Did John Lennon Really Hate Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones?

Whether you’ve read about the 1960s rock scene or lived through it, you couldn’t miss all the talk about the rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Obviously, you can chalk some of it up to the media and the aggressive rock press of the era.

In real-life, the two bands were very friendly with one another when they got their start in London in the early ’60s. Years later, John Lennon spoke about how he admired the Stones from the first time he saw them, and how much fun they had together in their salad days.

But something definitely changed by the end of the decade. Not only did The Beatles stop touring and eventually break up (in 1970); by then, there was a good deal of bad blood between Lennon and Stones singer Mick Jagger.

Maybe it was the competition and general fight for a musical legacy that led to the falling-out. Whatever it was, Lennon sure sounded like he hated Mick by the early ’70s.

Lennon: ‘Mick’s a joke’ who was jealous of The Beatles.

John Lennon and Mick Jagger attend the 2nd Annual American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Awards Honoring James Cagney on March 13, 1974. | Ron Galella/WireImage

If you want to hear Lennon unburden himself on the subject, pull up his Rolling Stone magazine interview from January 1971. After recalling fond memories of their earliest days together, Lennon proceeds to unload on Jagger.

When asked how he felt about the Stones, Lennon mentioned liking “Honky Tonk Woman” but said, “I think Mick’s a joke.” (He then added a dig about Jagger’s dance moves using a homophobic slur.) Next, Lennon moved on to Jagger’s acting work, which in itself was an insult, considering it dismissed his music.

“I’ll probably go and see his films and all, like everybody else, but really, I think [Mick] is a joke.” He went on to say he thought Jagger “got jealous” of The Beatles and started imitating them.

“Every f–kin’ thing we did, Mick does exactly the same,” Lennon told his interviewer at Rolling Stone. At that point, he had about the same amount of respect for the Stones as a band.

Lennon on the Stones: ‘Not in the same class’ as The Beatles.

John Lennon arrives at Heathrow Airport, London, in 1971. | PA Images via Getty Images

Lennon zeroed in on where his feelings came from. “I was always very respectful about Mick and the Stones, but he said a lot of sort of tarty things about the Beatles,” he told Rolling Stone. Some of John’s resentment stemmed from how the two bands were portrayed in the press as well.

“I resent the implication that the Stones are like revolutionaries and that the Beatles weren’t,” he said. “They are not in the same class, music-wise or power-wise, and never were.”

With these words in mind, it allows you to see real hostility between the two in their interaction in the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus from 1968. In the minute they spend together, Lennon seems to relish getting shots in on Mick. (Handing him his plate on behalf of England is an ice-cold touch.)

John also fires a shot at the Stones here when he refers to Keith Richards (about to play “Yer Blues” with him) as Jagger’s “own soul brother.” Lennon in effect is treating the Stones as a novelty act consisting of white guys playing the blues.

In his Rolling Stone interview he gave a few years later, Lennon went out of his way to bury Jagger. “He’s obviously so upset by how big the Beatles are compared with him; he never got over it. Now [Mick] is in his old age, and he is beginning to knock us, you know, and he keeps knocking.”

Maybe the relationship between Lennon and the rest of the Stones recovered later in the ’70s. (They seem cordial enough at the ’74 AFI awards honoring Jimmy Cagney.)

However, as of ’71, Lennon despised Mick, and couldn’t muster much more love for the Stones.

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