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Beatles vs. Stones Hardcover – October 29, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An assistant professor of history at Georgia State University, McMillian has created what amounts to an extended compare-and-contrast essay by juxtaposing the careers of the two greatest rock &'n&' roll bands of the 20th century. He hopes to uncover whether these two bands were rivals or allies, and whether the Beatles were truly the good boys and the Stones were really the bad boys as each was respectively portrayed. McMillian builds a case for both sides of each argument, using existing interviews, an impressive bibliography, and some little-known sources. While the history of both bands is oft-covered territory, the author turns up some great nuggets, like the true origins of the Beatles&' name; police information about one of the Stones&' famous drug busts; and how Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote their first song together. In the end, McMillian has written an informative look at music&'s image machine—a powerful combination of media, marketing, and celebrity. (Oct.)

From Booklist

It was the greatest rivalry in popular music: in one corner, the eclectic pop of the amiable Beatles; in the other, the raunchy blues-based rock of the sullen Rolling Stones. But the truth lies somewhere in between, as McMillian notes, since the Beatles were not as nice as they were supposed to be, nor were the Stones as thuggish as their reputation seemed to indicate. McMillian maintains that the gap between private reality and public facade was humongous. In this pleasurable romp through popular-music history, McMillian discusses what set the two groups apart and what brought them together. The rivalry between the two groups was real enough, but so was their mutual respect. And despite appearances to the contrary (Sgt. Pepper vs. Their Satanic Majesties Request, or “Revolution” vs. “Street Fighting Man”), their recording output wasn’t always tit for tat either. Eventually each band went its own way. The Beatles broke up while at the top of their game while the Stones continue to tour. Fans of both groups will enjoy this musical duel. --June Sawyers
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439159696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439159699
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hello! I was born and raised in Michigan, and I spent my teenage years in a tiny town called Essexville. Then, like everyone else in my immediate family, I did my undergraduate work at Michigan State University. It was the right choice for me. When I first started, I could not have imagined that I'd eventually want to go into academia, but I had some truly great professors at MSU, and they helped kindle some of my current interests. Later, I got a Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University, and from 2001-2009 I taught in the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature at Harvard.

Back when I was a grad student, I co-edited a couple of books on American radicalism. I still think that's an important and oft-overlooked topic, but truth be told, I'm not much of a radical myself. (I don't like being ideologically pigeonholed.) My first full book, "Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media In America," (Oxford, 2011) is a scholarly monograph, based on my Ph.D. dissertation. My latest, "Beatles Vs. Stones," (Simon & Schuster, 2013) is a popular history. I examine the friendship and "rivalry" between the two groups, and assess how it was constructed -- by fans, the media, and the groups themselves. It's a short book, but I worked hard on it, and it was a lot of fun to write. Currently I'm an assistant professor of history at Georgia State University, in Atlanta. I love my job, and I'm excited to be getting started on a new project, on Garry Trudeau and his great comic strip, "Doonesbury."

Thanks so much for your interest. My email address is easy to find, so please feel free to be in touch if you like. Happy reading!

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Chicago Bookworm on November 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Note: I'd give this 3 1/2 stars, if I could.

This is not the book to start with if you want to begin understanding the Beatles and Stones, but for established fans of both or either band, McMillian provides some fascinating details about their respective histories. This is also not the place to go to for musical analysis; McMillian is writing as an historian, and the (relatively brief) parts of the book where he writes directly about the music are the least illuminating, in my opinion. But if you want a close look at how the Beatles and Stones got established and made their ways in the mid- to late-60s, you'll probably find this book interesting, even if parts of it will likely also annoy you.

The most useful part of the book, for me at least, was the exploration of how Brian Epstein shaped the Beatles' early image, and how Andrew Loog Oldham shaped the Stones'. McMillian goes deeper than most other writers in his consideration of how that image shaping worked, and looking at the two bands and managers side by side gives a fuller view of the early 60's musical landscape. One thing this section demonstrates is how crazy it is to talk glibly about the "authenticity" of either band's early image. When Epstein met the Beatles, they were dressed entirely in black leather and projected a toughness they'd developed in Hamburg; when Oldham met the Stones, they were a mixed lot without a definite "look." Epstein cleaned up the Beatles' look, and after the Beatles achieved early success with that, the Stones tried it as well, before settling on the hard-edged look they made their own. It's a testament to the talent of both bands that neither could be confined by that early image.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The conventional wisdom claims both bands loved each other; any rivalry was only hype. Historian John McMillian marshals evidence, gleaned from chronicles, biographies, interviews, and his own expertise as a scholar of the underground press, that suggests the contrary. While carefully allowing for mutual respect and admiration between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, he reveals that the competition between the perennial "toppermost of the poppermost" and their scruffier, sleazier runners-up motivated the Stones to match the success of pop's lads from Liverpool, who were then driven to keep ahead of those equally calculating London blues-rockers, during much of the 1960s. McMillian examines the creation of the marketing images for both groups, and he demonstrates how they were both, despite denials by members, complicit in their Fab Four models and thug five poses.

He begins with the clichés. They merit qualifications but endure as plausible. The dichotomies emerge. The Beatles as Apollonian, the Stones as Dionysian; one pop, the other, rock; erudite vs. visceral; utopian as opposed to realistic. Sean O'Mahony, publisher of both bands' official fan magazines starting respectively in 1963 and 1964, crafted and softened their public images. He opines: "The Beatles were thugs who were put across as nice blokes, and the Rolling Stones were gentlemen who were made into thugs by Andrew [Loog Oldham, their manager]." McMillian accepts this as closer to the truth than the bands or their fans might admit during the next half a decade.

McMillian contrasts the rapid rise, within half a year, of the Stones from R&B idolatry and obscurity to a more accessible delivery of a style with limited appeal, the electric blues.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book looks at how, in the Sixties, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were pitted against each other as rivals by the press, fans and, despite claims by both sides that they were not in competition, sometimes by the bands themselves. In the early Sixties, the Rolling Stones were portrayed as the Beatles polar opposites - the Beatles wanted to hold your hand, the Rolling Stones wanted to burn down your town, went the old quote. The Rolling Stones were rebels, the Beatles lovable mop tops; the Rolling Stones aggressive louts that no respectable father would want his daughter to date, the Beatles beloved by parents as well as their children. Yet, how true were these press and publicity exaggerations and what did they mean to the bands themselves?

When considering which bands were thuggish, the author concedes that, in pre-fame days, it was hard to beat Lennon. Constantly in trouble at school, known as a local juvenile delinquent, even Paul McCartney's father would warn, "he'll get you in trouble son." Interestingly, the author also notes that the Stones came from more stable and prosperous homes; their background much more middle-class than the Beatles and their prospects, had success not arrived, better than that of the Liverpool group which had virtually abandoned their education to play in a band (for example, McCartney failed to sit his Art A Level, as he was in Scotland backing Johnny Gentle at the time).

It is interesting to read that, from when they first met, the two bands became firm friends.
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