There’s a tremendous amount of respect held between Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. The freewheelin’ troubadour once called the group “the greatest rock and roll band“, also proclaiming there would never be another rock band quite like them. Equally, the Stones have effused about the iconic singer-songwriter with Keith Richards in particular awe of his skills. Having both found their fame in the 1960s, the two acts held a mutual adoration and kinship with one another.
However, that relationship would be strained as The Rolling Stones invited Dylan to join them on stage to perform ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ at a performance at Espace Grammont in Montpellier, France, on July 27th, 1995. It’s said that the singer left the stage that evening while showing his middle finger to the Stones as they performed ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. Below, we’ve got the audio from that performance.
“The greatest rock and roll band in the world and always will be,” said Bob Dylan of The Rolling Stones. The singer continued: “Everything that came after them, metal, rap, punk, new wave, pop-rock, you name it… you can trace it all back to the Rolling Stones. They were the first and the last, and no one’s ever done it better.” Equally, having shared a tour as Dylan opened up for the group, Mick Jagger and the rest of the band were just as impressed by Dylan with Keith Richards saying of the freewheelin’ troubadour: “I’d work with Bob any(where). I’d work with Bob in hell or heaven. I love him.” But, there was one moment when this friendship didn’t seem so rosy.
The two outfits had been performing together for a good run, and perhaps the wear and tear of touring had gotten to the often disgruntled singer as he decided to flip off the band having just finished a cover of his song. “That was in Montpellier, South of France,” recalled Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes when speaking to Howard Stern.
“It was Black Crowes, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. It was the best week,” he continued. “I will always remember because I’ve met Bob that day, and he is ultimately my biggest hero. So we were backstage, I mean, behind Keith’s amps and the Stones, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was their single in Europe for that tour when they were on that Voodoo Lounge cycle.”
Covering a song by an act you’re sharing the bill with is always a difficult thing to pull off but singing this particular song is a serious jump. However, the band had other plans as they had drafted Dylan himself to help out. Perhaps showing his own confrontational attitude, Dylan arrived on the stage with a trick up his sleeve. “So Mick Jagger is wearing like a long blue satin shirt with a belt, pirate-style over it, and I just remember things. I don’t know my social security number, but I know that,” recalls Robinson.
“So they’re like ‘Ladies and gentleman, Montpellier”, you know. There’s 60,000, 70,000 people out there. (And they say) ‘Bob Dylan!’. Bob comes walking right beside me and Rich, and he is wearing the exact same outfit, and I was like, ‘That’s fucking amazing’.”
The cover does not go well. It seems as though Dylan refuses to sing much of the track and instead leans into his mumbling minstrel aesthetic. “They’re playing a Bob Dylan song, and Bob is there,” continues Robinson. “The Stones don’t jam; they don’t deviate […] they go around the chorus, and then they come up to Bob’s turn. So the band brings the [rhythm], and Bob goes to the mic and doesn’t sing it. And you see them looking around, and they’re like ‘Okay’, it’s kinda like you’ve missed the turn at a roundabout, and you got to go all the way around.”
“It goes on for another half a verse. And then Mick’s gonna come over and save the day and then Bob finally goes to and start singing something.
“They don’t finish, and they’re walking off stage, and we were standing there, [Bob] walks off before the end of the song, and they are like ‘Bob Dylan!’ and he turns around and he looks at them [shows his middle finger] saying ‘Fuck you!’ and his give them the finger and I’m like ‘The best fucking concert I’ve ever seen in my life, it’s incredible’. I can see Keith, he goes ‘Don’t be like that, Bob!’”
Listening to the audio of that performance below, it is easy to see some of the embellishment Robinson’s excitement allowed. Of course, Dylan can be heard singing, at least some of the lines, but there’s a lack of cohesion that is entirely palpable.
Hear the awkward moment Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones tried to perform ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ in 1995 below.