Why Mick Jagger Thought of Paul McCartney and John Lennon as ‘Hustlers’ in the ’60s
While the media loved pitting The Beatles against the Rolling Stones, the members of the two bands were very friendly with one another in the ’60s. If you attended the “happening” that was the orchestra recording session for “A Day in the Life” (1967), you’d have found Mick Jagger there.
During that same period, Stones founder Brian Jones contributed a saxophone part on the Beatles’ madcap B-side “You Know My Name (Look up the Number).” But the friendships dated back to long before the ’67 “Summer of Love.”
In 1963, as the Fab Four was rapidly gaining fame in the UK, the Stones were still hungry and largely unknown. So when Andrew Loog Oldham brought John Lennon and Paul McCartney to a Stones rehearsal, Jagger and his group accepted a song (“I Wanna Be Your Man”) the pair were offering.
While that track became the Stones’ first hit in ’64, the meeting left Jagger with an interesting early impression of the young songwriters. Looking back on the day years later, the Stones legend described John and Paul as “hustlers.”
Mick Jagger thought the Beatles’ songwriters had a way of hustling compositions
While John and Paul didn’t sign a great songwriting contract, the pair knew from early on that there was money to be made as composers — whether or not The Beatles performed the track. So they definitely had an interest in an up-and-coming band recording their songs.
After meeting with Jagger and the Stones, they in effect had made a sale (of “I Wanna Be Your Man”). Speaking with Rolling Stone magazine in ’68, Jagger sounded amused when thinking of John and Paul in the studio pushing their composition.
“They said they had this tune, they were really hustlers then,” Jagger said. “I mean the way they used to hustle tunes was great.” He even broke out a John Lennon accent to continue the story. “‘Hey Mick, we’ve got this great song,'” Jagger recalled John saying.
Given the circumstances (the Stones needed something commercial), Jagger and his bandmates didn’t think too hard about it. They said they’d take it. And to their amazement John and Paul finished the song on the spot.
The Beatles recorded ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ with Ringo on vocals
As you go through the Beatles songbook, you’ll find several types of compositions. If a Beatle (John, usually) didn’t think a song worked for the Fab Four, he’d suggest passing it to another performer. “A World Without Love” offers an example of this sort of track.
In other cases, John and Paul wrote a song specifically for George or Ringo to sing. But the list doesn’t end there. John and Paul also occasionally wrote songs they didn’t want to sing. John passing “Do You Want to Know a Secret” to George Harrison falls under this category.
Finally, John and Paul might write a song for Ringo to perform as his allotted LP track. “I Wanna Be Your Man” was one such Lennon-McCartney tune. “The only two versions were Ringo and the Rolling Stones,” John said in his 1980 Playboy interviews. “It shows how much importance we put on [it]. We weren’t going to give [the Stones] anything great, right?”