Rolling Stones – As Tears Go By

The Stones were covering old blues songs at the start of their career. They needed a hit and one day they ran into two songwriters in 1963. Right in front of the Stones…John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote a song that was in the Stone’s style. It was called “I Wanna Be Your Man” and became The Stones’ first UK top twenty record. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were amazed at this display of songwriting prowess, which stuck with them.

The two bands stayed friends after that often coordinating releases so as not to release in the same week. Mick and Keith realized that if they were going to have staying power…they must start writing. Their manager Andrew Oldham locked them in a kitchen and told them they were not getting out until they wrote a song…obviously, it worked.

This was one of the first songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The Stones manager gave it to a singer he also managed named Marianne Faithfull, who released it in 1964. It was going to be the B-side of her first single, but the record company decided to make it the A-side and it became her first hit. The Stones recorded it a year later. In 1966 Faithfull became Jagger’s girlfriend and that would last 3-4 years.

The original title was As Time Goes By but they changed it so it wouldn’t be confused with a song with the same title in Casablanca. The song peaked at #1 in Canada and  #6 on the Billboard 100 in 1966. Marianne’s version peaked at #22 in Canada and #9 on the Billboard 100, and #9 in the UK in 1964.

This was released as a single in the US and Canada because ballads were popular there at the time. The release in England was delayed 6 months because they did not want to compete with Yesterday by The Beatles. When they finally did release it there, it was as the B-side of 19th Nervous Breakdown.

Marianne would record this three times. The original version in 1964, for 1987’s Strange Weather, and again on 2018’s Negative Capability.

Keith Richards“suddenly, ‘Oh, we’re songwriters,’ with the most totally anti-Stones sort of song you could think of at the time, while we’re trying to make a good version of (Muddy Waters’) ‘Still A Fool.’ When you start writing, it doesn’t matter where the first one comes from. You’ve got to start somewhere, right? So Andrew locked Mick and myself into a kitchen in this horrible little apartment we had. He said, ‘You ain’t comin’ out,’ and there was no way out. We were in the kitchen with some food and a couple of guitars, but we couldn’t get to the john, so we had to come out with a song. In his own little way, that’s where Andrew made his great contribution to the Stones. That was such a flatulent idea, a fart of an idea, that suddenly you’re gonna lock two guys in a room, and they’re going to become songwriters. Forget about it. And it worked. In that little kitchen Mick and I got hung up about writing songs, and it still took us another six months before we had another hit with Gene Pitney, ‘That Girl Belongs To Yesterday.’ We were writing these terrible Pop songs that were becoming Top-10 hits. I thought, ‘What are we doing here playing the f–king blues, and writing these horrible Pop songs and getting very successful?’ They had nothing to do with us, except we wrote ’em. And it took us a while to come up with ‘The Last Time.’ That was the first one we came up with where Mick and I said, ‘This is one we can lay on the guys.’ At the time we were already borrowing songs from the Beatles – ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ – because we were really hard up for singles. So they gave us a hand. In retrospect, during the ’60s the Stones and the Beatles were almost the same band, because we were the only ones in that position.”

Mick Jagger: “I wrote the lyrics, and Keith wrote the melody. It’s a very melancholy song for a 21-year-old to write: The evening of the day, watching children play – it’s very dumb and naive, but it’s got a very sad sort of thing about it, almost like an older person might write. You know, it’s like a metaphor for being old: You’re watching children playing and realizing you’re not a child. It’s a relatively mature song considering the rest of the output at the time. And we didn’t think of doing it, because the Rolling Stones were a butch Blues group. But Marianne Faithfull’s version was already a big, proven hit song… It was one of the first things I ever wrote.” 

Marianne Faithfull: “a marketable portrait of me… a commercial fantasy that pushes the right buttons.”

As Tears Go By

It is the evening of the day
I sit and watch the children play
Smiling faces I can see
But not for me
I sit and watch
As tears go by

My riches can’t buy everything
I want to hear the children sing
All I hear is the sound
Of rain falling on the ground
I sit and watch
As tears go by

It is the evening of the day
I sit and watch the children play
Doing things I used to do
They think are new
I sit and watch
As tears go by

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

43 thoughts on “Rolling Stones – As Tears Go By”

  1. Marianne’s version is one of the first songs I looked for on Youtube when it was new. Her version never got enough airplay in my region, and I really loved it. I loved the Stones’ version too. I sort of knew the backstory to this one, but thought they were already writing songs, and that Oldham told them to write a song for Marianne. I didn’t realize this was actually the first Jagger-Richards song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a winner as to be the first. I saw on the news where the Stones played Liverpool the other day and they played I Wanna Be Your Man which was really cool.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Man, this sucks. Ringo Starr was just forced to reschedule the remaining June gigs in the first leg of his tour with The All Starr Band until September, after Edgar Winter and Steve Lukather had tested positive for COVID.

        The one thing I will say is Mick Jagger by far looks like the fittest core member of the Stones. I’d be more worried about Keith and Ronnie, though chances are they got exposed because of Mick!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t know Christian….something about Keth’s genes…that man could survive about anything…all joking aside…yes Mick is the most fit besides Steve Jordon the drummer.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Of course I loved the Stones version… but I also loved just about all Marianne did too. She had such a sublime voice, and one that just shouts out ‘Sixties!’

    I never realised The Rolling Stones and The Beatles coordinated their releases so they wouldn’t clash. Lovely, classy touch between ‘rivals.’ Or was it a fear factor?

    (Probably not… The Stones would have wiped the floor with them! 😉 😀 😀 )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL on that last part!
      They were friends… Mick and John were friends til he died. It was smart business on both parts when you think about it. See that way the Stones could copy the next thing the Beatles did LOL.

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      1. It’s a very apt song which I just sent off to family here since the grandmother of my kids is in her final hours in hospital it appears. I don’t think there is a more appropriate song at this time.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know Bruce… the women loved him. Now if they would have called you “keith” that would have been bad!

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Very unlike their bluesy side, fer sure. I like the way they changed the title from ‘As Time Goes By.’ The ‘Tears’ makes it different and immediately sombre; yet it’s a nod, a touchstone to the past. Let’s hope Mick’s up and running up and down the stage soon too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yea I read about that this morning. After playing in Liverpool…If it was Keith I wouldn’t be worried… Nothing will detour that man…or is he a man?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, Keith; he’ll still be kicking when he’s just skin and bone with a bandana wrapped ’round his head and a ciggy in one hand and the other strumming a guitar tuned to open G.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, unfortunately, I’m not so sure about Keith these days. Sure, it borders on a miracle he’s still alive. But he look really fragile to me. Without Ronnie Wood, frankly, I think the Stones would be in trouble performing live.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yea Keith is looking frail I agree. He hasn’t been the same really since he fell out of that tree years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always liked that song, even though one could argue “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “The Last Time” sound more like the Stones. I didn’t know Marianne Faithfull’s version for quite some time but also liked it from the get-go.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve heard the Faithfull one before but it feels weak against The Stones. I had to stop watching the 2nd video because of the girls screaming. Cool to learn that this was the song that came out of the lock-in. I also tear up from time listening to this one. So strange they, being so young, could write something with such depth.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think the ‘doing things I used to do, they think are new’ line is such an accurate observation of being child and growing up. It’s always stuck with me. Plus, it’s a great song, and it sounds quite unlike a lot of their early stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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