That's easy. Neither.
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While I'm glad they both did exist, my choice would easily be the Rolling Stones. The Stones are a classic rock & roll group, but the Beatles were a much more innovative and musially complex group. I believe they paved the way for more groups, and more interesting music, than the Stones. Plus their songs had tunes and some lyrics that were more memorable than anything the Stones ever did.
The Stones always followed the Beatles, except when the Stones tried to live up to their image. They were a darker version of the Beatles. After too many years of reading their own press clippings they tried to be bad and play with Satanism for a few LPs.
The Stones were always followers, but were good at reading the trends, and following closely. Would the Beatles ever have gone disco???
I guess it just plain depends on your likes/ dislikes. Me?? Beatles all the way. I would love to see the figures on each band's catalog sales. I "think" I know which has sold more over the last 15 years. Never heard of no "Breakfast with the Stones",show. (WE got 2 shows Sun AM here.--Then another point re. how many other artists covered each group. I "think" I know that ans. too. ----But the Stones never existing---Where does that come from???---U got a time machine and can go back???
Given the topic is "contributions to popular music "
NOT who do you like better / which band is better
I believe that the Beatles made a far broader and deeper contribution to popular music.
Song writing , harmonies, instrumentals, studio tricks - now may seem common, but were ground breaking and hugely influencial in the day.
That being said, I like the Stones better - they channelled blues roots and kicked it up faster, louder and in the case of Keith, weirder.
FWIW, If you have not seen the DVD "Hail, HAil Rock and Roll" which documents Keith putting together a band/concert for Chuck Berry , ya should. It shows just how great Keith and Chuck are.
Also, it's almost scary that several times Keith comes off as the "voice of reason".
It's fun to read these responses. Along some of the lines mentioned, back in 1965, I believe it was, Dan Ingram, then the 2-6 pm DJ on WABC AM in NY (who also had a very nice jazz show on FM), said on the air that he didn't like the Rolling Stones, he thought they were a cheap imitation of the Beatles, or words to that effect. Within a half hour the station was flooded with calls from irate Stones fans, so much so that Ingram announced on the air that he would run a contest, send him a letter why he should or should not like the Rolling Stones, and he'd give $10 to the best letter for and against. The winner of the pro-Stones crowd was a 7 or so page impassioned letter written by two teen-aged girls; the winner of the anti-Stones letters was one that simply said he shouldn't like the Rolling Stones because they were costing him $20!
The Stones have since grown on me over time, though I admit I sent ol' Dan an anti-Stones letter back then.
If you have not seen the DVD "Hail, HAil Rock and Roll" which documents Keith putting together a band/concert for Chuck Berry , ya should. It shows just how great Keith and Chuck are.
I saw that show. Fascinating.
Interesting question, I thank the gods of music it's only hypothetical. The respective contributions of each band are so different, it's hard for me to compare them. The Beatles seem to have had huge influence on the mainstream of popular songcraft, much deeper than the Stones. That said, my personal tastes greatly incline me towards respecting the Stones musical legacy. They assimilated and reinterpreted the gritty and raw aspects of the blues and R&B with vastly more authentic passion to my ears. The only white guys to ever play guitar as funky and with as much groove as Keith I can think of offhand are Stevie Ray and maybe Steve Cropper. Keith's style is rather low key though, he often says that he doesn't think in terms of lead or rhythm guitar, it's all groove in service of the song. The tag of being followers is a misnomer, they took longer to develop into their prime. They didn't do most of their best work until the Beatles has ceased to exist. Sure "Satanic Majesties" and some of their neodisco stuff smelled to death of trend following, but that doesn't negate their other contributions. I can't imagine the history of rock without "Satisfaction" or "Yesterday." In the end, each bands' respective contributions appeal to rather opposite poles of personalities and musical tastes. What a poorer musical legacy we'd have lacking either.
In the context of your question, the Beatles are more important, for several reasons.
First, the Beatles had George Martin as a producer. He literally created production techniques that had never been tried, and set the standard for the multi-tracking and invented studio techniques and tricks later to be expanded upon by many big name groups in the late 1960's and early 1970's.
Second, the Beatles had Brian Epstein as a manager. He recognized their raw talent, groomed them through the dumpy clubs in Hamburg and Liverpool, and got them ready for "game-day"...their 1964 American tour. I also believe that he was the one who replaced Pete Best with Ringo.
Third, the Beatles were "nice boys"...charming, humorous, witty, and not "scary looking". Even in their early days, the Stones were pretty rough looking. The Beatles were more marketable than the Stones. After Elvis was inducted into the Army, the "Payola" scandal, the persecution of Alan Freed, and the religious backlash in which R&R music was either the work of Satan, or "N..ger music" to seduce and ruin the chastity of young white woman, by 1963 there was no true R&R on the American airwaves [other than small market stations]. It took a likable, non-threatening group to revive R&R. The Beatles opened the "British Invasion" floodgates.
Fourth Beatles had a legendary song-writing duo [Lennon-McCartney]. I think that their competitiveness, and different styles resulted in a tension that made the sum of their songs greater than the parts. Lyrically, the Stones weren't even close to the depth and range of material that the Beatles wrote.
Fifth, as alluded to before, the Beatles set the standard; everyone else tried to follow. Remember the sitar craze after the Beatles went to India? Short lived [thank God!] as it was, dozens of artists had to include a sitar on one of the album songs [if you hear a sitar on a R&R album it was recorded in either 1966 or 1967]. Remember the production competition between the Beatles and the Beach Boys [Brian Wilson]? "REVOLVER" followed by "PET SOUNDS" followed by "SGT. PEPPERS". I have heard that a bunch of prominent musicians [including Brian] got together to hear a pre-release tape of "SGT. PEPPERS...they listened so many times that the tape actually wore out! Someone in the group of listeners glumly proclaimed, "Now what do we do?!!!"
The Beatles were originally a R&R/blues band that transformed into what I classify as an "Art" band. The Stones have stayed a R&R/Blues band. I like both groups, but the Beatles definitely had more influence on the acceptance and evolution of R&R music, and studio production.
Fatparrot is correct. Imagine a history course on the last half of the 20th century. The Beatles would figure prominently on many levels while the Stones may get mentioned as influential musicians.
My kids and grandkids are familiar with Beatles music and can identify them when they hear them on the radio. Can't say the same for the Stones.
For those of you who think the Stones were tougher than the Beatles, remember where each band came from and how they formed. The Beatles were the toughened Liverpool kids, having had the Hamburg education as well, the Stones were the sweet well-educated London kids. When Brian Epstein cleaned up the Beatles the Stones had to differentiate themselves and so adopted the tough personae. But in a barroom brawl in Hanmburg back in 62' the Beatles would have (and sometimes did!) wooped ass.
Not that this matters to music of course.
Well it's time for me to chime in on this question. I grew up in the time of Beatlemania,I remember sitting in my elementary auditrium on a rainy day eating in doors when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" came on the radio and every kid in there was singing the song including myself. I remember walking home from school and seeing all the Beatle swag everywhere,I remember playing beatle fourty fives on my parents stereo,I remember the Ed Sullivan show etc. etc. As much as I loved the Beatles They were played relentlessly on the Radio every day and they were so universal that even Adults liked their music. Remember how everyone was burned out on Stairway to Heaven or My Sweet Lord or Lucky Man because it was played every hour on the hour? That's the way I am with the Beatles. Every song was played on the radio AM or FM and their albums held no surprises some obscure nugget that you as a listener could say yeah i don't remember this song,yeah this is good until the White Album. I rarely play the Beatles because I know all the songs they are burned into my subcouncis.
The Stones are different. I listen to the Stone 3 or 4 times a month,because they didn't get the exposure the Beatles did, there are songs on there albums that I discovered,that I didn't have to share with everyone like "Continential Drift" off of Steel Wheels or "Sweet Virginia" off of Exile on Main Street or "Ain't no use in Crying" off of Tatoo You.
So if I had to listen to one only it would be The Rolling Stone but I know that if The beatles had not existed then the media would have done to The Stones what they did to The Beatles, over expose them to an entire generation leaving them no mystery .
IMO, the works of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. stay fresher because they are constantly reinterpreted by conductors and musicians. Just look the debates aficionados have about the merits of many recorded versions of the same symphonies.
The Beatles' music, on the other hand, is primarily heard the same way every time as performed and recorded by the lads,(not counting interpretations used in commercials). I can understand how someone might be burned out by over saturation.
The opportunity to be over exposed by the masters of classical could not occur in the same way that The Beatles could. There was no way to hear the masters of the classical that you mention daily because there was no way to reproduce the composers music over and over and over on a daily basis unless mozart,bach or beethoven went from town to town country to country doing nonstop performances and you as a person had the luxery to be at each and every show. Until the advent of the phonograph or radio did the masses have a chance to hear these songs over and over and over on a daily basis. When The Beatles were in there prime They were on saturday cartoons,on AM and FM how many times a day,they are ingrained in my brain.
The same type of overexposure regarding Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, et.al. that have left no mystery for 200+ years?
No. There is plenty of "mystery" left in their stuff: different interpretations, transcriptions, instruments, and the music itself has so many layers to consider; from listening to the great melodies ("tunes"),to how themes are worked out, etc. As Tvad aluded to, a Bach piece can be played on an organ, by a brass quintet or a full orchestra. It's still Bach, but it's different and interesting. A Beatles cover by some other singer or band just ain't the Beatles.
But as to the qn. about the two bands; I never understood the fascination with the Rolling Stones. On some of their studio recordings instruments and vocals are painfully out of tune. Or is that part of the fascination? As somebody pointed out, the Beatles were the best song-writers since Schubert.
A fifty-one-year-old fogey,