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.

All John Needed Was Love: Meeting Yoko Ono

John Lennon on stage, JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, PA, August 16, 1966 #1

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

Yoko Ono, Grapefruit

The British invaded and conquered, and The Beatles continued to shine their light on a world shaded with war and civil unrest.

But little did John Lennon know at that time, in 1966 (or was it 1965?), his meeting of Yoko Ono would bloom into a loving relationship, let alone a symbol of world peace.

There are actually two differing accounts of how Lennon and Ono met. The story as told by the Lennons places the two meeting on November 9, 1966, at the Indica Gallery in London where Ono was preparing for her conceptual art exhibit.

According to this version of the story, Lennon was initially unimpressed with Ono’s exhibits as he felt most concept art he encountered was anti everything. A particular piece of Ono’s work, though, convinced him to stay — a ladder with a spyglass at the top, which upon looking through, revealed the word “YES.”

The other account of the pair’s first meeting, as told by Sir Paul McCartney, puts the two in London in 1965 while Ono was collecting original music for the score of a book. McCartney didn’t want to give her his own manuscripts, but suggested she ask Lennon. He agreed and gave Ono the original handwritten lyrics to “The Word,” according to the biography titled, “Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.”

Although their relationship was often embroiled in controversy, nobody could deny the love they had for each other as it shifted into both Lennon’s and Ono’s work, and inevitably, out into the world. During their first years together, Lennon’s work began to spark with new life, but it bore a humble request – give peace a chance.

The pair quickly became an icon of the era, bringing into the limelight a juxtaposition of violent global affairs and the power of love. The Vietnam War continued to rage on unabated, and Lennon, with Ono by his side, showed the world what life could be like if we were to imagine world peace, together.

Despite the differing accounts on how Lennon and Ono met, the mark that they, as partners, left on the planet and the message of peace they brought to the people has been etched into modern history, and continues to resonate as the future unfolds.

And, despite decades of various debates about Yoko’s influence on, and suppositions that she was responsible for the break-up of The Beatles, and that she was the reason behind Lennon’s divorce from the well-loved Cynthia, the fact remains that John found love (albeit with a lot of road bumps and hardships) and, after all, as John eloquently put it, “All You Need Is Love.”

John Lennon was clearly one of the most prolific and influential musicians the world has ever known. And while there are many photographs of John by numerous photographers, we are fortunate that Bob Bonis, who served as U.S. Tour Manager for The Beatles (as well as for the Rolling Stones) from 1964 – 1966, through his unique access to Lennon, was able to capture some of the most poignant, playful, powerful, intimate and iconic photographs of John in the earliest days of The Beatles’ conquest of America.

These photographs are now available for the first time for fans and collections through The Bob Bonis Archive at BobBonis.com. All photographs are issued in strictly limited editions, and every print is hand numbered, estate embossed, and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from The GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. Live.

Thank you, John Lennon, for making the world a better place. We miss you. The world misses you. Looking at your photos reminds us that one person can indeed make a difference.

There are no products