Beatles or Stones? Radiohead or…?

post brought to you by: dyson

radiohead_vsThe question of Beatles or Stones is one I love to bring up. It says a lot about a person with how they respond. But we’re in a new era of music. This question holds a lot of weight because the Beatles and Stones are still relevant after all the years passed. I thought it would be relatively simple to translate this question into modern artists. After LOTS of thought and questioning, I find myself singing a completely different tune…

Gradon Tripp was first to bring up (and inspire this post) with the topic of which “new” artists could be used to ask the famous ‘Beatles or Stones’ question. I honestly thought this would be a relatively easy task. But now I’m realizing it is SO far from easy.

We have a new Beatles. It’s Radiohead. This is almost impossible to argue (except with some good points made over a lunch conversation with one highly credible woman) Oddly, Radiohead’s career has gone on WAY longer than the Beatles yet holds so many parallels. Each album they create is still Radiohead, but somehow morphs into a new form, just like every Beatles record. Also, members of Radiohead have now gone on to take on solo projects, just like their counterparts. And ‘In Rainbows’ is the new ‘Abbey Road’ while ‘Revolver’ is their ‘OK Computer’. (fight me on that. my fists are up)

So who can step into the Stones place and allow us to compare? THIS was the biggest challenge. There is no artist who has followed the Stone’s model of success. They differ from the Beatles because they play straight up rock and are pretty damn predictable. Sure they have their mellow tunes but still are known for their riff based rock anthems. Also they are on their what, 5th decade of making music??

I have two picks of who could be the new Stones. Green Day or The Black Crowes. Both are ridiculous to compare. But after many discussions and thought, they were the best two I could put myself behind. If anyone has an answer, I’d sure love to hear it.

thanks to gradontripp, paulledyard, calmstock, tamadear, jeff and luke for great input on this topic.

19 Responses to “Beatles or Stones? Radiohead or…?”

  1. Gregory Ng says:

    This is a fantastic question. But one in which there is only one answer. At first I thought Aerosmith but the fact that their career so blatantly overlaps with the Stones and the Beatles makes it less credible for me. Then I thought Pearl Jam whom despite the debate on whether they have gotten better or worse over the years still produces riff based rock songs.

    This brings me to the conclusion that the Black Crowes are the only choice.

  2. Rich says:

    I haven’t thought it over that much but my knee jerk reaction was The White Stripes. There isn’t many parallels between them and The Stones, but if you asked a 100 people, and by people I mean people who are really into music, who the greatest band of the last decade was, my guess is Radiohead and The White Stripes would get the most votes. Just like Stones and Beatles, almost everyone loves both, but who you love more says something about you.

  3. Craig says:

    I like the question in theory, but honestly don’t believe it has an answer. I am not even convinced of Radiohead – its not just about the music, its about the reaction to the band. And The Stones were about a lot more than their riffs; Exile on Main Street was the culmination into an exploration of americana that was uniquely theirs. These bands represent innocence vs. experience, ” I wanna hold your hand” vs. “lets spend the night together.” This kind of direct choice does not exist on such a massive scale in pop music anymore.

  4. Ryan says:

    venturing an immediate guess: NIN (although their careers have peaked independent of one another.)

  5. Ryan says:

    I think that Wilco could be just another great album or two from this list as well.

  6. Ryan says:

    and the White Stripes was not bad choice at all either. But clearly you are really talking about a family tree there of one: Jack White – so you would be talking about all of his projects, not just the Stripes.

  7. Gradon Tripp says:

    I think all you indie rock kids are missing the big answer.

    The question is: If Radiohead represents the craft and consistent originality of the Beatles, who represents chart-topping success with an overall consistent musical structure?

    Simply put, Jay Z is the modern version of the Rolling Stones. 11 albums in, the sound has evolved over time, but it’s still Jay Z rapping over music by the best producers he can afford.

    Aside from the music, he’s also a match for the sexed-up party lifestyle the Stones represented for so long — back then: long hair, tight pants, hallucinogens; now: pot, crack, and expensive liquor.

    Then there’s the money. The Stones were the first band to reach a billion dollars in revenue ( Jay Z’s currently estimated to be worth $150M (, and that’s before his 11th #1 album and corresponding tour/merchandise/etc.

    And he’s only 40 years old — a young pup compared to Mick & company.

  8. Greg, you can have the Crowes. I’ll take the Black Keys…

    NIN has the catalog, but not the universal appeal. Pearl Jam is the closest thing we have I think.

    I don’t know the answer. Aside from NIN, which is my personal favorite, I’m content to stick with the obscure stuff.

  9. Meg says:

    I don’t think Radiohead = Beatles QUITE yet, though I get the analogy. Gradon and I were talking (arguing?) about this last night after he commented with his take, and I disagree with THAT, too.

    Jay-Z is the soundtrack for some party lifestyles, but he’s a businessman as much as he’s a rockstar. There is no womanizing and excess… he’s married to a popstar that he’s been in a relationship with for years, and they stay out of the public eye for the most part. No legendary room trashing or drunkenness or any trappings of the Jagger or Richards-esque lifestyle. He’s also far more of a collaborator and architect than any of those boys ever were.

    And back to the original assertion, If Radiohead = Beatles because of constant innovation, artistry and fresh material (agreed), they also DON’T equate with the Beatles because they haven’t seen that same level of mainstream adoption, even as they have some hits that are very, very well known.

    Anyway — who do I think is the new Stones? Coldplay. Stay with me here.

    I realize they aren’t crazy, drunken party boys, but they consistently release semi-formulaic, stadium-friendly tunes that people across a wide range of musical tastes (and even people who don’t listen to much) seem to connect with. They evolve only slightly by album, and you always know you’re listening to Coldplay (just like you always know the Stones.)

    Sure, they are more squishy and sensitive, but we made some mental adjustments to make Radiohead analogous, too.

    Green Day is consistently what they are, but again, they’re still too subgenre for many people — and too political. And the Black Crowes? Mayyyybe, but their level of success is dwarfed by the Stones (and Coldplay!)

  10. Ryan says:

    This is an interesting thought, as the brainstorming (I think on all of our parts – has gone on much longer than one might expect.)

    I won’t paraphrase him, but there is a very interesting pair of chapters in Chuck Kloseterman’s new page-turner, “Eating The Dinosaur” about this topic. He approaches the comparison of bands in different generations two ways: 1) Looking at their self-created identities and roles 2) In respect to their legacies.

    He makes the single, straight-forward observation that no one can ever really be adequately compared to The Beatles, or Dylan, or The Stones – since A) There will never be a time in the future that the paradigm set by these acts didn’t exist.

    As always, Klosterman draws comparisons to Nirvana, enshrined in most people’s minds (fairly, or unfairly) to be one of if not, the, band of their decade. (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Meat Puppets fans be damned.) As always, Klosterman shows how the quantity of art eventually becomes as important as the quality and impact.

    For this reason: No one can Ever really touch The Beatles, Dylan or The Stones, because we cannot uncreate a world where those elemental musicians did not exist. Any attempt to do so, challenges and confounds us – but that’s because you can’t do it.

    Jay-Z, Green Day, NIN, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, The White Stripes, Nirvana, etc etc – no one has as much music, played as long (influencing multiple generations) while moving the center like they did. And they never, ever will.

  11. Will T says:

    Great discussion and I think about this at least once a week. I’m highly intrigued by the Jay-Z/Stones comparison and tempted to side with Gradon. What a great “outside the box” answer that satisfies some key points. It also takes both the musical and material evolution of rock and roll into account. That being said, I’m going to throw Metallica out there.

    Bare with me here because this is a stretch.

    Metallica creates riff heavy arena rock that remains predictable. They’ve scored chart topping hits (though certainly not at a Stones level). They lack the studio flare, originality, and sonic ambition of a Beatles or Radiohead. We know there’s some dysfunction there (as seen in the ‘Some kind of Monster’ DVD). Like the Stones, Metallica has made changes in both the bassist and lead guitar departments. They’ve both seen tragic, accidental deaths in the band (Brian Jones and Cliff Burton). Perhaps most importantly, they’ve led a rock and roll lifestyle laced with debauchery for a long period of time. They reside in the broader instrument based “Rock Band” spectrum with Radio head, making this comparison somewhat less abstract than Jay-Z. Finally, posing the “Radiohead or Metallica?” question tells you a lot about that person’s musical taste immediately.

    By the way, I dig the careers of both bands, as I do with the Beatles and Stones. But when it comes down to it, the clear answer is Beatles/Radiohead over Stones/Anybody (bring it on Stones lovers). Ultimately, we have to understand that there will never be a right answer or a valid comparison. The history major in me wants to simultaneously leave this cross-generational question at the door, but also explore it further. Great topic!

    Also, I like how you left room for Kid A to be Sgt. Pepper. Even fits chronologically. Nice work Dice!


  12. Drummer says:

    Wow. A thought-provoking analysis, Will. Very impressive. I was leaning toward PJ myself, (riff-rock, longevity, generation-defining hits, die-hard fanbase, etc.), but I think your argument may have won me over.

  13. Ryan says:

    The answer is: Wilco!

  14. Eric says:

    I was thinking that the polarity the Beatles/Stones debate creates is what was so interesting, and I find that there is a lot of that between Radiohead fans and U2 fans… So is U2 a ridiculous suggestion? Their massive popularity makes it easier for a typical person to hop into conversation than Wilco or The Black Keys or Crowes.

    • Eric says:

      or Red Hot Chili Peppers. Again, I’m trying find 2 bands that are equally well known, critically acclaimed and create polarity among listeners about which is better (while being able to like both at the same time). The thing is Radiohead will always win… But then again, the Beatles always win to me too.

  15. monz says:

    Don’t compare careers please … talk music.

    so what if you find any parallels?
    Thom york is definitly a great beatle for us today. but let’s face the truth, something is still missing, as something missed to Lennon alone or Mccartney alone.
    In fact, i would take Thom York alone and compare him to Lennon, as he was the one who always came with crazy stuff like strawberry fields and the beginning of a day in the life.
    So what’s missing is the mccartney part, the harmony.
    Maybe he’s gonna find it alone, or maybe he’s going to find some crazy partner. I hope for the first answer.
    And the period, where he went to do his solo album, is the proof that his band is not alwyas really following him.

    Now, i just want to add that we all know that white stripes, red hot chili peppers, coldplay, muse and green day are very amusing bands, but i’m sorry they still don’t compare with the stones. For the stones are not just a huge success music industry, they also were a great blues influenced band, full of kick ass musiciens.

    When you listen to songs like sympathy for the devil, you’d rather say, rythm was stones and harmony (and chords) were for the beatles.
    And what are about songs like black swan (from eraser), i mean musically speaking? it’s all about rythm.
    so give a listen to the song, and tell me if bands or artists can really be compared !!!!

    P.S: but if you really want to compare, you could take anybody around’s career.. you know even gaga and friends.

  16. Dan Z says:

    Wilco is the new Stones. Constantly evolving. Always true to rock’n’roll. And they’re more talented than Pearl Jam who really peaked early though still do good stuff.

    Now… wait for it… wait for it…

    The Flaming Lips are the new Beach Boys.


  17. clayton fraser says:

    This is truly thought provoking. Coming as I do from more of an Indie perspective I can’t help but mention Pavement. They are the reverse of Radiohead in the fact that they only existed through the 1990’s, but book ended the decade nicely. As soon as I started reading this post I thought of Red Hot Chili Peppers, however another 2 or 3 albums from the Black Keys may be more compelling. Love the discussion xxxx

  18. clayton fraser says:

    Just to add to that, if Radiohead pulled a hamstring I would pull on Modest Mouse as my reserve. Sufjan Stevens or Justin Vernon as the new Bob Dylan to go with Flaming Lips as new Beach Boys from Dan Z.

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