I went to the recording of the radio show, Soundcheck, tonight, at the NY Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Dubbed Soundcheck Smackdown, the program was something of a debate about who was/is better, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.
Hosted and refereed by Soundcheck host John Schaefer, who wore the zebra stripes and had a yellow penalty flag that he threw once, and a whistle that went unemployed, maybe because he swallowed it when Ophira Eisenberg popped the f-word into her argument for the Stones, as in the Beatles asked to hold your hand, but who didn’t imagine fucking all of the Stones. Round to Stones.
Eisenberg’s partner on the Stones team was Bill Janovitz, who wrote a highly-praised essay about Exile on Main Street in the 33 1/3 book series and another book about the 50 most meaningful Stones songs.
Team Beatles was Paul Myers, who is an author and musician and the older brother of his partner, Mike Myers, who is known as the keen wit and lover of language who created Wayne’s World and Austin Powers. Notably the Myers brother have very similar body types, wore matching black t-shirts with the words “John&Paul&Ringo&George” on them, but had dramatically different hair colors (Paul pure white, Mike pure brown).
I don’t know when the show will air, but you can check the Soundcheck site for the airdate.
Before the show we were all handed index cards and pencils and asked to write in 20 words or less why we liked the Beatles or the Stones. I think the Beatles are more important culturally, but after thinking about this more than I had earlier in the week, I came up with this:
“The Beatles were the soundtrack of my life in middle school. The Stones were the soundtrack of my life in high school. I have to go with the Stones.” (What I actually wrote on the card was only 19 words, and probably better).
I think you might enjoy the show, so I’m not going to go into much detail here. But SPOILER ALERT, there was one thing to talk about that gives away who won. Sort of.
Before the show John Schaefer asked how many people favored the Stones. My sense was that all of us who went Stones knew that the Beatles were really better/more important, and our applause was half-hearted, lacking confidence.
The debate had many jabs and ripostes and good theater, but it was clear as it went along that the Ophira and Bill’s argument that the Stones were all rock ‘n’ roll-y, good for sex and burning stuff down, was a better argument than the Myers’s argument that the Beatles changed all of culture riff (even though that is almost certainly true, in a way).
At the end of the show, John Schaefer polled the crowd again about their favorites. This time, the Stones fans, buoyed by Team Stones excellent performance, cheered robustly and with confidence. But the Beatles fans were still louder. No minds were changed, but a rollicking good time was had by all.
The following two songs are the one’s each team chose as their band’s most emblematic:
Each team was also asked to name the other band’s worst song. Team Stones did quite well, though the song they cite is terribly catchy, while Team Beatles latched onto some obvious flaws in a Stones’ tune that time has embiggened. Or, at least, revealed virtues that overcome some of the disco silliness.