The song, written by Lennon and McCartney and first recorded by the Beatles on September 11, 1963, famously became a hit only after the Rolling Stones, not the Beatles, recorded it and released it as their own single.
Despite that the song was obviously catchy enough to spark radio success for the Stones, Lennon and McCartney didn’t seem to ever take the song seriously. At all. These three stories are strong evidence of that…
1. They saw the song as a promo for Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr had never contributed his own written song for the Beatles leading up to the release of With The Beatles in 1964, so in order to give him a chance at lead vocals the band had to provide him with a promotional “vehicle” single, which turned out to be “I Wanna Be Your Man”. Ever wonder why Ringo gets a bad rap when talking about the Beatles? This is one reason why.
Lennon once called the song a “throwaway”, and Paul has never recalled the single as anything beyond a vehicle for Ringo. Almost embarrassingly, the backup vocals from the rest of the band are arguably more impressive. That hasn’t stopped Ringo from featuring the song on the setlist of his most recent tour with his All-Star Band, though.
Most telling of how seriously John & Paul viewed the song is that they willingly gave the single away to a band who at the time were competing with them for listeners’ attention.
2. They handed the song to the Rolling Stones
The day before the Beatles recorded their first take of “I Wanna Be Your Man”, they met their former press agent Andrew Oldham, who had become the Rolling Stones’ manager. After meeting with Oldham in a taxi cab ride, John & Paul met with the Rolling Stones to show them the song and offer it up to them for recording.
They performed the song, which at the time wasn’t even finished being written – it needed a middle eight. So John & Paul hammered away at it in a side room before returning with the completed song.
Of course, Oldham and the Stones loved the song and accepted it as a single, and it went on to become their first top-20 hit. But given how little John & Paul cared about it, perhaps they were trying to sabotage them! If that’s the case then the plan backfired.
3. The Rolling Stones version was released earlier than the Beatles
Despite recording “I Wanna Be Your Man” before the Rolling Stones, the Beatles opted to wait until releasing it as part of With The Beatles on November 22, 1963. The Stones, meanwhile, released the song as their second single ever three weeks earlier.
Surely John & Paul have no regrets about withholding promotion for “I Wanna Be Your Man” – or at least taking the lead vocals themselves. They wrote enough classic hits. But if it worked for the Rolling Stones it likely could have worked for them.
So what about the song itself? It’s easy to consider the Stones version superior; nobody would argue Ringo Starr’s vocals could touch Mick Jagger’s and Brian Jones’ slide guitar is way more distinctive than any part of the Beatles version. But that just goes back to how little John & Paul cared about this song.
So a song John & Paul considered a “throwaway” turned out to be a Stones classic which is still performed live today. Most people wish they could write any hit, let alone one they could just give away.
SEE ALSO: 3 Ways Brian Epstein Made The Beatles