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Wednesday, September 09, 2009  

The Sunshine Bores the Daylights Out of Me

You should definitely read Chuck Klosterman's review of the Beatles' new box set. It's very funny. But I have to take issue with this:

[Sgt. Pepper] mostly seems like a slightly superior incarnation of The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, a record that (ironically) came out seven months after this one. Pop archivists might be intrigued by this strange parallel between the Beatles and the Stones catalogue—it often seems as if every interesting thing The Rolling Stones ever did was directly preceded by something the Beatles had already accomplished, and it almost feels like the Stones completely stopped evolving once the Beatles broke up in 1970. But this, of course, is simply a coincidence.

OK, there are plenty of valid reasons to prefer the Beatles to the Stones, no doubt. If you like vocal harmonies and studio tinkering and songs about hand-holding, you're going to be much happier listening to the Beatles. The Stones got into writing their own material later than Lennon/McCartney did (their first single was a L/M song, in fact) and their trippy phase is undeniably derivative.

But after Sgt. Pepper's and Satanic, their paths diverged quite distinctly. The Stones dug into country and more hard-edged guitar work with Beggar's Banquet and Let it Bleed, two albums that lack the clapped-out hippie filler separating the good songs on the White Album and Abbey Road. And everyone knows the Stones peaked in 1972 with Exile on Main St., an album the Beatles wouldn't have had the chops to make if they'd lived to be a million.

For pop artistry in that era, there's no one who compares to the Beatles. But the Stones were doing something different. In 1966, the comparison is pretty unfavorable to them. But by 1969-70, it's a pretty different story.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 9:39 AM
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