With a Little Help From Their Friends: Writing “I Wanna Be Your Man”

In their early years, The Rolling Stones got by with a little help from their friends – The Beatles. The Stones had been together for less than a year and a half and were just beginning to build their following. It was a point in time before Mick Jagger and Keith Richards discovered their potential as a songwriting duo.

In November, 1963, the Rolling Stones released their second single, “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which peaked at number 12 on the British pop charts. It was released only as a single and never appeared on a studio album. Although the song helped to solidify their presence in the world of rock-n-roll music, it was actually written by their fellow British Invaders, Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

The hit single would be the result of a chance encounter between Lennon, McCartney and Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ manager, producer and former Beatles publicist. In Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones, musician and author Bill Janovitz wrote, “Oldham had almost literally bumped into Lennon and McCartney as they stepped out of a cab. He invited them to the studio where the Stones were rehearsing and, right then and there, the two finished off what had been a McCartney sketch of an idea, handing it to the Stones for their single.”

John Lennon Paul McCartney Bob Bonis Archive

In 1968, Jagger commented on the song, saying, “We knew The Beatles by then and we were rehearsing and Oldham brought Paul and John down to the rehearsal. They said they had this tune, they were really hustlers then. I mean the way they used to hustle tunes was great: ‘Hey Mick, we’ve got this great song.’ So they played it and we thought it sounded pretty commercial, which is what we were looking for…”

Stones bassist Bill Wyman said the band adapted the song to their style and learned it rather quickly “because there wasn’t that much to learn.” Guitarist and Stones founder Brian Jones incorporated slide guitar into the song, and Wyman provided the driving rhythm and blues beat. Wyman said doing that made the song more “dirty” as they “completely turned the song around and made it much more tough, Stones and [blues] like.”

Years later, however, both bands looked back on the song on a different light. Perhaps as a testament to their growth as artists, both Lennon and Jagger recognized the song for what it was: a catchy pop song and not much more. Reflecting on the song, Jagger said, “I haven’t heard it for ages but it must be pretty freaky because nobody really produced it. It was completely crackers, but it was a hit and sounded great onstage.”

The Beatles released their version of the song three weeks after the Stones on their second UK album, With the Beatles. In the book All We Are Saying, Lennon brushed the song off by saying, “It was a throwaway. The only two versions of the song were for Ringo and the Rolling Stones. That shows how much importance we put on it: We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”

By the time Bob Bonis became the band’s U.S. Tour Manager in 1964, though, Jagger and Richards had already moved on to writing their own songs. Before then, the Stones’ catalog consisted of mostly R&B covers. Jagger and Richards would later confess that watching Lennon and McCartney work that day gave them a greater understanding of how to write a song, a talent now proven many times over.

Bonis served as the U.S. Tour Manager for the Rolling Stones) on their first five trips to the U.S. from 1964 to 1966, as well as being U.S. Tour Manager for all 3 of The Beatles U.S. Tours throughout that period. During his time as Tour Manager, he captured intimate, unguarded and often iconic moments of both bands as they rose to stardom.

These photographs are now available for the first time as strictly limited editions fine art prints from The Bob Bonis Archive at BobBonis.com. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and includes a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. Live.

There are no products