May 2

Marianne Faithfull’s “As Tears Go By”: A Rolling Stones Song

Marianne Faithfull's "As Tears Go By": A Rolling Stones Song 1
Marianne Faithfull (Photo by

This 1964 song has been one of Marianne Faithfull‘s greatest hits. But who would have thought that  “As Tears Go By” was a Rolling Stones original and a piece co-penned by Sir Mick Jagger? Well, indeed, it’s true! In 1995, Mick Jagger recalled the creation of this song. He stated,

“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.”

He then continued and said,

“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.”

About the Song

A song written by Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and manager Andrew Loog Oldham, “As Tears Go By” was originally recorded by Marianne Faithfull. She released it as a single in 1964. “As Tears Go By” reached no. 9 in the United Kingdom.

Later, the Rolling Stones recorded their own version and released the track in late 1965. It was included on their album December’s Children (And Everybody’s) and subsequently as a single in North America.

In 1966, it proved it’s a hit as it reached no. 1  on Canada’s RPM Top Singles. Also, it peaked at no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Song’s Genesis

Marianne Faithfull's "As Tears Go By": A Rolling Stones Song 2
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards New York 1978. Michael Putland

As Tears Go By” was one of the first original compositions by Jagger and Richards. The story has it that Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham locked Jagger and Richards in a kitchen to force them to write a song together. Moreover, Oldham even told them what kind of song he wanted and how would they do it.

“I want a song with brick walls all around it, high windows and no sex.”

Initially, the result was entitled As Time Goes By. It was the title of the song that Dooley Wilson sings in the movie Casablanca. Consequently, Oldham replaced Time with Tears in the title of the song.

After writing and composing the song, Jagger and Richards performed the piece to Oldham. Richards stated,

“We thought, what a terrible piece of tripe. We came out and played it to Andrew [Oldham], and he said ‘It’s a hit.’ We actually sold this stuff, and it actually made money. Mick and I were thinking, this is money for old rope!”

Watch Marianne Faithful perform “As Tears Go By” in 1964. Also, listen to its clearer audio below.

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As Tears Go By, Keith Richards, Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones

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