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Mick Jagger’s only issue with The Beatles: “They certainly were not a great live band”

Mick Jagger has been keeping tabs on new music ever since the early 1960s. Regardless of how many excesses The Rolling Stones indulged in behind the scenes, Jagger knew what made a great performance and wanted to ensure he stepped up his game whenever he saw competition out in the wild. The Stones could throw down live, but Jagger admitted that their counterparts from Liverpool were far from perfect on the live stage.

Then again, anyone who brings up The Stones and Beatles comparisons these days tends to be fighting a losing battle. The supposed rivalry ended years ago, and any kind of manufactured drama being stirred up by any one side feels more like a relic from a lost time than legitimate drama between band members.

But if you really think about it, there’s no competition regarding The Beatles as artists. While The Stones had their adventurous periods, they always had one foot trailing back into the blues until the end of time. With the Fab Four, all bets were off whenever they went into the studio, and there was no way that another great rock and roll band would get in their way when they were going beyond rock altogether.

If there’s one victory that Jagger had over The Beatles, it was the fact that they could still deliver songs to the public, telling Rolling Stone, “They certainly were not a great live band. Maybe they were in the days of The Cavern when they were coming up as a club band. I’m sure they were hilariously funny and all that. But as far as the modern day world, they were not a great performing band. But do they deserve the fantastic reputation? They were The Beatles.”

Jagger does have a decent point, to be fair. The only way to keep up the energy as a live performer is to keep performing live, and The Stones seem to have been on a never-ending tour for multiple decades at a time. The Beatles called it quits all the way back in 1970, and since John Lennon and George Harrison always needed a good reason to perform live, only Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney have remained as the live incarnation of what they were.

On the other hand, it’s insane listening to the group’s early material and hearing them sound as tight as they do. Please Please Me is practically a live album just thrown together in the studio, and the fact they could nail tracks like ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and complete covers like the Shirelles’ ‘Boys’ in just a few takes only comes from them playing for hours on end at the Cavern as well as their time in Hamburg.

When they did end up screwing up live, many would wonder if those screwups were necessarily in their hands. The last few years of the group involved them playing at stadiums that had shoddy monitors, so what was the point in playing the best set that you could when half of the audience couldn’t even hear them?

After all, the band started moving in experimental directions on their records, and no amount of studio overdubs would be enough to cover songs like ‘Paperback Writer’ when playing live. Jagger can certainly still hold his own and has earned that kind of seniority status as a performer, but even at their final performance on the rooftop of Apple Corps, it’s hard to deny that The Beatles still sounded pretty damn good as a live act.

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