Music

Music icon Eddy Grant recalls leaving Mick Jagger jaw dropped at height of fame

On a trip to the cricket, Mick Jagger got a shock when he was outshone by Electric Avenue singer Eddy Grant

Eddy Grant live in London, 1986

Eddy Grant performing live in Jubilee Gardens, London in 1986. Image: Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

Electric Avenue singer Eddy Grant was so well known in London in the 1980s, even Rolling Stones superstar Mick Jagger marvelled at his popularity.

The Equals’ frontman, who enjoyed huge chart success with solo singles I Don’t Wanna Dance and Gimme Hope Jo’Anna, told The Big Issue he was one of the most recognisable people in Britain at the peak of his success.

“Everybody knew me,” he recalled. “I give the story of myself and Mick Jagger walking down the street, going to the cricket, and he’s saying to me, ‘How come everybody shouts out to you? What’s going on?’ I said, ‘I don’t know Mick, maybe it’s because I live here.’ I’ve been instantly recognisable for most of my life, and it’s got its pluses and minuses.”

Never one to shy away from the limelight, Grant took pleasure in attracting public attention from the moment his band The Equals had a hit with Baby Come Back in 1968.

“I had this whacking great afro and I bleached it absolutely white,” he said. “You can’t imagine – at that time there was nobody like that. I remember the first day I had it done. I walked down the road and cars were running into each other. What was this apparition walking along the road? It was a very exciting time.”

At the height of their success The Equals were invited to support many big stars who came to London, including Cream, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Procol Harum, Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke. Grant also got to meet one of his heroes.

“I got the opportunity to spend time with the James Brown Band when they toured England in the mid-60s,” he remembered. “In terms of professionalism, there was no greater professional than James Brown. To be able to sit and watch him show after show, it was a sobering thing to see somebody so great.”

Despite the prodigious Grant’s early success – he was only 17 when The Equals had their first hit – not everyone in the family was happy with his choice of vocation. His father, keen for his son to become a doctor, was distraught when Eddy told him he had decided to make his career in music.

“My father was not happy at all,” he admitted. “Oh, my father cried when he talked to me. He took it hard. Sometimes I look back and think, why did I hurt this person so much? But if I hadn’t hurt him, I would have hurt myself. 

“He came to terms with it in some way. He travelled with me across Europe sometimes when I was very young. But he died maybe 10 years ago, and he went to his grave saying to me, look, you’ve been successful as a musician – you’re still young, you can still be a doctor.”

Big Issue magazine cover issue 1582 with Prince William on the cover

Read Eddy Grant’s full Letter to My Younger Self in The Big Issue magazine, on the streets until Sunday 24 September.

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