Marianne Faithfull's first single following her discovery by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham was also one of the first songs written by the Mick Jagger/Keith Richard partnership. Originally titled "As Time Goes By", it was renamed at Oldham's insistence, one of several changes he made in his role as the song's third credited composer. Indeed, it took Oldham ten days to complete the song to his satisfaction, trimming the original five verses down to two, rearranging the chorus, halving a reed-led solo and altering the song's original boy-meets-girl lyric to reflect a more mournful scenario. "And finally it was done," he recalled. "I had my virgin behind the brick convent walls, aching to hear the children sing, and who knew already, don't know how, didn't care either, that her riches couldn't buy her everything."
Recorded at Olympic Studios with a small string section, an oboe player, and session guitarist Jimmy Page, "As Tears Go By" emerged an absolutely beautiful performance, cloaked in melancholy and almost painful to contemplate. Faithfull herself reflected, "It's an absolutely astonishing [song] for a boy of 20 to have written, or for a girl of 17 to be singing. [But] I rerecorded it at the age of 40 for the Strange Weather album] and, at that moment, I was exactly the right age, and in the right frame of mind, to sing it. It was then that I truly experienced the lyrical melancholy of the song for the first time."
As a single, "As Tears Go By" climbed to #9 in the UK, #24 in the United States, and highlighted Faithfull's eponymous LP the following year. It has remained a staple of her repertoire ever since, although not always to its best advantage. Live in the mid 1970s, Faithfull would merely lip-synch the song, leaving the actual singing duties to band member Barry Reynolds. She wrung out a spectacular version at David Bowie's 1980 Floor Show extravaganza in 1973, however, while 1990's ^Blazing Away live album also features a superlative rendering.