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Beatles vs. Stones

A history of a pop music "rivalry" by John McMillian

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Not much masquerading as something

  • Jun 28, 2014
The title might suck you in like it did me in this intertwined thumbnail parallel sketch of the careers of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  After all, I am just old enough to remember when that was a question that might seriously be posed to a fan of rock and roll music, because the answer to the question meant something about what you thought about music and life. 

But after making his thesis statement McMillian really has little more to go on than the basic broad brush histories of the two groups.  At the risk of spoiling the book for you, but in the interest of saving you the couple of hours of reading you might otherwise waste, here is the whole of his thesis:  The four Beatles, while marketed as cute, cuddly, middle class clean cut boys, were actually from rough hewn lower class backgrounds in Liverpool, while the surly, scary, and scandalous Stones were actually wealthier, better educated, middle class London youths.  The rest is just episodic parallel pastiches from secondary sources.  And even even these seem poorly chosen to prove the argument.  For example, the Stones Altamont concert where Hells Angels guarding the stage killed one concert fan and attacked many more gets just a couple short paragraphs, while Charles Manson's pathological obsession with the Beatles White Album and his pathetic attempts to establish himself as a hanger on in the era s pop music scene are not mentioned at all.

This isn't a disaster by any means and you won't hate yourself in the morning after reading this book, but neither will it engage you with interesting insights or leave you pondering new possibilities about what was or might have been.  And maybe my blase review says more about my cynical 21st century expectation that of course that good boys vs. bad boys pose was all just that--a marketing ploy; didn't we already know this?   McMillian never really gives any in depth history of the marketing machines behind the groups, or serious argument about how the Beatles and Stones were the nexus for transitioning pop music from its "pure" artistic roots into cynical modern corporate sponsorship and marketing.

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June 28, 2014
Sounds like an interesting read for music history enthusiasts like me!
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
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I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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