John Lennon Vs. Mick Jagger – Who Wins?

July 12, 2012
Photo illustration by Evan Taylor

Photo manipulation by Evan Taylor

A heated debate that endures into this century: Who’s better — John Lennon or Mick Jagger?

Only three years apart in age, both from England, both leaders of hugely influential rock and roll bands. But one of them has to take second place.

Who is the better of the two? This topic between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones has been debated frequently over the past 50 years, but usually is concluded when the conversation focuses on the number of record sales The Beatles have put up.

Yes, we all know that 2,000,000,000 is a greater number than 200,000,000, but do these numbers truly represent the talent and influence these musicians have had on the world?

Album sales do not tell us anything about the quality of music. They gauge the popularity of an album and often reflect the marketing muscle behind a release. Fact: The “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack has sold 42 million copies, which is 10 million more than the best selling Beatles album. So does this mean Patrick Swayze is better than Lennon? Let’s be real now.

Instead of quantity, I wanted to take a look into quality of the albums. But how can quality be measured? By using research methods, I found a way to measure quality through statistical values.

After digging through the All-Time Billboard Hot 100 charts of both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, I gathered data into a statistical spreadsheet, comparing the numbers to sports statistics. Sports teams are ranked by their wins and losses. If we asked John Madden in this situation, he would explain, “In order to win the game, you gotta be the person who puts more points on the board.”

In this case, music is our “sport” and the Billboard Hot 100 is the “event.” The Coaches Association Scoring Policy for Track & Field reads that in one given event, the person who wins receives as many points as there are participants in that event, therefore, if there are 100 participants in a single event, the first place athlete receives 100 points, second place with 99 points, third place with 98 points, and so on, where every athlete scores and last place receives one point.

I took the All-Time lists of both bands, The Beatles with 69 hits, and The Rolling Stones with 57 hits. They scored as they placed accordingly to their position on the chart, and were multiplied by the number of weeks on that chart (which represents athletes who participate in multiple events). However, it would not be fair if one team had more players than the other. Thus, since in a traditional track meet each team can only have 44 entries (22 events, 2 entries per event), I calculated the summation of “points x weeks” for the best 44 songs, collectively from each band.

After the statistical analysis was completed, a winner was computed. While social media polls have been quoted with assumptions of John Lennon winning “hands down” and “without a doubt”, these results do not support that.

What do the numbers show?

John Lennon wins by less than 1% – 43,128 to 42,887.

Winning by a small margin, Lennon’s 0.56% over Mick Jagger 
proves to us that he wins the game.

However, we all know that if this wasn’t a sporting event, but rather a bar fight, the results may be different. Mick has Keith Richards (who I believe to be the number one person I would not wish to cross paths with in an alleyway) as his wing man, and who does Lennon have to back him up? Not sure Paul or Yoko would help much.