The Rolling Stones and Nirvana shook up the system in their respective pomps, yet Mick Jagger never bought into the grunge zeitgeists. In fact, he fell out of love with rock music altogether during this particular period of transition, choosing instead to get his sonic kicks from elsewhere.
There were similarities between the two periods, even if they sounded starkly different, yet, the broader cultural impact between the pair is a source of comparison. The Stones were a pivotal part of the wave of British bands that took over the world and are the hallmark of rock ‘n’ roll groups, enjoying unparalleled longevity.
Securing Jagger’s seal of approval is a golden ticket and one that he seldom hands out. However, Nirvana were designed to rail against the musical establishment, and if they had the singer of The Rolling Stones at the front of their shows, they would have been doing something gravely wrong.
During the 1990s, The Stones reflected the past and were unrelatable for a generation of lost young souls. Meanwhile, Nirvana ushered in a new thrilling era that asserted ‘Generation X’ now held the keys to rock music. Jagger was middle-aged when Kurt Cobain and his crew rose to the top of the pile, living the star-studded role for almost 30 years. It’s no shock that he didn’t manage to connect with Cobain’s teachings.
“I’m not in love with [rock music] at the moment,” the singer told Rolling Stone in 1995. “I was never crazy about Nirvana — too angst-ridden for me. I like Pearl Jam. I prefer them to a lot of other bands. There’s a lot of angst in a lot of it, which is one of the great things to tap into. But I’m not a fan of moroseness.”
“There’s a lot of angst in a lot of it, which is one of the great things to tap into. But I’m not a fan of moroseness,” he added, “I don’t think any of these bands would claim to be daringly different.”
He continued: “In that there’s four people playing guitars and so on, there’s a lot of ’60s influence,” he said when probed on the similarities between the two era’s. “It may appear that they’re playing the same thing or look the same on MTV, or there’s certain haircuts you’ve seen on the Byrds. But the grooves are different. It’s all influenced by dance music. In 30 years, you don’t keep playing the same beat. Which is good. I don’t think any of these bands would claim to be daringly different.”
Kurt Cobain would likely have taken displeasure with Jagger’s comment that his work was influenced by dance music. That statement alone speaks volumes regarding the meagre amount of Nirvana that Jagger had even heard. In the end, the music was not for him. In the same way that in the ’60s, The Stones were the voice of disgruntled youth, so were Nirvana, but they represented two different worlds. While hopeful energy swirled in the air when Jagger made his name, the skies soon turned grey, and Kurt Cobain represented the exasperations felt by millions.