♫ As Tears Go By ♫

This song was written by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham, and was one of the first original compositions by Jagger and Richards, as until that point The Rolling Stones had chiefly been performing blues standards. A story surrounding the song’s genesis has it that Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham locked Jagger and Richards in a kitchen in order to force them to write a song together, even suggesting what type of song he wanted: “I want a song with brick walls all around it, high windows and no sex.”

In a 1992 interview with Guitar Player magazine, Keith Richards said: “… 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 per 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.” 

The song was first recorded by Marianne Faithfull in 1964, and a year later the Stones recorded their own version.  I prefer the Stones version, but I understand that Faithfull’s was more popular in the UK, so I offer both here.  First, The Rolling Stones …

And then, Marianne Faithfull …

As Tears Go By
The Rolling Stones

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

Songwriters: Andrew Loog Oldham / Keith Richards / Mick Jagger
As Tears Go By lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc, T.R.O. Inc.

13 thoughts on “♫ As Tears Go By ♫

  1. I think the MF version was the most popular in the UK simply because it was first and we were used to the slightly up-tempo effort of hers.. The boys version was popular in it’s turn but second is second. The boys were quite successful with their ballads which were good but the best for me was Ruby Tuesday and just nobody did that better than Melanie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also read that the Stones’ version wasn’t released in the UK until a year after it came out in the U.S. … I don’t recall the reason offhand. I don’t think I realized that Melanie had done Ruby Tuesday … I’ll have to go check it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Jill. Haven’t heard either version in quite a while. Loved MF’s version when it came out, then loved the Stones version a year later. The Stones version is better now, but a 14 year-old boy was in love with MF, Mick had nothing on her.
    Meanwhile, I guess I was too young, and everything was too new I totally missed the “aging” metaphor. Now it comes through loud and clear. Thanks for the origin story. As always, LuL.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah yes, I can see where Faithfull’s version would be more appealing to a 14-year-old boy 😉 The stories behind the songs always fascinate me … this one was especially interesting. Like you, I missed the aging analogy altogether.


    • Ha ha … I knew exactly what you meant anyway! And in the southern half of this nation, where the dialects are strong, the word ‘fine’ is often pronounced ‘fan’. When I was first introduced to some of my late husband’s family, I thought their last name was ‘Pears’. Several months later, I found it was ‘Powers’, but pronounced as pears. It is almost as if people in the deep south speak an entirely different language.


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