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August 19, 2005



Before I take issue with your post above, let it be said that I like both bands very much. It’s not necessarily an either/or situation the way people think about Elvis or The Beatles. Although, on second thought your blog entry reminds me of the class distinction that existing within England in the early 60s between the Mods and Rockers. And I think that this class distinction helps explain your piece. While The Stones are all Rockers, The Who are definitely Mods.

Your argument seems flawed to me; that, although less talented than The Who, The Stones have achieved greater levels of popularity due to a fawning press impressed with their mere longevity. My logic would take this approach; The blues-inspired Stones have written better songs, are more accessible to rock audiences, and put a far superior product in front of concert goers.

Pete Townshend says “It’s the singer not the song that makes the music move along”. The Stones have made their career out of elevating the song. Specifically, the guitar riff. Just by mentioning the titles the riffs come flowing; Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Can You Hear Me Knocking, Satisfaction, etc…The Who have song great “riff songs” too; Pinball Wizard, 5:15, Won’t Get Fooled Again”, etc…They just don’t have as many.

The Who writes better lyrics, I’ll grant you that. But rock isn’t about lyrics, it’s about guitar work that hits you in the pants and makes you wanna move. The Stones have that guttural, street-wise connection to rock fans because their songs are more fluent in the language of rock. If it’s “ethereal spirit” I want in my music, I’ll slap on some Enya!

“House band”? I’ve seen both bands twice, and The Stones are by far the better experience. This is evidenced by the popularity of their shows. These guys continue to sell out US Tours in their mid-60s. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. And I’m talking Stadium-sized arenas here. Te reason is that The Stones shows have evolved to fit the entertainment demands of today’s consumer and they have continued to invest in their shows. I enjoyed The Who show I saw at Great Woods three years ago, but it could easily have been 1971 rather than 2001 (except that half the band is now deceased – may they rest in peace). Stage settings? Forget it, just stacks of amps. People expect more these days. Roadies for The Stones have spent the better part of this past week setting up for Sunday’s show! Their elaborate stages and, yes, special effects, reach out to concert-goers in a highly unique (Re: great brand experience) way such that people are entertained and are willing to pay 2x, 3x when compared to a standard rock show. And lastly, The Stones are in great concert-shape. They are prepared to run and make use of a large stage. Yes, they’re old and decrepit, but they can still rock and roll.

To conclude, The Stones are more popular for good reason; they produce memorable songs with hooks galore that people connect to. They also provide a fresh concert experience every time out and have evolved their live shows to each succeeding generation of fans. The Who is great, but by comparison they’re more of a niche play; a fine Pinot to the bold Merlot of The Stones.


Good points, Richard, but talent is an important attribute if a rock band is going to resonate with me. I appreciate the Stones' popularity (although fueled by an overzealous, brain-washed, can't-think-for-themselves media) and longevity, but when it comes to pure ingenious and talent, the Stones are mired at the second-grade level while The Who are breezing through calculus.

Bottom line: The Who are way more talented than the Stones, but are not recognized as such. It's not an us vs. them, as I do appreciate the Stones' music. It's just that The Who are a superior band and it makes me nauseous to watch the media (lead story on the news last night) fawn over the Stones.


Oh my.
I'm going to be a bit cheeky and skip the reading of your comments on your post, make mine then go back to your comments--I want to use my own words.

I agree with absolutely every point in your post.
I idolize Pete Townshend. His lyricism (sp) is sublime and it's pulled me out of a number of low points esp. when I was in my twenties.
The Stones are popular for myriad reasons, many of which I scratch my head at. I know they are far superior to The Who at marketing themselves--Jagger's said to be a marketing whiz and even if he is less so, he's made sure that the band aligns with the sponsers who will best serve them.
The Who? I don't think they've given marketing a great deal of thought in a very long time. I would kill to see Townshend alone. Every year he pops up to play in a downtown club here in Chicago for a benefit show for a home for orphans. Tickets are $500 apiece and I've yet been able to nab one.
I saw the Stones a year or two ago in Toronto. As excited as I was to see them live, they phoned in the performance--it was that rote. Townshend is a risk-taker and IMO, far more fearless musically than Jagger & Co. Maybe that's a large part of the attraction for me.

Good points, Cyn. I would agree that the Stones are marketing wizards. They were one of the first stadium rock bands to tap into the lucrative corporate sponsorship market. But good marketing doesn't mean you've got a great product. The Stones are good, but they're not great.

I've heard from other people that, like you, they were disappointed in the Stones' live performance. You'll rarely see The Who in bad form. Sadly, it's really the Townshend/Daltrey show now, but my guess is that they'll be back. Townshend is always worth the ticket. See him if you can.

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