Why Do the Rolling Stones Keep Getting Insulted by Their Peers?

The Who's Roger Daltrey is the latest to drag the group, likening them to a "mediocre pub band"

Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones performs during the 2021 "No Filter" tour at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 11, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones on the "No Filter" tour on November 11, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Getty Images

Back in October, Paul McCartney raised some eyebrows by making a dig at the Rolling Stones and dismissing them as a “blues cover band.” (“I’m not sure I should say it, but they’re a blues cover band, that’s sort of what the Stones are,” the former Beatle told the New Yorker. “I think our net was cast a bit wider than theirs.”) Now another classic-rock contemporary of the band is taking a shot. As Rolling Stone reports, The Who singer Roger Daltrey has likened the Stones to a “mediocre pub band.”

Daltrey was asked about McCartney’s “blues cover band” comment in a recent interview with the Coda Collection, and he agreed with the Beatle’s assessment. “You can not take away the fact that Mick Jagger is still the number one rock ‘n’ roll showman up front,” he said. “But as a band, if you were outside a pub and you heard that music coming out of a pub some night, you’d think, ‘Well, that’s a mediocre pub band!’ No disrespect.”

Daltrey also mentioned that the Rolling Stones wrote “some great songs, but they are in that blues format.” (So what?) And when asked to weigh in on the classic “Beatles vs. Stones” debate, Daltrey likened it to comparing apples and cheese. “They’re both really tasty, but the cheese does one thing and the apple does another,” he said.

That’s true, but it doesn’t make his “mediocre pub band” remark any less outrageous. Why, all of a sudden, are artists like McCartney and Daltrey going out of their way to downplay the Stones’ legacy? Could jealousy be a factor? The Rolling Stones are responsible for three of the top 20 highest-grossing concert tours of all time. (Their 2005-2007 A Bigger Bang tour raked in a whopping $558.3 million, making it the fourth highest-grossing tour, while 2004-2005’s Voodoo Lounge tour comes in at number 20 with $320 million. Their current No Filter tour, which is still ongoing, is already in ninth with $415.6 million and counting.) They’re also the only band in history to ever gross $10 million or more per show on a tour; the No Filter tour is currently grossing $10.1 million a night.

Of course, Paul McCartney and The Who both continue to do just fine on the road, raking in millions of dollars of their own whenever they head out on tour. But the Stones are on another level when it comes to touring success, and they’ll go down in history as one of the best — if not the best — live bands of all time. And they’ve done it for over half a century; up until the death of Charlie Watts this summer, the Stones were arguably the most intact band of their era. The Beatles obviously stopped touring in 1966, and then the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison made any chance of a reunion impossible. And while The Who still tour as “The Who,” the absence of deceased members Keith Moon and John Entwistle can be felt greatly. The Stones lost Brian Jones in 1969, of course, but the rest of their core was able to enjoy decades together. Is it possible that McCartney and Daltrey are a bit envious of the fact that the Stones got to spend so much time playing shows together (and yes, making an obscene amount of money while doing so)?

Even when you ignore what’s possibly motivating these comments about them, the comments themselves reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the Stones’ appeal. The band has never been flashy when it comes to musicianship, and they’ve never been shy about wearing their blues influence on their sleeves. But that loose, no-frills approach is exactly what we want from them. Not every song has to be “A Day in the Life,” and in fact, much of the Stones’ catalog would be ruined by such an ornate arrangement. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a great, gritty bar band, and in fact, generations of bar bands likely wouldn’t exist without the influence of the Stones. There’s something to be said for simplicity, and just because you won’t hear them noodling endlessly on their instruments during a set doesn’t mean the Stones aren’t great at what they do.

The timing of these insults is also questionable. Is it a coincidence that McCartney and Daltrey waited until Watts — the most “respectable” musician in the group, widely regarded as one of the best rock drummers of all time but also known for his jazz chops — died before opening their mouths about this?

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