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Beatles versus the Stones: Who’s better?

Beatles versus the Stones: Who's better? What about MJ versus Prince? These and other pop music debates are settled.

Rolling Stones tribute band Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Beatles tribute band Abbey Road

Friday night at the Brixton South Bay in Redondo Beach, a score was settled. It’s a question that historians have wrestled with, that drunken pub-goers have come to blows over, that has broken up thousands of otherwise happy couples over the last four decades: Which is the better band, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Although the answer to this musical litmus test is obvious to anyone with half a brain (see below for details), two tribute acts, Abbey Road and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, sought to definitively answer this question in a contest of dueling sets made up of formative era-songs of the mid-1960s through their later work. (Considering the stakes, it was surprising that CNN and BBC satellite trucks weren’t stationed outside.)

During the duel on Friday, the four-piece Abbey Road came out as the dark-suited, mop-topped young Beatles and dropped quality renditions of “She Loves You,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” while Jumpin’ Jack Flash delivered the way raunchier — and darker and smarter, catchier and well, better — “Mother’s Little Helper,” “Paint It Black,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The next night, No Doubt cover band No Duh was on a bill with the Red Not Chili Peppers and 40 Oz. to Freedom, a Sublime tribute act. Below, a few other yin-and-yang couplings that might work well in the future — the preferences of which may or may not serve as a reliable barometer of a person’s musical tastes.

• Biggie or Tupac

Imagine for a moment if the Beatles versus Stones rivalry had turned ugly, and Beatles manager Brian Epstein had been implicated in a hit on Brian Jones that saw Andrew Loog Oldham retaliating by taking out John Lennon: That’s one mythic scenario that’s grown around the beef between Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace and Tupac Shakur, both of whom were murdered at their respective artistic peaks. Biggie’s flow or Tupac’s urgency?

• Prince or Michael Jackson

Although it may not seem so since the late Michael Jackson was enshrined as the King of Pop, in the 1980s the more obsessive of Prince fans cast dispersions on MJ as being a mere pop star, albeit one with a lineage to die for, a couple classic jams, and one amazing Moonwalk. Meanwhile, Prince remains the visionary funk auteur with a commanding artistic vision. A preference for one over the other is telling.

• Lady Gaga or Adele

Pomp and circumstance takes on tradition and restraint in the current-day comparison between Lady Gaga and Adele. A Gaga preference signifies an edgier lot: the club goers and the freedom fighters who espouse joy through celebration, and those who, like the Beatles, are seeking pleasure through experimentation. Adele-lovers, like Rolling Stones fans, dig the deep well of traditional soul and rhythm & blues, and find joy in the singer’s expression of an ages-old blueprint.

• Taylor Swift or Miranda Lambert

Sincerity or sass in 2012? When it comes to superstar country singers, the polarizing Taylor Swift offers what critics have described as a “country-lite” sound versus her opposite, the saucier, more rambunctious Lambert, whose level of raggedness is too much for many (especially within the Celine Dion wing of the Swift party). Bud Light or Jack Daniels?

• U2 or Radiohead

Commerce versus Art? Speaking for The People versus speaking for oneself? Setting out on an independent path versus teaming with The Man in order to change minds? These are the big-picture, unspoken questions that arise when considering U2 and Radiohead side by side. Though U2 came up a decade earlier than Radiohead, the two are the biggest rock bands in the world. And Radiohead’s way, way more interesting — OK, better. Which, according to iron-clad logic, would then confirm that Adele is better than Lady Gaga, Prince is better than MJ, Biggie trumps Tupac, and Lambert is better than Swift. And the Rolling Stones are, for obvious reasons, head and shoulders above the lesser Beatles.

But the Kinks are better than both combined.

ALSO:

Ray Davies knows about being broke

George Harrison: The provocateur Beatle?

Paul McCartney to release album of covers, two new songs

-- Randall Roberts

Image: Rolling Stones tribute band Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Beatles tribute band Abbey Road. Credits: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

 
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