Battle Of The Boomer Bands

Tyler McMahon reviews John McMillian’s dual rock biography:

Beatles vs. Stones captures an era that was confusing, tumultuous, often teetering on the edge of violence. At many concerts, there was more Altamont in the air than there was Woodstock. For pop stars, entering the public eye also meant wandering into an ideological vacuum. The backlash after the release of the Beatles’ “Revolution” (and later, the inverse reaction to the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”) vividly shows the fault lines within the New Left. Oldham, Jagger, and the rest of the Rolling Stones consistently managed to win approval with more radicalized commentators. Their success was more about dexterity than values. As the author puts it: “Without ever devising or articulating a formula for instigating a cultural revolt, the Rolling Stones began to stumble upon one.” The Beatles, on the other hand, avoided controversy but provided a generational touchstone. One of the book’s most telling episodes recounts a Berkeley SDS gathering in which the students—unable to recall the lyrics to old labor standards—broke out into a blissful rendition of “Yellow Submarine.”

(Video: The Rolling Stones perform “Street Fighting Man” in 1969)