The new Sound Opinions book, The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones, encapsulates the very difficulty of the subject it’s tackling on the very cover. The title’s presented in a circle, a never-ending Beatles vs. Stones vs. Beatles vs. Stones, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The book’s authors, Sound Opinions hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis, even present the never-ending struggle in their introductions. DeRogatis sums it up fairly well:
“Truth be told, we didn’t embrace Dennis’ idea. Dedicated students of rock ‘n’ roll history and avid readers of the canon of rock literature, we were dubious that the world needed another book about either of these bands when so many great ones have already been written.”
So, DeRogatis and Kot tackle the topic in a perfect manner. The subtitle of the book is a clue as to what the reader should expect: “Sound Opinions On the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Rivalry.” Much like the title of their Chicago Public Radio program, the title is two-fold, indicating the name of the program, and the fact that these are sound, rational opinions being presented.
Kot and DeRogatis go back and forth, with the book presented as a dialogue between the two. They cover topics as obvious as guitarists vs. guitarists and as strange as debating the relative merits of each band’s double album (Exile On Main Street is the better album, but the White Album’s songs stand on their own better). It’s a very balanced argument, with few descents into outright argument, and evidence is presented in such a way that no hard stances are really taken (with the exception that the Stones are, obviously, cooler), allowing the reader to form their own opinion from the evidence presented.
The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones is a very readable book, and if you skip past the fold out timelines and assorted lists, you’ll burn through this in an afternoon. My only real quibble with the book is the way it’s presented in coffee table format. The large photos are nice, but the pictures lend nothing to the arguments presented. This could’ve easily been a nicely-priced trade paperback and been equally as effective. The lenticular cover image that switched between the Beatles and Stones is also a bit much. If anything, all the dross and excess detracts from the well-reasoned and researched evidence being presented. Voyageur Press has a nice product here, but I sadly suspect that it’s going to end up in the bargain bins by Valentine’s Day.