The Lennon-McCartney Song That Became the Rolling Stones’ 1st Hit Record

Before The Beatles and The Rolling Stones invaded America, they were a couple of British bands looking to make it in the business. And The Beatles were the first to get there. In April 1963, the Fab Four’s first LP (Please Please Me) topped the UK charts.

That summer, after releasing a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” to some chart success (No. 21 in the UK), the Stones were struggling to find material for their next record. That’s when the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, ran into John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Oldham took the pair down to see the Stones rehearsing at a club. Soon enough, John and Paul offered them a track they’d started. After playing a rough version, the Stones said they’d like to record it. So John and Paul reportedly finished the song on the spot.

The track, which the Stones recorded shortly thereafter, became the band’s biggest hit to that point. After charting in November ’63, it cracked the top 20 the following month and peaked at No. 12 soon after.

John and Paul gave ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ to the Stones

ROLLING STONES; Group portrait – L-R Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards | GAB Archive/Redferns

While there are several versions of the story, each of them agree on the key points. For starters, the Stones wanted new material and had no qualms about getting it from The Beatles or other songwriters. (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards hadn’t become songwriting forces yet.)

Likewise, everyone agrees that The Beatles played the song for the Stones, who quickly agreed to record it. The meeting took place in September ’63, and by November the Stones had released it as their new single.

In January ’64, after nine weeks on the charts, the Stones saw their take on the Lennon-McCartney track hit its peak at No. 12 on the UK charts. (Listening to the song now, Brian Jones’s slide guitar really stands out.)

As for The Beatles version, the Fab Four also didn’t waste any time with “I Wanna Be Your Man.” The day after meeting finishing it off for the Stones, they took it to EMI studios to record it with Ringo singing the vocal.

Lennon later called it a ‘throwaway’ he foisted on the Stones

Mick Jagger and John Lennon attend AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards Honoring James Cagney on March 13, 1974. | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

When looking back on the birth of “I Wanna Be Your Man,” John Lennon had his typically engaging version of the story. For starters, he tossed the song among the “throwaways” and “pieces of garbage” he’d written in his Beatles days.

“Paul and I went off in the corner of the room and finished the song off while they were all still sitting there talking,” John said in 1980. “We came back, and that’s how Mick and Keith got inspired to write… because, ‘Jesus, look at that. They just went in the corner and wrote it and came back!'”

As for passing the song off to another British band, John said it was no big deal because he didn’t think much of it. “The only two versions of the song were Ringo and the Rolling Stones — it shows how much importance we put on them. We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”

Also see: Was Paul McCartney Really Singing About Yoko Ono on ‘Get Back’?