The Beatles vs Rolling Stones – Which Band Comes Out On Top?

Beatles Rolling Stones

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones are often referred to as two of the greatest bands of all time. Collectively, they released over 330 singles and secured 25 UK Number Ones. But who wins the battle of the bands when it comes to The Beatles vs Rolling Stones?

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In this article, we’ll delve into the history, achievements and statistics of both bands to discover which of these legendary bands comes out on top.

Which Band Is Best: The Beatles Or The Rolling Stones?

Some people would argue that The Beatles are a pop group whilst the Rolling Stones are a rock band, so they can both be the best in their own right. However, it isn’t that simple.

For half a century, music fans have debated which of these bands is the greatest. Read on to discover which band wins the battle of The Beatles vs Rolling Stones.

Who Are The Beatles?

Do you even need to ask this question? No, really. Who doesn’t know who The Beatles are?

Formed in Liverpool in 1960, The Beatles were a British band consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Their music incorporated elements of traditional pop, rock and classical music, later expanding to include psychedelic music and hard rock.

The Beatles acquired a huge following of fans which became known as Beatlemania. This following continued to grow until the group announced the end of touring in 1966 and eventually went their separate ways in 1970.

The legacy of The Beatles still continues today, with the band often referred to as the greatest band of all time.

Who Are The Rolling Stones?

The Rolling Stones were formed in London in 1962, just as The Beatles were finding their fame. The band is best known for its gritty-sounding hard rock, which brought a new style of music to the table in the 1960s.

Their first line up included Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, although the band have been through many different line ups over the past six decades.

The Rolling Stones are still active today, with the band now comprising of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood.

Which Band Comes Out On Top: The Beatles Or The Rolling Stones?

These bands have more similarities than many people give them credit for. They are both British, both originated in the 1960s and both shaped 20th century music into what it is today.

However, these bands also have many differences, from their ability to perform live to their originality. It has long been debated which of these bands is the greatest of all time, and now it’s time to find out the answer, once and for all.

We’ve put each of the bands through ten different tests to discover which band wins the ultimate battle. Continue reading to find out the results.  

Years Active

First things first, let’s look at how long each of these bands was active for. After all, their total years of success has to count for something, right?

The Beatles formed in Liverpool in 1960, although Lennon and McCartney had been playing together since 1957. They were originally known as The Quarreymen, The Beatals and The Silver Beatles, which was then shortened to The Beatles. The band enjoyed ten years of making music before separating in 1970.  

The Rolling Stones were formed in London in 1962, just two years after The Beatles. Almost six decades later, The Rolling Stones are still performing and releasing new material today. In fact, on 11 September 2020, The Rolling Stones reached Number One in the UK Albums Chart with their reissued 1974 album Goats Head Soup, making them the first band to top the charts across six different decades.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have managed to pool their creative talents to do something that Lennon and McCartney couldn’t. Together, they have kept their band going for six times as long as The Beatles, so we’re giving this one to them.

Winner: The Rolling Stones

Total Number Of Singles Released

Next, let’s look at how many singles each of the bands released over their years. It’s important to remember here that The Beatles were active for only a sixth of the time that the Rolling Stones have so far been producing music for.

The Rolling Stones have so far released a total of 121 singles around the world. That’s around 2 singles for every year that they’ve been active. Their career began with the release of a cover of Chuck Berry’s Come On in June 1963. However, the band didn’t seem too impressed with their work, refusing to play the song at live gigs.

In their decade together, The Beatles released a total of 213 singles around the world, averaging over 21 singles for each year in which they were active. This began with their first single Love Me Do in October 1962. This peaked at number 17 in the UK charts. However, when it was released in the US in 1964, it became a number one hit.

Not only have The Beatles released almost twice the number of singles than the Rolling Stones, but they also did this in a sixth of the time. For this reason, we think this one has to be awarded to The Beatles.

Winner: The Beatles

UK Charts Success

Our next measure of success is the bands’ success in the UK charts. This is one of the best ways to measure how much the UK public have enjoyed the music that these bands have produced.

The Beatles have racked up an impressed 17 UK number ones, with their name spending a total of 65 weeks at number one. They’ve also had a total of 28 singles in the UK top 10, meaning that they enjoyed a total of 188 weeks in the UK top 10.

The Rolling Stones follow close behind with a total of 8 UK number one hits, with their name spending 18 weeks at number one. They have also produced 21 UK top 10 singles, racking up 108 weeks with their name in the UK top ten.

However, despite the Rolling Stones having a fantastic record when it comes to UK charts success, they’re beaten by The Beatles. This is despite The Beatles only being active for a sixth of the lifespan of the Rolling Stones.

For this reason, The Beatles take the trophy when it comes to UK charts success.

Winner: The Beatles

US Success

Next, we’re going over to the US to discover how our American counterparts reacted to each of the bands. Do the Americans agree with the UK, or do they have a different opinion in the battle of the bands?

We’ll measure this one by looking at the total amount of number one hits that each band scored in the Billboard Hot 100, the American charts list which has been in existence since 1958.

With 20 number one singles, The Beatles have been the most successful British act of all time on the Billboard Hot 100. Six of these were in their first year of entering the American music scene: 1964. There’s no wonder that Beatlemania hit the US hard!

In contrast, the Rolling Stones have had 8 US number one singles in the Billboard Hot 100, with the first being in 1965 and the most recent in 1978 with Miss You.

Although the Rolling Stones have made a good effort in the US, we’re once again going to have to hand this title to The Beatles for their impressive record when it comes to securing the top positions on the Billboard Hot 100. After all, The Beatles are still the most successful British act of all time in this chart.

Winner: The Beatles

Worldwide Album Sales

Now, let’s look at the popularity that each band has enjoyed across the globe by looking at their total worldwide album sales. After all, true fans invest in their favourite band’s music by buying their records.

The Rolling Stones are estimated to have sold over 240 million albums over their six-decade long music career. However, this only averages out as 4,000 album sales per year – not so impressive now, right?

The Beatles have sold over 600 million albums, making them the best-selling band of all time. This impressive total puts The Beatles on a par with Elvis Presley, another undisputed music legend. Despite only being active for a sixth of the time of the Rolling Stones, The Beatles have sold over 2.5 times more albums since the 1960s – an impressive feat.

We can’t argue with the title of best-selling band of all-time, which is why we’re declaring The Beatles the winner of this category.

Winner: The Beatles

Originality

Let’s move on to originality. We all know that the most impressive bands are the ones that consistently create their own material and revolutionise music. Whilst there’s no denying that both of these bands shaped the music industry into what it is today, only one band can be declared the winner when it comes to originality.

Out of The Beatles’ 209 songs, an impressive 183 were written by the band members. The remaining 26 were covers of other artists’ songs. John Lennon wrote the most songs, followed closely by Paul McCartney, with many of the songs a joint effort between the duo.

The Rolling Stones began as a cover band, with many of their early songs coming from covers. In fact, their second album titled Rolling Stones No. 2 was made up of around 90% covers of other artists’ songs. However, they later progressed onto writing their own material, with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards writing the majority of their later materials.

In September 1963, Lennon and McCartney visited the Rolling Stones while they were rehearsing and ended up writing a song for the band while they were there, titled I Wanna Be Your Man. The song took them less than two minutes to write and Lennon later remarked “well, we weren’t gonna give them anything great, right?”. This song went on to become the Rolling Stones’ first Top 20 hit.

We’re going to give the award for originality to The Beatles, as the majority of their music was written by Lennon and McCartney, with the duo even penning a song for the Rolling Stones. Although the Rolling Stones have written many original songs over the years, they began as a cover band and much of their early material was not original.

Winner: The Beatles

Awards

Next, let’s take a look at the awards that each band won. Will it be The Beatles or The Rolling Stones who take the trophy for the awards category?

The Rolling Stones have racked up an impressive collection of awards over their six decades of music. This includes three Grammy Awards, one Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and nine NME awards. Mick Jagger also received a controversial MBE, although it’s rumoured that Queen Elizabeth II scheduled the event to be held at the same time as her knee surgery so that she wouldn’t have to be the one to present Jagger with the honour.

The Beatles also amassed a notable number of awards during their decade in the spotlight. These include seven Grammy Awards, four Brit Awards, an Academy Award, seventeen NME awards and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. In 1965, Lennon, McCartny, Harrison and Starr were all awarded an MBE for their services to British industry. However, Lennon returned his MBE four years later in protest of Britain’s support of the Vietnam war.

So, who gets the title when it comes to awards? We’re going to have to give this one to The Beatles again, given that they earned four more Grammy awards, 8 more NME awards and 3 more MBEs than the Rolling Stones, in just a sixth of the timeframe. Better luck in the next category, Rolling Stones?

Winner: The Beatles

Live Performances

Now we’re moving on to live performances. Which band takes the lead when it comes to their onstage performances throughout their music careers?

In their six-decade-long music career, the Rolling Stones have performed over two thousand concerts across the globe, and have earned a name for themselves as true performers. The largest of their concerts was the Bigger Bang concert in Rio De Janiero in Brazil in 2006, which was attended by an impressive 1.5 million fans.

In comparison, The Beatles performed an outstanding 1,400 concerts across the globe in the space of just four years, an impressive feat for any band. However, their live performances were never quite as successful as the Rolling Stones’ and they decided to end their onstage career in 1966. Their live music career was relatively underrated, with their studio career far more successful.  

The Rolling Stones have proven themselves on stage time and time again throughout their six-decade music career, whilst The Beatles exiled themselves from touring after just four years. For this reason, we’re going to award the live performance trophy to the Rolling Stones.

Winner: The Rolling Stones

Covers

As we know, imitation is the highest form of flattery, so it’s only fair that we take into consideration how many times each of these bands has had their songs covered by other artists.

First, let’s look at one of their most popular songs. Hey Jude by The Beatles has racked up over 160 official covers, whilst Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones has been covered by other artists at least 98 times. Naturally there will be many more unofficial covers that are not licensed, but these are more difficult to count.

However, there’s one thing that we do know. According to Guinness World Records, The Beatles lead the way on this one with Yesterday earning the title of having the most cover versions ever written. They quote the song as having over 1,600 recorded cover versions, with Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) claiming that the song was performed over seven million times in the 20th century alone.

We can’t argue with a Guinness World Record, so we’re going to have to hand this trophy to The Beatles.

Winner: The Beatles

Innovation vs Imitation

Although there’s no denying that both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones revolutionised music, we now need to look at whether the bands were innovative or imitative.

The Rolling Stones had some huge achievements in the 1960s and 70s, beginning with Beggars Banquet and ending with Exile On Main Street. There’s no hiding from the fact that these were amazing years for the band that will never be matched.

However, there’s one band that stands out here, and that’s The Beatles. The Beatles were formed first and scored their first Number One hit a year before the Rolling Stones. Deciding to part ways in 1970 meant that the legend of The Beatles lived on in history, rather than dragging on through the years. This meant that Beatlemania never had the chance to taper off – the band managed to go out with a bang, securing their legend.

The Beatles were innovators every step of the way. They were the inventors of dance-rock, backwards guitar solos, backward masking and pudding drums, changing the world of music for the years ahead. For this reason, we have to award the innovation category to The Beatles.

Winner: The Beatles

Our Verdict

In our minds, there can only be one winner here. Scoring a total of 8 out of 10, The Beatles will always be the greatest band of all time for us.

Whether you’re looking for the most Number One hits, the total number of songs released or the most awards won, The Beatles win almost every score. Sure, they might have fallen down slightly when it comes to live performances, but we can let them off for that one. And although the Rolling Stones have been active for many more years than The Beatles, The Beatles fit so much more into their decade-long music career.

The Legend Lives On

Whether you’re part of Beatlemania or a Stones fan, one thing is certain: the legend of both of these bands will continue to live on for many decades to come.

However, there’s only one band that stand on the same podium as Elvis and Michael Jackson, and that’s The Beatles. Is there any more to say?

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