Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones has never been one to mince his words, and if you get on the wrong side of the musician, often you live to regret doing so. However, Prince’s behaviour certainly didn’t warrant his vengeful verbal attack, which included Richardss calling him an “overrated midget” and saying he was good at “manipulating the music business”.
The ill feelings between the pair began in 1981 after Mick Jagger personally invited Prince to support The Rolling Stones for two shows at The L.A. Coliseum. It should have been a dream and a sign of things to come for ‘The Purple One’ as he performed in front of 90,000 people during each performance, but everything went hideously wrong.
Over the last 30 years, there has been a lot of progression, but society hasn’t always been this way. The crowd that The Rolling Stones attracted in Los Angeles were not familiar with the sight of Prince’s gender-defying outfit which was made up of a see-through jacket, thigh-high boots, and black bikini briefs.
The crowd booed him, jeered him, and allegedly used racial insults, all of which prompted Prince to fly back to Minnesota before the second show after a tearful exit. However, Jagger showed his compassionate side, persuading the singer to return to Los Angeles for round two.
The boos didn’t disappear for his second performance, but Prince had grown thick skin, and instead, didn’t let the neanderthals break him down. However, he upset Richards by taking a swipe at Stones fans and said they were “tasteless in music and mentally retarded”.
After hearing these comments, Richards leapt to the defence of the alleged racist mob. In an attack on Prince, he later said: “An overrated midget… Prince has to find out what it means to be a prince. That’s the trouble with conferring a title on yourself before you’ve proved it.”
Richards added: “His attitude when he opened for us… was insulting to our audience. You don’t try to knock off the headline like that when you’re playing a Stones crowd. He’s a prince who thinks he’s a king already. Good luck to him.”
In 2016, the late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts shed some light on the two nights at the Coliseum. He told The Guardian: “Mick and I loved Prince’s 1980 album Dirty Mind – Keith hated it – and we got him on our show. Of course, Prince being Prince, he went out in his knickers and our audience booed him off, which didn’t deter me from liking him.”
While Watts and Jagger still adored Prince, on the other hand, Richards only grew more hostile towards the guitarist. In 1988, he scathingly told the L.A. Times: “I think he’s very clever at manipulating the music business and the entertainment business. I think he’s more into that than making music. I don’t see much substance in anything he does.”
Although, Richards did seem to have a change of heart following Prince’s death when he tweeted: “A unique talent. A true original. So sad, so sudden and, I will add, a great guitar player. We are all going to miss him.”
With Keith Richards, it’s hard to fully grasp how much of what he says is genuine, or if it’s hyperbole aimed at stoking a reaction and maintaining his image. While he is seemingly no superfan of Prince, there does seem to be an underlying level of respect he had for ‘His Royal Badness’ underneath the charade.