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Are You On Team Stones Or Team Beatles? It's A Smackdown!

Two all-star teams, including actor Mike Myers and NPR host Ophira Eisenberg, throw down over the two legendary bands at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Paul Myers and Mike Myers, on stage at the Beatles vs. Stones Soundcheck Smackdown. Paul Myers and Mike Myers, on stage at the Beatles vs. Stones Soundcheck Smackdown. (Michael Katzif / WNYC)

On Thursday, Feb. 27, Soundcheck hosted an all-star Beatles vs. Rolling Stones Smackdown at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. In front of a crowd of more than 200 people, two teams fiercely battled over which band is better -- at times pitting album versus album, guitarist versus guitarist, song versus song -- and, of course, debating the sex appeal of each band. 

Arguing for The Beatles were comedian, actor, and director Mike Myers (Wayne's WorldAustin Powers, and Shrek); and writer and musician Paul Myers, author of the acclaimed biographies A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio, and It Ain't Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues.

According to Mike Myers, "The Beatles are a cultural movement. They've affected everything. 'A Hard Day's Night'... has informed everything I've done, including and especially Austin Powers. So for me personally, it's everything."

And taking on the Myers brothers on behalf of The Rolling Stones: Ophira Eisenberg, comedian, writer and host of NPR and WNYC’s Ask Me Another; and Bill Janovitz, frontman of the alt-rock band Buffalo Tom, and author of Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell The Story of The Rolling Stones, and the 33 1/3 series' book about Exile On Main Street.

During the debate, Janovitz summoned the words of a literary giant. “Tom Wolfe once said, ‘The Beatles want to hold your hand. The Rolling Stones want to burn down your town.’”

Janovitz added: “I wanted a band that would burn down my town.”

<p>Arguing for The Beatles were comedian, actor, and director&nbsp;<strong>Mike Myers</strong>&nbsp;(<em>Wayne's World</em>,&nbsp;<em>Austin Powers</em>, and&nbsp;<em>Shrek</em>); and writer and musician&nbsp;<strong>Paul Myers</strong>, author of the acclaimed biographies&nbsp;<em>A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio</em>, and&nbsp;<em>It Ain't Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues</em>.</p>
<p>And taking on the Myers brothers on behalf of The Rolling Stones:&nbsp;<strong>Ophira Eisenberg</strong>, comedian, writer and&nbsp;host of NPR and WNYC&rsquo;s&nbsp;<em>Ask Me Another</em>; and&nbsp;<strong>Bill Janovitz</strong>, frontman of the alt-rock band Buffalo Tom, and author of&nbsp;<em>Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell The Story of The Rolling Stones</em>, and the 33 1/3 series' book about&nbsp;<em>Exile On Main Street</em>.</p>

Who will prevail? Listen to the debate to find out. And tell us which side you're on! Leave a comment below, or call us up at 866.939.1612.

Bill Janovitz and Ophira Eisenberg at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (Credit: Michael Katzif)

Bill Janovitz and Ophira Eisenberg on stage at the NYPL for the Performing Arts (Michael Katzif/WNYC

John Schaefer, Paul Myers and Mike Myers at the NYPL for the Performing Arts

Host John Schaefer behind Paul Myers and Mike Myers, on stage at the NYPL for the Performing Arts (Michael Katzif/WNYC)

(From left to right) Bill Janovitz, Ophira Eisenberg, John Schaefer, Paul Myers, Mike Myers on stage at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Bill Janovitz, Ophira Eisenberg, John Schaefer, Paul Myers, Mike Myers on stage at the NYPL for the Performing Arts (Michael Katzif/WNYC)

The crowd at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

The audience at the Beatles vs. Stones Smackdown at the NYPL for the Performing Arts (Michael Katzif/WNYC)


Thanks to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, especially Evan Leslie, Nora Lyons and Mike Diekmann. 

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Comments [18]


...don't many of us call a lot of people "unbearable", that we have complicated feelings about. i don't know how Keith calling Mick unbearable,means that he can't stand him. maybe, he can't stand him,but we can't fully know that.

btw- are women using blue language [ie Ophiria]in the service of talking about matters libidinal;always given carte blanche to do so,irrespective of the forum ? no one wants to seem uncool or prudish,so nothing will be said. it seemed a bit cheap and gratuitous of her,in my opinion. i guess that's why you guys didn't carry it live,RT? too funny...!

Mar. 15 2014 09:53 PM
Action Jackson from Northeast

I like how many of these comments start off with a variation on the theme, "This is ridiculous and pointless," only to go on and try to make their own points about the topic.

Mar. 15 2014 10:28 AM
Asterix from Manhattan

I rarely switch away from WNYC when listening at home on a Saturday afternoon, but this show made me switch to the AM frequency and listen to Car Talk again instead.

Mar. 08 2014 06:01 PM
art525 from Park Slope

For Adam in NJ- In his book Keith Richards called Mick Jagger "unbearable". They hate each other. But they like making money and being in the public eye more.

Mar. 08 2014 04:54 PM
art525 from Park Slope

The Beatles paved the way with The Rolling Stones following for the entire course of their careers. Back in the beginning The Beatles were approached at a night club to write a song for The Stones back when they were starting out. Paul and John went off and a few minutes came back with a song for The Stones- "I Wanna Be Your Man". That's when The Stones got a clue that they should write their own music. The Beatles hit on Ed Sullivan and took over America and months later the Stones followed up after The Beatles had paved the way. And The Stones with their Beatle haircuts I might mention. When The Beatles started adding horns and elaborate productions The Stones picked up on it and did a not so good imitation. Remember that album where The Stones donned their imitation St Pepper's uniforms? Painfully derivative. And on that album their attempts at trippy acid music like the lame "2000 Light Years From Home". Lame. And Keith Richards never met a Chuck Berry guitar part he couldn't appropriate. And let's not forget that after The Beatles broke up and THe Stones didn't have a place to go for their creativity they ended up doing their corny disco stuff-ie. "Miss You". "Emotional Rescue"? More like "Career Rescue Attempt". Sorry "I'm So Hot For You" leaves me cold. ANd Mick's heavy handed attempt to do his black soul voice? Embarassing. Kind of like audio blackface.

Mar. 08 2014 04:42 PM
Binnie from Glen Head NY

3/8/14 I finally listened to smack down Beatles vs. Rolling Stones. Yes, I am a die hard Beatles fan. One thing that was not really mentioned was the Beatles music will be played by many artists FOREVER. The Stones music won't. I remember every word of the Beatles songs, can Stones fans or others say that. Someone said " do people know all the band members of the Stones" I must admit I don't.
Thank you for a great smack down. I miss the show at 2PM. I used to listen every day going home from work.
Thanks for a great show.

Mar. 08 2014 03:15 PM
Donald Sepanek from Bayonne, NJ

Low point for the Beatles - The Long and Winding Road.
Low point for the Stones - Altamont.

Mar. 08 2014 12:41 PM
Ralph from Brooklyn, NY

This has to be one of the more idiotic, pointless, time-wasting exercises ever, an opportunity to spout hot air. But then, the whole premise of music smackdowns begs the question: who cares? People like the music they like, end of story. We could be here forever debating this question, based on our own personal criteria or backed up by historical references to "prove" that we're right in our opinion or have better taste than the next guy. George Harrison or Keith Richards? I'm bored now, can we listen to some music?

The Beatles and the Stones had a few things in common: both English rock bands from the same era who were heavily influenced by the American blues and rock 'n roll musicians who preceded them; both exceedingly talented, with a lasting influence on popular music. There the similarities end.

Objective measures like record sales and longevity aside, if you ask me "who do you like better, the Beatles or the Stones?" my answer is "yes."

Mar. 08 2014 12:13 PM
Susan from the West Village, NYC

Well, the Beatles may have had the audience advantage but the Stones team won the debate hands down. As is so often the case, there was only one token female on the panel, but thank God she was there because she made all the best comments.

Such a fun show! Of course we know it's premise is ridiculous.

Mar. 08 2014 12:06 PM
Michael Turner from Freehold NJ

The Stones are famous. The Beatles are infamous. Your grandmother liked some of their songs. Frank Sinatra covered "Something" but certainly not "Wild Horses." But it's really all about the drummer and unfortunately for Ringo there's Charlie Watts and then there's everybody else.

Mar. 08 2014 07:33 AM
Connie Colvin from Jackson Heights, Queens, NY

First of all, the Beatles broke up only 6 years after they came out and 2 are gone, so there could be no more Beatles. That being said, the impact they had in those 6 years was greater then the Stones. Without the Beatles, no Stones or other groups in America. They set the bar. Each one is a star in his own right. The Stones are a great group, no doubt, but they are a group, not a star individually. The Beatles are still a cultural force, and they project positive vibes, not negative as the Stones. They have sold more music then any other group, and have a library full of books written about them. So thus, the Beatles are greater and always will be. I actually like the Who better then the Stones myself anyway. Beatles forever! And love to John and George wherever they are.

Mar. 08 2014 12:49 AM
Clay from chicago

The Stones did everything the Beatles did.....three months later.

Mar. 07 2014 04:05 PM
Robert W. from South Florida

I have one son named John and another named Keith, so I'm definitely Sittin' On A Fence (ha!) when it comes to this debate. I wasn't old enough to experience either band's heydey, but even in the mid-80s, my high school friends were fiercely Stones or Beatles, not both. I listen to the Stones about once a week, sometimes daily, depending on the phase I'm in. I soaked up so much of The Beatles, I got to the point where playing their music was overkill. But when I do Get Back to their records, it's really hard to match their genius.

Mar. 07 2014 01:10 PM
Adam from NJ

I know that it is a punt, but they are kind of apples and oranges.

The Beatles made a lot of happy, poppy music. They were on the beat.

The Stones made a lot of not so happy, difficult music. And they played with the beat a whole lot.

Part of what I find interesting, though, is that the Stones fans acknowledge how great the Beatles were but Beatles fans have a very hard time acknowledging how good the Stones were.

Lastly, there is this whole issue of the Beatles stopping when they were on the top. The Beatles quit because they couldn't stand each other any more. I have read the John Lennon interview in Playboy where he talks about how he didn't want to go on for the rest of his life being a Beatle, but don't you think that if he enjoyed making music with those three other guys he would have continued to do so.

Mar. 07 2014 12:20 PM
Stephen from Prospect Heights

Stones are a better band with a better track record and epitomizes rock and roll, but Beatles are more important culturally.

Stones had a great track record of incredible albums:
Let it Bleed
Goats Head
Some Girls

The Beatles have great songs as individuals, but other than:
Rubber Soul
The Beatles do not have cohesive albums and some duds.

Beatles kicked in the doors and were the eye of the storm.
Stones institutionalized real rock and rock attitudes that did not exist (despite Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, etc.) as predecessors.

Mar. 07 2014 09:16 AM
Susan from Manhattan

I couldn't say it any better than Ian and Ziggy: "PFFFT" to Stones fans. "Yeah, loosen the headphones, John!" The Beatles reign forever!!

Mar. 06 2014 09:27 PM
Ian Clarke from Vancouver

The Beatles all the way. They didn't knock on the door they knocked it down.
Never in the history of music have ther been such iconic status .
The Stones dont come close. The Beatles chord progressions and melodies couldn't be touched.
They grew better with every album . They broke musical boundaries with every new album showing a sophistication years ahead of anyone else. They changed the way it was recorded.
They basically created video and MTV . They weren't afraid do go out of the comfort zone musically and politically.
And people say The Beatles were the good boys of Rock but the fact that when in Hamburg Lennon used to spit on the audience and mock the crowd by doing NaZi salutes .thats punk everyone.
They called it a day at the very top something the Stones never did. Plus they have outsold the Sones 3 to 1. Enough said no comes close.

Mar. 06 2014 09:05 PM

The very premise that there is even a debate over top rock band is a delusion on the part of Stones fans. There is The Beatles, then there is a big space below, then there is the Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. We should not enable Stones fans by ever entertaining this as a serious question and should always respond with a dismissive “pfffft.”

And I can't believe John Schaefer defended The Stones' disco record. John, when you get back in the studio loosen your headphones. They are too tight, man. They're crushing your brain!

Mar. 06 2014 06:19 PM

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