In January of 1998 New York music fans faced a tough choice: Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones? Both were doing a run of shows at Madison Square Garden over the exact same nights: Dylan was in the theater and the Stones were in the arena. In honor of Dylan, the Stones performed “Like A Rolling Stone” every single night. At one point their setlist said “with Bob Dylan,” but he never showed.
Three months later, fans in South America were in a much easier position. The Stones came down for a stadium tour, with Dylan as their opening act. This time around, Dylan didn’t stand them up.
“We’d like to do a song we wrote,” Jagger told the crowd midway through a show in Rio de Janeiro, quickly correcting himself. “That Bob Dylan wrote for us.” With that, Dylan took the stage to join the group on his 1965 classic “Like a Rolling Stone.” Earlier attempts at the duet that month were a little ragged, but by this point Dylan had adjusted to the band’s arrangement of his song. He even appears to be enjoying himself, and at one point he actually smiles. It was good timing, because the show was broadcast on television.
Dylan has been friends with the Stones for decades, and he’s performed numerous times with Keith Richards and Ron Wood (most notably at Live Aid). But this was one of the few times he actually performed with the full band. At the 1988 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony he performed “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Satisfaction” with Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, the Beach Boys, Little Richard, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Les Paul, Neil Young, Elton John, Ben E. King, Jeff Beck and about 20 other people, but that doesn’t quite count, either. It was pretty cool, though just a tad sloppy. As it turns out, 15 guitar players don’t actually improve a song.