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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Opening Acts in Rock History

Your selections include Prince for the Rolling Stones and Nine Inch Nails for David Bowie

readers poll clash shea stadium

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

It's never easy being the opening act on a major rock tour. Many fans resent the fact that you're coming between them and the act they've paid to see, and you usually play to rows of empty seats. Still, it's often worth it to convert a tiny fraction of the large audience. Most of the biggest names in rock – from Guns N' Roses to Queen – cut their teeth opening for the major names of their time. Since it's now the height of the summer concert season, Rolling Stone recently asked you to vote on your favorite opening acts in rock history. Click through to see the results. 

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5. The Rolling Stones/Prince (1981)

It's not an easy task to open for the Rolling Stones – especially when you're a largely unknown guy wearing bikini briefs and singing a song called "Jack U Off." This was two years before "Little Red Corvette" and most rock fans had never heard of Prince, who opened up a pair of shows at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The fans just wanted to hear "Start Me Up" and "Gimme Shelter," and they pelted Prince with vegetables and yelled out homophobic slurs. He left the stage 15 minutes into his set on the first night, but he had the balls to return for night two. (There's no video of the sets, but check out this 1981 complete show from New York that same year.)

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4. Mott the Hoople/Queen (1974)

In 1974, Queen were an up-and-coming British band, and Mott the Hoople were a British band on their final legs. Glam rock was ending, and Mott frontman Ian Hunter was quickly losing interest in the group. But Mott the Hoople were far more famous at the time, and when they toured together, Queen was the opening act. The group formed a tight bond on the tour, and Queen referred to the tour in their 1975 single "Now I'm Here" with the line "Down in city, just Hoople and me." Later that year, Queen would drop "Killer Queen" and watch their career take off, while Hunter would leave Mott in December.

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3. Vanilla Fudge/Led Zeppelin (1968)

Robert Plant never forgot Led Zeppelin's first gig in America. "It was right in the heart of Denver on the 26th of December, 1968," he told Rolling Stone in 2005. "I remember pulling up to the theater and the marquee said, 'Vanilla Fudge, Taj Mahal and Support.' I thought, 'Wow, here we are: Support!'" Fans at that show hadn't even had the chance to buy Zeppelin's debut album, since it wouldn't hit shelves until January 12th, 1969. Once that album dropped, no venue played for the rest of their career ever said "Support" again.

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2. The Who/The Clash (1982)

The Who's 1982 run was billed as a "farewell tour." Now, they've toured about eight times since then, but the shows were (completely by accident) some of the last times that the classic lineup of the Clash ever performed together. "We played Shea Stadium with the Who and it was fun to play 'Career Opportunities' in a place like that," Joe Strummer said. "Six years earlier, we'd written it in Camden Town. It's things like that, though, which make the world so interesting." At the time, "Rock the Casbah" was all over MTV and radio. The Clash were at a commercial peak, but the strain blew them apart and Mick Jones left the following year. 

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1. The Monkees/Jimi Hendrix (1967)

Shortly before Jimi Hendrix broke through with his single "Purple Haze" in the summer of 1967, he agreed to open up a series of shows for the Monkees, who were then at their absolute commercial peak. It didn't go well and he quit after just seven shows. "They gave us the 'death' spot on the show – right before the Monkees were due on," Hendrix told NME shortly after the tour. "The audience just screamed and yelled for the Monkees! Finally, they agreed to let us go on first and things were much better. Then some parents who brought their young kids complained that our act was vulgar. We decided it was just not the right audience. I think they're replacing me with Mickey Mouse…There's no tension between us whatsoever. And all the rumors about being segregated on the plane were just nonsense. I got on well with both Micky [Dolenz] and Peter [Tork] and we fooled around a lot together."

Check out this amazing radio promo for the Monkees/Jimi Hendrix show in Detroit. 

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