The Beatles and The Rolling Stones Compared

The Beatles'  Revolution  #1  was first issued as a single in the summer of 1968 when rebellious youth took to the streets of all major cities in the western world.  Most notably in Paris and especially Chicago where the Democrats held their convention while people outside demonstrating against the Vietnam War were severely beaten by the police; but also Copenhagen and other European cities had their share of demonstrations and police brutality.
   The Beatles were criticised for the mellow message of the lyrics of this song (see lyrics below) - most rebels preferred the more militant attitude expressed by the Rolling Stones in their Street Fighting Man from the album "His Majesty's Satanic Request", also from 1968 and evidently inspired by the many “revolutions” in the streets.
   The musical message of the single-issue of Revolution #1, however, was very strong and rebellious, (a true rock’n’roll song), but nobody seemed to pay much attention to that.  Furthermore, in Street Fighting Man (see lyrics below) singer Mick Jagger expresses his frustration at not being able to fight properly but is forced by circumstance to be merely a singer: “But what can a poor boy do, 'cept sing in a rock'n'roll band”, thus resorting to fighting only indirectly, through his song(s).
   What most critics missed was the fact that The Beatles were also fighting - but in their own way.  It was another kind of fight against another kind of opponent, but still a fight, and perhaps a worthier one, with more scope, a more universal fight than a mere street fight.
   Partly because of the criticism, but probably also because of (especially) John Lennon's constant urge to poke the ribs of society - including their narrow-sighted and narrow-minded critics - The Beatles re-recorded  Revolution #1  on the White Double Album, issued in December 1968  (the Christmas present of that year, huge sales).  In their new and rather subdued version of the song (this time with mellowing shoo-bi-doo-ah background vocals) The Beatles seemingly gave in to the criticism and added the word “in” to the song in a critical line (listen to the recording and find it).  But although the overall musical expression is more like a soft rock ballad, the irony is the more clearer in this laid-back version.  The fight is to be fought within the minds of every single human being - only if and when this fight is won can we start building a new society without institutions and with “love” as a keyword to this change.

The Rolling Stones was (and still is) an English rock group who tried to create an image of “misfits”, i.e. people who did not fit in and did not want to fit into society.  They readily grew their hair long (an idea originally introduced by the Beatles as a sales gimmick), and although socially middle-class they succeeded in creating an image of true working class virtues.  In fact, the Beatles were the true working-class "heroes"; but whereas the Beatles were equally liked by hi ‘n’ lo folks all over the world, including grannies, the Stones emanated a “rough and tough” look that attracted many a rebellious youth, but barred them from universal acceptance.  However, this “martyrdom” was just what they wanted.

In their song Street Fighting Man, the Stones express the frustration of many young people opposed to the “establishment” (the many institutions and V.I.P.'s that govern our lives); but although Mick Jagger admits to not being able to fight, to many people he still embodied the fight - he was REBEL # 1.

In hindsight the Beatles were right, I think, in maintaining their original message:

You'd better free your mind instead
Love is all you need

because even if you win the outer fight, you may come out of the battle with nothing; you will have “conquered” nothing if you do not win the inner fight against yourself as well.  You must also change within yourself.  If not, you may have other masters, but still be a slave.

Although many people did not see it at the time, the Rolling Stones are now notorious for preying on other people’s musical ideas and innovations. Usually the Stones released their albums half a year after the Beatles, and if you compare the covers of the albums, you will se that the Rolling Stones even copied that.
   Thus the cover of the (all) white double album was copied by the Rolling Stones in their album Beggars Banquet which is also white (except for the title heading).

(revised March 2001)
Erik Moldrup

Revolution  #1
(from LP  "The Beatles" - White Double Album, 1968)

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all wanna to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all wanna to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out (whispered: in)
Don't you know it's gonna be all right (shoo-bi-doo-ah)

You say you got a real solution  (+ background vocals: ah-umh, shoo-bi-dooh-ah)
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're all doing what we can
But when you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be all right

You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We'd all love to change your head
You tell me that it's the institution
Well, you know
You'd better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't gonna to make it with anyone anyhow
Don't you know it's gonna be all right

Street Fighting Man
(by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards/The Rolling Stones, 1968)

Ev’rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
'Cause summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy
But what can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock’n’roll band
'Cause in sleepy London Town there's just no place for Street Fighting Man! No!

Hey!  Think the time is right for a Palace Revolution.
But where I live the game to play is Compromise Solution!
Well, then what can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock’n’roll Band
'Cause in sleepy London Town there's just no place for Street Fighting Man! No!

Hey!  Said my name is called Disturbance.
I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the King, I'll rail at all his servants.
Well, what can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock’n’roll Band
'Cause in sleepy London Town there's just no place for Street Fighting Man! No!