The Late Beatles Lyric That Sounded Like a Shot at the Rolling Stones

In late 1970, John Lennon sat down with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner for interviews that became the stuff of legend (and the Lennon Remembers book). During those talks, John dissected the legend of The Beatles while taking shots at various brand names in the music business.

Among John’s targets, The Rolling Stones (and Mick Jagger in particular) got some of the worst of it. For starters, John described the Stones as little more than “hype” and classified Jagger as “a joke.” After a quick follow-up from Wenner about Jagger, John proceeded to savage both him and his band.

“I would like to just list what we did and what the Stones did two months after — on every f*ckin’ album,” John said. “Every f*ckin’ thing we did, Mick does exactly the same. He imitates us.”

For Beatles fans familiar with Let It Be (1970), those words probably sounded like an echo. On the final Fab Four release, John sang lyrics on “Dig a Pony” that certainly appeared to take aim at the Stones.

John Lennon’s ‘Dig a Pony’ lyrics sound like a swipe at The Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones with Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon, and John Lennon | Hulton Archive

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Looking back on his Beatles days in the 1980 All We Are Saying interviews, John didn’t hold “Dig a Pony” in high esteem. In fact, he threw it in the pile with other songs he labeled “pieces of garbage.” That opinion remained unchanged from earlier interviews.

In 1972, John described “Dig a Pony” as “a nonsense song” while saying he was “just having fun with words” with the lyrics (via The Beatles Encyclopedia). And with lines such as “You can syndicate every boat you row” you can’t argue with him.

But in the fourth verse the reference seems too pointed to ignore. “I roll a stoney,” John sings. “Well, you can imitate everyone you know. Yes, you can imitate everyone you know. I told you so!” At that point (early ’69), John had seen enough of the Stones’ “imitations” to make his point.

John wasn’t alone in claiming the Stones followed the Fab Four’s lead, of course. Paul McCartney said much the same thing in a 2020 interview with Howard Stern. He said it didn’t bother him much, though.

Paul McCartney told Howard Stern the Stones followed The Beatles in many ways

The Beatles play their final live performance on the roof of 3 Savile Row, Apple headquarters, January 30, 1969. | Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images

When Stern said The Beatles were a better band than the Stones and asks Paul to respond, Paul tries to laugh it off. But he does acknowledge how the Stones seemed to be following the Beatles’ moves in various ways during the ’60s.

“We started to notice that everything we did, the Stones sort of did shortly thereafter,” Paul told Stern in April. “We did Sgt. Pepper, the Stones did a sort of psychedelic album. There was a lot of that. But we were great friends, you know. […] So it didn’t matter.”

In Paul’s eyes, there was an element of flattery to the Stones’ takes on the Beatles’ efforts. “It was kind of cool,” he told Stern. “It was like, ‘Yeah, here they go, come on, Stones.'” So he more or less agrees with John’s lines in “Dig a Pony.” he just had a different way of saying it.

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