THE GREATEST RIVALRY IN THE HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL takes a scholarly and engaging turn in John McMillian’s parallel biography: Beatles vs. Stones. Most readers will already know that the Beatles were cuddly pop stars, while the Stones played their foils as edgy, dangerous rockers.
Many will have heard that the Beatles were in fact from far grittier, blue-collar backgrounds in the North, while the Stones enjoyed comfortable upbringings in London suburbs. But Beatles vs. Stones tells a more nuanced story; it exposes the rivalry between the two bands as part myth, part publicity stunt, part invention of the press, and mostly an extension of their managers’ personalities. In the case of the Beatles, the diligent but insecure Brian Epstein truly did crave approval from all demographics (and from the Fab Four above all). His counterpart in the Stones, the brash (and ridiculously inexperienced) Andrew Oldham, concocted a rebel image through antics that were less cunning than they were quixotic.