I haven’t swatted a hornet’s nest in quite a while. And wondering things in this narrow mind of mine, I thought I would throw out a debate. But before I do, I’ll give my opinions.

I’ve always looked upon The Rolling Stones as the definitive Rock and Roll band. Yes, even more so than The Beatles. Of course, I must say that ideally, The Beatles set the stage better than anyone when it came to evolution of music…even better than The Stones. But, when you get down to album for album, I have to say that The Stones come out on top in my book. Not for the number of albums produced, but for the quality of Rock and Roll with a brilliant mix of blues, R&B, Soul, etc found throughout.

Beatles

Of course, there’s the whole longevity argument. The Stones has survived decades when the Beatles gave up the ghost before the advent of the ’70s. To e fair, if you factor in very successful and diverse solo careers, the members of the Beatles trump The Stones. The only Stones with a halfway decent Solo career is Ron Wood, while members of The Beatles sold incredible numbers with their albums.

Rolling Stones

Now, some of you may choose to go with The Who, or The Kinks, or even another band of incredible worth.

Still (and here comes the fiery dart for you to swat away and return), I say The Stones are historically the greatest Rock and Roll band on the planet!

And you say…

By MARowe

32 thoughts on “Are The Rolling Stones The Greatest Rock and Roll Band Ever?”
  1. The Stones certainly are the template for what it means to be a rock band but, you know how you always argue that most albums would be better at a lean 45 minutes than a bloated 70 minutes Matt? Well that’s my problem with the Stones. They’ve watered down their legacy by sticking around too long. At some point they went from being a band to being a brand.

    I’d go with the Beatles, Pink Floyd or Led Zep above the Stones. That is based on a percentage factor – number of great songs/albums as a function of total output over their career and relevancy as a function of lifespan (the old saying “always leave them wanting more” comes to mind).

    My personal greatest rock band ever is Rush. A steady flow of output of 40 years. A static line up. Albums that appeal to most of their fans from the earliest to the latest (at least for me). The only difference is the mainstream appeal. Rush never could rack up the numbers that the Stones did. In a way, no one can or has.

    1. Well put. I actually refused to see them after the 70s for the reasons you state. I like no Stones album through and through after Tattoo You. So the dilution you speak of makes perfect sense. And your song for song valuation is interesting. Still, for me, I Stay with Stones. I do love the bands you’ve mentioned!

  2. For me it was the Beatles, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I heard them first. I was aware of the Beatles before I was in Elementary School, but didn’t really catch on to the Stones until much later, probably High School. I have great respect for both bands, but the way the Beatles completely changed the game for popular music puts them on top for me. Their influence can’t be overstated.

  3. Yeah I’m agreeing with Bill B. To me the Stones peaked between ’67 and ’73. Their work outside those years was inconsistent and not worthy of “The Greatest” title in my opinion. So the question becomes: Does an incredible 5-6 year run plus 44 years of average rock (plus a few great singles) equal the greatest ever? I’m not so sure. As I look over my collection I’m not sure which band might more worthy. Surely the Beatles, Who and Led Zeppelin are in the running even though they had much shorter lifespans. (I appreciate Rush, but am not a huge fan.) If you just use length of time and commercial success as your measure I agree with you on the Stones. If you think about the overall quality of all their output I would disagree, and each year they stay together it seems to get worse.

  4. No they are not.

    I am old enough to have seen The Stones and The Who (but not the Beatles) when they were not parody bands. The experience of The Who at the peak of their powers circa 1974/5 was second to none.

    Both shows are drifting in to Detroit later this year and I will be attending neither. Enough with the retirement dollars. I will sit with the memory of surviving The Oval and Charlton and throw my sixpence in the direction of Pete and Rog and John and Keith

  5. I would have to say yes but the views from the above replies offer definite issues with their entire recording history. I’m tempted to say that their last worthwhile album was perhaps in 1983 with Undercover. Their peak period was the end of the Brian Jones era in 1968 and the Mick Taylor years from 1969 ~ 1973 in terms of the albums released and the live performances during that period. As a live band, they are clearly the greatest rock ‘n roll band ever.

  6. I cast my vote for The Band. Their work as a unit and with Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan is a testament to their talent and place in the pantheon of rock n’ roll.
    Each album pays homage in some form or fashion to blues, R n’ B, soul, country.
    One listen to “THE BAND A Musical History” will highlight their influences and point the way to those they have influenced. To me they are the bedrock to this amalgamation that is called R n’ R. They are musical genius’ handling vocals, instrumentation, arranging and song writing that made the whole far greater that the individual parts.

    1. While I hesitate to call any group or individual artist “the best ever”, The Band is my personal favorite for exactly the reason(s) you give. Thank you.

  7. It is interesting to me that when we talk of The Stones, it is most often in reference to “rock and roll”. I think rock and roll is a genre just as prog rock, heavy metal, etc. are genres. All of these genres I believe are under the banner of Rock. If you are considering The Stones on the top of the heap of rock and roll, I would certainly agree that very few bands could equal them in their prime, along with Led Zeppelin, when they rocked and rolled. But if you look at all of Rock and all the genres, I think the Beatles probably had the greatest impact in history, the most influence of all the bands that came during and after, and probably the greatest batch of known songs ever recorded by a single band.

  8. The Who owned The Stones live in its heyday. Still sound energetic compared to The Rolling Stones. Plus released more key albums than The Rolling Stones.

    Pink Floyd released nothing but great albums, only one bump with The Final Cut (which is Roger Waters’ best solo work) but nothing but ace material and live shows. Led Zeppelin outsold The Stones album sale and concert ticket wise. Mick and Keith were jealous of anyone who rained on their parade.

    The Beatles created the rock band bible which everyone follows now. Plus they went out on top of their game (The Stones didn’t).

  9. I look at this in a wholly different way.
    Who will the people 100 years in the future be listening to? I think the Beatles more so than the Stones.

  10. The Final Cut (which is Roger Waters’ best solo work) ? In my humble opinion Amused to Death trumps that faux-floyd offering, hands down.
    p.s. My vote The Kinks all the way… :)

    1. Agreed! Amused To Death is Waters best solo work. And now is finally getting the edition it deserves. And by the way, I love the Stones but it’s the Beatles head and shoulders above the rest. Unbelievable song catalog that no other band can match. And people talk about bands at their peak. Their entire career was a peak.

  11. I would say that nobody compares to the Beatles in terms of creating studio material and The Who were almost untouchable in terms of live performance……The only band that can truly match that powerhouse would be Led Zeppelin, but were perhaps a bit more inconsistent overall….

  12. The Beatles continue to shine above the rest.
    With the exception (IMHO) Aftermath (UK version), the Stone made a lot of great singles, but their albums were mostly filler, were I can listen and enjoy every Beatle album completely (original 13*). They had better production values (thanks to George Martin). Always cringed a bit at Mick’s vocals.
    So for me, as much as I enjoy the Stone hits up to Beggars Banquet, I will always list the Beatles as number 1, Actual, as someone before my said, I would place Pink Floyd, Zeppelin and add Moody Blues, higher than the Stones

    *giving created to MMT (US)

  13. I like the Stones very much but prefer the London Years plus their albums up to Undercover of the night. After that they should have quit. I also think when you talk about the best bands, you need to define your criteria. As an example, The Stones can out Rock and Roll the Beatles, but they have NOTHING that compares to Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road, Revolver, Rubber Soul, and as far as musicianship goes, my opinion is all the Stones are good musicians and Mick Jagger is my favorite Front Man, but none of them individually can out do Paul and George. The Beatles are much more creative than the Stones, and with the exception of Their Satanic Majesties Request, there isn’t much variety. Now look at the evolution from The Beatles Meet The Beatles to Sgt Pepper. As far as Bands on my favorite list, Yes has to be first, along with Rush, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and for pure out and out Rockin, Bob Seger amp; The Silver Bullet Band

  14. So many great groups mentioned. I love so many of them. Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, Led Zeppelin, Yes, The Band etc. What about Steely Dan? Not known as a live band (until recently), nearly every song on Steely Dan’s initial run of 7 albums were top notch in terms of songwriting and musicianship. But, why even bother classifying any group or artist as the best? Or even with top ten or twenty lists? What about all of the excellent music produced by artists with more limited output and cultural impact than groups like the Stones, Beatles, et al.? With so much great music out there (and so little time to listen), I just enjoy it all in the moment, and don’t concern myself who might’ve been the best of all time.

  15. What I find interesting is the lack of the Beach Boys in this discussion. Sure they’re not Rock and Roll, but as far as leading the pack, they’re at least as important as the Beatles. Even Paul McC confirmed that and listen to Steven Wilson’s latest record for BB harmonies! I believe, much as I love the Mick Taylor Stones, I just love my Band records more and more the more I listen to them.
    As far as Rock, Sticky Fingers, Who’s Next and Born to Run reign supreme. Finally, what about Bruce as a yardstick of what rock is all about?

    1. John, no one was excluded from this. Only time and space prevented their mentions. That’s why you as a commenter is here. And Born To Run? Greatest Rock album EVER!

  16. Whenever this topic comes up (as it does during many a night in a bar) I always ask the Beatles fan this: would the Stones write songs like Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da? Would they have even considered recording a song with the title I Am The Walrus? One band is POP, the other is Rock’n’Roll. I’m fifty-five years of age and my MOM always liked the Beatles. She hated the Stones. I guess she never could understand the power of a guitar tuned to Open “G.”

  17. It appears to me that there is wide spread agreement that comparing The Stones and The Beatles is difficult, because they are so dis-similar. That doesn’t mean we can’t prefer one over the other, but to compare them is difficult at best. A classic case of Apples and Oranges. Maybe what would make sense is for Matt to come up with a list of attributes. As an example 1. Which of your favorite Bands have the best Song Writers, 2. The best Lead Guitar Player, 3. the best Front man, (or woman), 4. Grows musically with each new album, 5. Rocks The Best, 6. Has the smoothest Ballad singers, 7. Has the best Harmonies, 8. Is the most innovative, ect ect. I think you get the picture LOL. Anyway, maybe that would be an easier way to compare the top bands. Just a thought !

    1. Those are fun thoughts. I agree that the bands are dissimilar. For example, Beatles trumps Stones in innovation. But, I think the Stones trump Beatles in consistent production of gritty Rock tunes. I just can’t hear the Beatles doing a song like Sympathy For The Devil, Tumbling Dice, Street Fighting Man, etc.

  18. The Stones had a can’t be beat string of great albums from 1968 Beggars Banquet to 1972 Exile On Main Street. If you only count the Beatles original British albums, they are all very good, there is no weak one. My opinion is that the Beatles had the bigger impact on rock music, and how to make albums with no filler tracks.

    Matt you mention some gritty rock Stones tunes, Sympathy for the Devil, how about the Beatles Helter Skelter. Play the Stones Street Fighting Man and then listen to the Beatles Revolution ( the original single version not the mellow album version) for a different view on public unrest.

  19. If you ask me who my favorite all time band is I will reply “the Beatles”. If you ask me who is the greatest rock n roll band I will agree with Matt : the Stones!
    Reasons: Longevity, wrote more gritty, bluesy songs, their albums after Tattoo You may not be peak classics , but always have a few great tunes on them. Bigger Bang was recorded by 60 something’s , had some really good songs on it and rocked more than any recent Paul or Ringo solo album. Finally , who embodies Rock n Roll more than Keith Richards? Nuff Said!

  20. Much respect to all the great bands mentioned, but between the Stones and the Beatles, the Stones win hands down. Opening it up to other bands, as already mentioned, the Who outclasses the Stones in every way except for longevity. Check out the Stones and the Who performances at the Stones Rock and Roll Circus for but one great example. Both amazing bands though. And as a few others have said, my personal favorite is Rush.

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