The Rolling Stones

As Tears Go By

Song Review by

Early in their songwriting career, Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote "As Tears Go By" as a vehicle to launch the singing career of Jagger's girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull. The melodic ballad expresses the first-person reflections of a wealthy young person sitting and watching children play one evening. The story line is sketchy: The singer seems to be watching the children through a window or at a distance, since she cannot hear them, and she is sad for reasons that are not spelled out. Do the children make her regret the loss of her own childhood, or is there another cause? In any case, the song has a melancholy air that, at least in the original recording, was offset by the tempo, an attractive symphonic arrangement, and Faithfull's calm, well-articulated vocal. This track was released as a single in the U.K., where it made the Top Ten and fulfilled its goal: Faithfull became a star. Released a few months later in the U.S., "As Tears Go By" reached the Top 40. In October 1965, the Rolling Stones recorded their own version of "As Tears Go By." Their version was slower, and Mick Jagger's vocal darker, with more of a folk-rock feel. It was released on the group's November 1965 American LP December's Children, and the following month issued as a single. Making for a change of pace from the Stones' usual rock style, it became a big hit, peaking in the pop Top Five and even scoring in the easy listening charts. In the U.K., where the Marianne Faithfull version had been a bigger hit, the Stones' recording was used as the B-side of their next single, "19th Nervous Breakdown." Thus, in America, "As Tears Go By" is better-known as a Rolling Stones song, while in England it is remembered more for Marianne Faithfull. In either case, it is one of Jagger and Richards' most affecting ballads. (Note that, initially, "As Tears Go By" was credited to Jagger, Richards, and Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones' manager and producer. Oldham's name no longer appears in the songwriting credits.)

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1964 ABKCO Records 2:22
December's Children (And Everybody's) 1965 ABKCO Records 2:46
Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) 1966 ABKCO Records 2:46
Hot Rocks: 1964-1971 1972 ABKCO Records / Universal Music 2:45
Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1975 Universal Distribution
Stones Story 1976 Decca
No Image 1977 Arcade Music
No Image 1977 Blank Records
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 2:45
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 2:46
Singles 1965-1967 2004 ABKCO Records 2:45
The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 [Vinyl Box Set] 2010 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 2:45
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 2:46
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 2:46
December's Children (And Everybody's)/Sticky Fingers CD Maximum