Karen: Now we come to the age-old question: The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Both acts can justifiably claim to be the greatest rock band of all time. Their influence and longevity are undeniable. So it mostly becomes a matter of taste: who do you prefer?
Doug: It's sort of a "Mary Ann or Ginger" question, isn't it?
Karen: Not an easy question at all for me. While I like the overall rawness of the Stones, I feel they have greatly diminished their strength by all the crap they have put out since about 1980. Seriously, their legacy would be much stronger if they had stopped around the time of Some Girls (some would say even earlier than that). They are almost a caricature of their former selves now, and painful to watch.
Karen: But in their prime, the Stones exuded a sense of danger and the forbidden. They were the dark to the Beatles' light. I think they really came into their own around the time of Beggars Banquet in 1968. Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street are fantastic albums. This is angry, lusty music. In the world of the Stones circa 1968-1976, redemption was neither sought nor offered, and love was an impossibility. A grim view, but an exciting sound came out of it all.
Karen: On the other hand, the Beatles even at their darkest point were like cooing doves compared to the Stones. They represent a more upbeat, hopeful outlook. Their musical versatility and the sheer quality of their material can't be overlooked. However, personally, I don't care for much of their later work, including Sgt. Pepper, which I know many consider to be a masterpiece. For me, I'll take Revolver and Rubber Soul - those albums are authentic, musically solid rock, and seem to be more of the work of a band, rather than individuals. Although I enjoy parts of The Beatles (aka the White Album) and Abbey Road, they both feel to me like either John, Paul, or George songs, not Beatles songs. Maybe I am just projecting, knowing what was going on in the group by that time.
Doug: I think a major difference between the two bands is the sound of their history. To me, the Beatles have a very linear history, as you've to some degree pointed out. There is a huge difference between their British Invasion era and their latter stuff -- simple songs based on harmonies morphed into experimentation with non-traditional instruments, string sections, etc. The Stones have less delineation in their career -- while not all songs sound the same, it's a bit more difficult to identify which part of their career a particular track is associated.
Karen: Well, here's where we disagree. I think the Stones' early stuff, like Get Off of My Cloud or Under My Thumb, sounds very different from songs like Street-Fighting Man or Gimme Shelter. There's certainly a growth in the band's overall musicianship, if not in the variety of their songs.
Doug: I guess for me I'm going to consider my favorite songs from each band. For the Beatles, where to begin? For their early career, it's probably I Saw Her Standing There. For later in their career, ugh... You know what song I really like? The acoustic version of Revolution, Revolution 1, from the White Album. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight is a strong McCartney song from Abbey Road. You mentioned above Sgt. Pepper and Revolver; don't you think Revolver is a bridge between the British Invasion period and the later, more complex recordings (of which Sgt. Pepper is certainly a part of)? And for my two cents, I do like both of those albums.
Karen: Yes, Revolver is the album where there's a greater depth and complexity to the songs, but they are still great 4 piece rock songs. What bothers me about some of the later work (especially Sgt. Pepper) is that it sometimes feels pretentious. That's my personal take anyway.Doug: For the Stones, there are a couple of songs that I look forward to hearing, and always turn up a little bit: Sympathy for the Devil and Shattered. I thought you said it well above -- the Stones are raw. And these two songs typify that. Sympathy for the Devil has one of the "rawest" guitar solos I've ever heard -- it's certainly not evoking Eddie Van Halen! And Shattered is raw all the way 'round: vocals, Keith Richards' guitar, all of it!
Doug: Maybe a difference for me between the bands is the variety of vocalists concerning the Beatles, as opposed to straight-Mick from the Stones. While McCartney sang lead on the lion's share of Beatles' hits, there is enough of John and even George and Ringo sprinkled in to broaden the vocal spectrum. Don't get me wrong -- Mick's voice is a perfect match for the overall sound of his band... It's just that the Beatles don't always sound the same -- I guess "variety is the spice of life"?
Karen: The more I think about, it really comes down to who am I more likely to listen to, when I turn on my ipod: the answer is the Stones. While I appreciate the Beatles, the Stones just appeal to me more. I guess I should put an asterisk there and say the Stones before 1978 appeal to me more! There really is something to be said for leaving the stage gracefully, and unfortunately the Stones never learned that. But there's no denying their early greatness.
Doug: I listen to both bands somewhat equally, although I do queue them up based on the mood I'm in. I thought what you said earlier about the Beatles being like "cooing doves" compared to the Stones onslaught of energy is good. Certainly the Beatles have some edgier songs (I Want You, etc.), but the majority is more pop than rock. The Stones, on the other hand, lean the other way. So pick your mood, pick your band, I guess.