Rolling Stones Fans Were Such Trash, They Made Prince Flee
If you happen to find yourself opening for The Rolling Stones, expect few in the crowd to appreciate your performance very much. They're not here to see you. In 2006, for example, Kanye West opened for the band. He played as thousands of Stones fans were still finding their seats, and everyone largely ignored him.
In 1981, the Stones' opening act at two L.A. concerts was a relatively unknown new artist known as Prince. The audience received him in a manner that made him wish they merely ignored him. They yelled slurs at him, both for being Black and being gay—Prince was not gay, but he'd assumed a flamboyant getup and launched into a song called “Jack U Off.” It otherwise seems he was trying to tailor his set to the crowd, singing in a lower tone and making the songs sound a little more rock-ish than normal, but it didn't work.
The crowd threw stuff at him. Prince's bassist would later recall, somewhat improbably, being hit by a whole grapefruit as well as fried chicken, and the audience definitely threw bottles and other trash. After the first couple songs, a promoter had to come on stage to urge everyone to settle down. Instead, they managed to boo Prince off the stage, making him cut his set short one song early. Some said he cried backstage, though he'd later deny this.
The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, after reporting about the incident, received a letter that said, "I just wanted you to know that us W.A.S.P. rock n rollers pay to see white performers ... President Reagan has proven once and for all that liberals" (then a selection of slurs) "and minorities are out." This is what's today sometimes referred to as "saying the quiet part out loud," but it's important to know that not everyone sees any need to be quiet about it.
The Stones did not seem to consider the crowd's response a big deal. Said Mick Jagger, who convinced Prince to return to open their next concert, "God, I got thousands of bottles and cans thrown at me." He figured everyone has to be ready for that kind of reception early in their career. Keith Richards blamed Prince for trying to upstage the Stones. "Prince has to find out what it means to be a prince," he said. "That’s the trouble with conferring a title on yourself before you’ve proved it ... You don’t try to knock off the headline like that."
"Prince" was not a title he'd conferred on himself. It was his name (full legal name: Prince Rogers Nelson).
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