Why Keith Richards Was “Jealous” Of The Beatles
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones performs live on stage at Old Trafford on June 5, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Andrew Benge/Redferns)
In the past, people would often describe the Rolling Stones as the “bad boy,” while being compared to The Beatles whom they see as a rival. The comparison of these two bands is unavoidable due to the same period they both co-existed.
The Beatles gained popularity in 1963 following the release of their debut singles, and by the spring of 1964 following their first tour to the States, they had become a worldwide phenomenon. The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, ascended to international popularity a little later.
While they followed in the Beatles’ footsteps, they received assistance from the band. So anyone hoping for a battle between these two groups would have been really disappointed because the Stones “were friends with them.” In fact, the Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards even admitted that the two bands would actually schedule their releases so as not to step on each others’ feet. He recalled:
“When [The Beatles had a] new single, we always made sure we didn’t clash because, in those days, it was like every two months you had to have a new single.”
In March 1964, Lennon and McCartney permitted the Stones to record one of their songs, “I Wanna Be Your Man.” Mick Jagger mentioned this in 1968 when he said:
“We knew [the Beatles] by then, and we were rehearsing, and Andrew [Oldham] brought Paul and John down to the rehearsal. They said they had this tune; they were really hustlers then. I mean, the way they used to hustle tunes was great: ‘Hey Mick, we’ve got this great song.’”
“So they played it, and we thought it sounded pretty commercial. Which is what we were looking for, so we did it like Elmore James or something. I haven’t heard it for ages, but it must be pretty freaky ’cause nobody really produced it. It was completely crackers, but it was a hit and sounded great onstage.”
Despite that, the Stones were well aware of an elder brother dynamic between them and Richards admitted that, at some point, they felt really jealous of The Beatles.
The Stones’ manager, Oldham, gave his best effort to encourage Richards and Jagger to write and continue their own music as a blues cover group. However, the pair were torn because of Lennon and McCartney’s pop success. Richards reflected in My Life as a Rolling Stone:
“We were working the clubs in London, and The Beatles just came out and had a hit, ‘Love Me Do’… And we said, ‘Oh man, what a great record.’
“Our job [at the time] was to be like the premier rhythm and blues band in London, and we managed that! But we had no idea of progressing beyond that stage until then.”
“We were just envious, too, man.
“I mean, they’re doing what we wanted – they got it! They could make records. The Holy Grail was to make records, to be able to get into a studio. […] You’d think it was a gold mine, which in a way it was, you know what I mean? You’d think you were invading Fort Knox just to make a record.”
“The Beatles suddenly explode, and there you are going, ‘Oh, yeah, but we’re a blues band!’ The Beatles changed this whole thing.
“Keith, he’d play The Beatles all the time [and] it’d drive me absolutely batty! Why he was playing The Beatles wasn’t because he didn’t want to listen to anything else; [it was because] Keith wanted to write these pop songs. We [were] undeniably the blues band, but we knew we had to be a pop band.”