune, “We Love You”

After read­ing some of the ency­clo­pe­dic com­ments on this NPR site fea­tur­ing author and pro­fes­sor John McMil­lian—who has writ­ten a new book on The Bea­t­les vs. The Stones—and after hear­ing McMil­lan him­self tell his “reveal­ing, behind the scenes sto­ries” in the inter­view below, I’m fair­ly cer­tain we’re in good his­tor­i­cal hands for a reap­praisal of the two bands’ friend­ly rival­ry. McMil­lan dis­cuss­es their first meet­ing and ear­li­est col­lab­o­ra­tion, the track above, 1963’s “I Wan­na Be Your Man,” writ­ten by, and cred­it­ed to, John Lennon and Paul McCart­ney.

The song was the result of a chance encounter, we learn from Stones his­to­ri­an Bill Janowitz: “[Stones man­ag­er Andrew Loog] Old­ham had almost lit­er­al­ly bumped into Lennon and McCart­ney as they stepped out of a cab.” Old­ham brought The Bea­t­les into the stu­dio and the song was born from a McCart­ney frag­ment. The Stones had to this point only released Amer­i­can R&B or blues cov­ers, though they also turned this track into a bluesy stom­per. Hear The Bea­t­les decid­ed­ly less grit­ty ver­sion of the song below, over a mon­tage of their ear­ly six­ties British com­e­dy act that the Mon­kees stole so well. They released this three weeks lat­er, giv­ing the lead vocal to Ringo.

Despite Tom Wolfe’s quip that “The Bea­t­les want to hold your hand but the Stones want to burn down your town,” the ear­ly six­ties ver­sions of both bands looked very much alike. Until the late six­ties, the Stones were often a step behind The Bea­t­les’ image. They appear on the cov­er of 1965’s Out of My Head in mod­ish dress with mod­ish hair­cuts look­ing almost exact­ly like their coun­ter­parts. 1967’s Their Satan­ic Majesties Request, for its occa­sion­al beau­ty, was an obvi­ous and slight­ly ridicu­lous attempt to cap­i­tal­ize on Sgt. Pepper’s psy­che­del­ic suc­cess.

But even dur­ing those times, the bands diverged sharply in musi­cal terms, and the Stones’ path led in a dark­er direc­tion. The bud­ding image of the band as arson­ists may have con­tributed to their tar­get­ing by the author­i­ties. After a 1967 drug bust, Lennon and McCart­ney came to their aid, then sang (uncred­it­ed) back­ing vocals for the Stones track “We Love You,” a song writ­ten to the band’s ded­i­cat­ed fans and to The Bea­t­les. Pur­port­ed­ly, Allen Gins­berg sat in on the ses­sions. “They looked like lit­tle angels,“ he lat­er wrote, “like Bot­ti­cel­li Graces singing togeth­er for the first time.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Rolling Stones Write “Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il”: A High­light in Godard’s ’68 Film One Plus One

Mick Jag­ger Tells the Sto­ry Behind ‘Gimme Shel­ter’ and Mer­ry Clayton’s Haunt­ing Back­ground Vocals

Mick Jag­ger Defends the Rights of the Indi­vid­ual After His Leg­endary 1967 Drug Bust

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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