Mick Jagger on the worst act he saw live: “I think it’s garbage”

There will always be a heavy rub between the old and new schools of rock and roll. Even though artists have spent years honing their craft to become the biggest names in music, it’s only a matter of time before the new kids on the block come to take over the genre you once started. While The Rolling Stones had come far from their blues-infused roots by the start of the 1980s, Mick Jagger had no time for the new kids when he heard the song ‘Relax’ for the first time.

If it weren’t for Jagger’s intuition, though, chances are The Stones would have been playing bluesy rock and roll for the rest of their lives. Compared to their sound during the British invasion, Jagger was always willing to experiment with whatever kind of music was popular at the time, from psychedelic rock on Their Satanic Majesties Request to baroque pop on Between the Buttons.

While they may have gotten the reputation for washing, rinsing, and repeating the same things The Beatles had done, Jagger had other plans far beyond what the Fab Four were working on. By the time their Liverpool rivals had broken up, Jagger had already started moving into different territory, paving the way for grunge rock on Exile on Main St and getting more in tune with the blues he loved as a kid.

Since Keith Richards would have gladly played rock and roll for the rest of his days, Jagger was the one who brought contemporary elements into their sound. Years before MTV had become a fixture of televisions around the world, Jagger took the concept of rock and roll into the clubs, turning the song ‘Miss You’ into one of the few disco-tinged classic rock songs that didn’t make fans want to cringe.

Once MTV began to birth chart successes of its own, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was prime fodder for the visual medium. Being produced by Buggles frontman Trevor Horn, ‘Relax’ was the first song that got their foot in the door, having an enormous wall of sound every time it stormed across radios and televisions.

Bands are only as good as what they can deliver live, though, and Jagger had some specific complaints about the band’s approach to their stage show. Whereas Jagger sauntered around the stage at every opportunity, he saw nothing but posturing when Holly Johnson began making his way onto the biggest stadiums on Earth.

When asked about the band at the height of their popularity, Jagger didn’t necessarily hold back, saying, “I think it’s garbage. Onstage, [they’re] the worst act I’ve seen. I went to see them at the Ritz and they were just terrible, and they know it. The guy onstage was just in tears. I don’t blame him…he sang so out of tune. And it’s all pre-recorded, it’s all a backing track. I think it’s a joke”.

Despite the tongue-lashing from one of rock’s finest, that didn’t stop the pop idols from gaining even more momentum as the decade went on, notching up a few more hits before the band dissolved and Johnson left the fold for a solo career. The Stones may still be able to deliver to the best of their ability whenever they play live, but Frankie Goes to Hollywood wasn’t as concerned with musicianship onstage. It was about having a good time, and even if they didn’t play everything, you weren’t going to forget them once you saw them.

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