Glastonbury: Paul McCartney virtually duets with John Lennon
In the early 1960s, The Rolling Stones saw the stratospheric rise of Liverpudlian band The Beatles into the charts. The London-based band began to wonder what they were doing wrong, and ended up asking for help. The Beatles’ catchy songs had reached the heights of number one and two in the British singles charts, while the Stones had barely managed to get their music off the ground. Eventually, Mick Jagger asked John Lennon and Paul McCartney for help. And, on this day, October 7, in 1963, the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership penned a track for the Rolling Stones: I Wanna Be Your Man.
Lennon recalled being brought down to the Kingsway Sound Studio in London to help out the rockers in ’63. He said: “We were taken down to meet the Stones at the club where they were playing in Richmond by Brian and some other guy. They wanted a song and we went to see them to see what kind of stuff they did. [The Rolling Stones stars] Mick [Jagger] and Keith [Richards] had heard that we had an unfinished song – Paul just had this bit and we needed another verse or something.”
The Beatles star noted that I Wanna Be Your Man was a “lick that McCartney had”. While in the room with the band, Lennon and McCartney played the unfinished song to The Rolling Stones.
Jagger responded: “Yeah, OK, that’s our style.” So the songwriters started finishing the track off for their new pals.
John Lennon did not think much of his song for The Rolling Stones
Lennon recalled: “Paul and I just went off in the corner of the room and finished the song off while they were all still there talking. We came back and that’s how Mick and Keith got inspired to write, because [they said]: ‘Jesus, look at that. They just went in the corner and wrote it and came back!’ Right in front of their eyes, we did it.”
Years later, however, Lennon did not speak fondly of the song. Instead, he deemed it a track unworthy for The Beatles to record and release as one of their own. In fact, he claimed it was only good enough to be played by the band’s drummer, Ringo Starr.
In 1980 he said of the track: “It was a throwaway. The only two versions of the song were [by] Ringo and the Rolling Stones. That shows how much importance we put on it: We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”
McCartney corroborated this notion, as well, when he discussed the song years later.
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Mick Jagger released the song as a single
McCartney recalled being in a taxi with Lennon and Jagger, who asked The Beatles: “Hey, we’re recording. Got any songs?”
He replied: “Aaaah, yes, sure, we got one. How about Ringo’s song? You could do it as a single.”
However, Jagger had a different perspective on the song. He recalled: “We knew [the Beatles] by then and we were rehearsing and Andrew brought Paul and John down to the rehearsal. They said they had this tune, they were really hustlers then. I mean the way they used to hustle tunes was great: ‘Hey Mick, we’ve got this great song.’ So they played it and we thought it sounded pretty commercial, which is what we were looking for, so we did it like Elmore James or something.”
He added: “I haven’t heard it for ages but it must be pretty freaky ’cause nobody really produced it. It was completely crackers, but it was a hit and sounded great onstage.”
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Jagger remembered correctly. The rip-roaring track was a massive success for The Rolling Stones. After being recorded on October 7, it was released as a single on November 1, 1962. The song went straight to number 12 on the British singles charts.
I Wanna Be Your Man became The Rolling Stones’ first top-20 single in the UK, and largely contributed to their growing success.
Less than a year later, the band appeared on the BBC music show Top of the Pops. It was the first song ever performed live on the TV show.
Shortly thereafter, they released their next single, Not Fade Away, claiming them a number-three hit on the singles charts.
Years later, Jagger inducted The Beatles into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and attributed his band’s fame to the Fab Four.
He told the audience at the induction ceremony: “We were doin’ Chuck Berry songs and blues and things. And we thought that we were totally unique animals. And then we heard there was a group from Liverpool, and they had long hair and scruffy clothes. They had a record contract. And they had a record on the charts, with a bluesy harmonica on it, called Love Me Do. When I heard the combination of all these things, I was almost sick.”
Not everything was well between the two bands forever, however. They endured a bitter feud that lasted years.
At one point, Lennon said: “[Jagger] is obviously so upset by how big the Beatles are compared with him; he never got over it. Now he’s in his old age, and he is beginning to knock us, you know, and he keeps knocking. I resent it because even his second f*****g record we wrote it for him.”