Bob Dylan is a huge fan of The Rolling Stones. Though he arguably gave The Beatles their own shot at stardom, after pushing them towards making their songs more personal, there was only one British invasion band that really grabbed his attention. In fact, he went one further and once labelled the band “the greatest rock and roll band in the world and always will be”.
“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 with each other, 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.
Back in 2019, Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson was speaking to shock rock radio presenter Howard Stern when he revealed the moment Bob Dylan gave The Rolling Stones the finger. It’s a crass insult but one that certainly left a mark on Robinson, as he remembers the moment that came during the Stones’ promotion of their ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ cover in the mid-90s.
“That was in Montpellier, South of France,” recalled Robinson. “It was Black Crowes, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. It was the best week. 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.
“And they’re gonna have Bob sit in and I’m like ‘Oh my god’. 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. 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 image of Bob Dylan in a satin, belted shirt, is enough to make this story worthwhile but more was to come.
“He walks out on stage and you know, The Rolling Stones are The Rolling Stones, the greatest Rock and Roll band of all time,” it’s clear, they were ready to kill yet another stadium performance. “They’re playing a Bob Dylan song and Bob is there. 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.”
“So they go all the way around again and ‘One, two, three’ and he just leans into the mic, turns away and I’m like ‘Oh my god, what the fuck’,” remembered Robinson. “It goes on for antoher 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!’”
We can’t be quite sure as to why Bob Dylan decided not to sing and, consequently, threw out a serious insult at The Rolling Stones, but we are sure they probably took it in their stride. Below, you can watch the Black Crowes singer open up about his favourite concert moment of all time as he remembers Bob Dylan giving The Rolling Stones the finger.