At long last, one of the most divisive issues of our time will be resolved this week at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. No, it’s not a forum on gun control, and no, Sammy Hagar won’t be there to give a TED talk about how he’s the superior Van Halen frontman.
It’s a musical showdown for the ages, folks. It’s the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones. Two cover bands—Abbey Road and Satisfaction—will be on hand to make their rocking case about the relative merits of both bands. The beer will flow, the blood will spill and the ghost of the great Phil Lynott will stand in judgment.
The long-running Beatles vs. Stones debate has always seemed a little forced and silly. Why can’t we have both, in reasonable and healthy doses? Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the idea of the Beatles—what they represented, how they helped shape and shift the culture—more than the music of the Beatles. I love the music of the Stones, even as they rode in on the British invasion inspired by the Beatles and stole half their ideas.
The Beatles were working-class lads from Liverpool who, by the time of Sgt. Peppers, had evolved into a group of art-rock shoegazers. The Rolling Stones were meanwhile middle-class art-school poseurs who made some of the greatest workingman’s rock music ever (and continue to do so, having nabbed a Grammy this year for their killer throwback platter, Blue & Lonesome).
So it’s a tough call in the end. “Gimme Shelter” or “Within You Without You”? The former is the greatest rock song ever written; the latter is considered the first piece of psychedelic music ever recorded. The all-ages show will conclude with the bands playing together in a moment of joyful unity under the Flag of Rock. It’s not exactly Ted Nugent linking arms with Eminem, but it’s something.
Beatles vs. Stones—A Musical Showdown, Thursday, Feb. 22, 7pm; $22-$27; Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; sweetwatermusichall.com.