Aug 06

THE ROLLING STONES – “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”

FT + Popular23 comments • 5,392 views

#251, 22nd June 1968

No sign of Indiana Jones, though.There are vowelsounds here undreamed-of in prior pop: “hurricaayuhn”, “hahhhihg”, “doooouuwn”, the way Jagger gulps three times at “drowned”, more desperate each one. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” may have one of the classic Stones riffs but it’s the stupendous vocals that hog my attention. Jagger is demented, theatrical, electric, camp and – as ever – very funny at the same time.

The way the song starts reminds me of blues lyrics, but Jagger’s – or Jack’s – boasts of hardship are grotesquely amplified grand guignol claims. Not parody – he’s singing with complete conviction, but he’s located the thread of bravado in the blues and pulled at it hard. For all their roots in playing blues and R&B, Jagger never acted reverent to them, on the hits at least, and the Stones would have been a worse band if he had. Now his attitude is a mix of love and gleeful insolence, he heaps upon Jack the most fearful horrors and then dismisses them with a flick of the tongue, “Well it’s awl-right now, in fact it’s a gas.” Whatever happened before doesn’t matter, Jack is badder and better than the worst the world can throw.

Take that, and party: the so-what attitude is crucial to lots of great pop – which “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is. The jangly outro is the best kind of indulgence, and the other Stones squeezing into backing-vox corsets to chorus “Jumpin Jack Flash! It’s a gas!” makes me grin too. Nothing I know of their later records sounds so light or so delighted.



  1. 1
    Brian on 18 Aug 2006 #

    I loved this song at 13 years old. I love it now.

    Looking back it represents the “Stones” coming back in from the dope induced comma of ” Their Satanic Majestys Request ” ( an acid trip )and ” Between The Buttons ” ( a smokers groove ).

    Back to the blues, booze, barroom , school of hard knocks & dirty socks. This riff revitalized , and set the sonic amplitude for, alot of the later riff driven Stones that we know – right up to ” Start Me Up “….

  2. 2
    Stevie on 18 Aug 2006 #

    I remember singing this song years ago at King ov Korsika Karaoke and you called me a rockist for doing it!

    This should clearly be a 10.

  3. 3
    rosie on 18 Aug 2006 #

    I seem to remember this as coming out after a period of Stones inactivity, and it being a perfectly terrific comeback.

    All the more so, looking back, as the Beatles were looking shopsoiled. The Stones were just entering their best period.

    I still think the Beatles were right to call it a day and I feel a bit embarrassed to see the Stones still performing!

  4. 4
    Brian on 18 Aug 2006 #

    I read a passage attributed to Jagger , abou the tinme The Beatles werre calling it a day, where he said that if the Beatles really wanted to continue they would have ” just got another bass player “. Good point, methinks. Insert Heather Mills jokes here ” ….”

  5. 5
    Doctor Mod on 18 Aug 2006 #

    Brian–That’s one of the best Beatles/Stones anecdotes ever!

    Good advice not taken–alas….

  6. 6
    Tom on 19 Aug 2006 #

    Stevie you were a rockist for doing it!

    One of the better things about doing Popular (from my point of view) has been ‘getting’ the Stones for the first time.

  7. 7
    intothefireuk on 19 Aug 2006 #

    There’s an amazingly rough shambolic feel to this that for me the Stones never quite captured again – I love the slightly out of tune jangly bit at the end. Is this also when Jagger started adopting the pout and exaggerated postures he would become famous for (and much imitated) ?


  8. 8
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 19 Aug 2006 #

    re the postures, i would guess no — i think he’d been doing that since 65 or 66 at least (though his style may have become even MORE mannerist and self-parodic at this stage)

  9. 9
    blount on 19 Aug 2006 #

    tina turner perhaps a turning (HAW) point for jagger there. he definitely amped it up around this point though – more mannered, more makeup, the “stupid faggot dancing” that disturbed lennon and the hell’s angels.

  10. 10
    Chris Brown on 20 Aug 2006 #

    I may have suggested this before, but I think the Stones are easily the best band I don’t own any records by (though I almost downloaded this track to give my comments here a bit more verisimilitude).

    It really is Jagger par excellence isn’t it? From that “One-two!” at the start onwards. Slightly reminds me of that yelp that begins ‘Get Off My Cloud’ – until relatively recently I didn’t have much idea of the chronology of their career and I could have imagined these two being released consecutively. That seems to underline the retrograde thing here; perhaps in a way you could draw a line to ‘Lady Madonna’ because they share that musical back-to-basics idea but are both still slightly surreal lyrically. This is clearly the better record though, because it sounds less affected (even if it isn’t).

    One other little thought – if you were foolish enough to try and listen to them all consecutively, this would be quite a dramatic segue after Cliff, Louis and Gary Puckett.

  11. 11
    Chris Brown on 21 Aug 2006 #

    UPDATE: You’ve cost me £14:95! I finally gave in and bought a Stones CD. According to the notes, this was the first of their releases produced by Jimmy Miller.

    Oh, and on the “inactivity” thing – this was their first (and only) UK single of 1968, which was pretty inactive by the standards of the day; of course there was also an album at the end of the year, but no 45s pulled from it at the time. Also, the previous three singles had failed to top the chart, which was then their longest run of “failure” since they started having Number Ones.

  12. 12
    Lena on 21 Aug 2006 #

    Does this song have anything to do with the “Jack be nimble” rhyme?

  13. 13
    Brian on 22 Aug 2006 #

    Doc Mod – that Jagger quote/paraphrase came from ” The Beatles , The Dream is Over”. It’s the second book of ” Off The Record ” by Keith Badman.

    That should satisfy the academics in the crowd.

  14. 14
    John Vincent on 25 Aug 2006 #

    Re: Jumping Jack Flash

    Check out the tracks on the apocryphal new Stones’ album
    ‘Forty Winks’

    All the best,

    John Vincent

  15. 15
    richard thompson on 9 Jun 2008 #

    The Beatles were supposed to be getting together in 1971 with Klaus Voorman on bass replacing Paul, this is the stones at their best, they took themselves more seriously after this, when they went to France.

  16. 16
    DJ Punctum on 9 Jun 2008 #

    “Jumping Jack Flash” not serious in the time of riots?

    This was featured on the 1968 half of yesterday’s POTP, at #4, en route to the top. A quite brilliant chart, overall, though scuppered by one of the worst top threes ever:

    3. Bobby Goldsboro – Old Shep
    2. Engelbert Pumpernickel – A Man Without Love and NOT EVEN THE ORIGINAL RECORD SOME CRAPPY SEVENTIES REMAKE
    1. Union Gap – Officially Worst Number One Single Ever

    The galvanising effect of “JJF” was therefore similar to that of “GSTQ.”

  17. 17
    Waldo on 29 Oct 2009 #

    JJF is indeed a gas, gas, gas. A truly magnificent record and as Rosie says, it was the one which came after the Stones had been hibernating somewhat. A better comeback from Mick n’Keef one could not possibly imagine. A sublime piece of rock all day long, it’s actually rather scary in its brilliance and has very few equals.

  18. 18
    swanstep on 11 Aug 2013 #

    Hindsight is everything I suppose, but, boy, JJF really does feel like the Stones hitting their straps, having finally figured out what they were placed here on Earth to do and to sound like. A 10 all the way from me. The single’s b-side Child of the Moon is also excellent; another whole album’s worth of ideas packed into 3 minutes.

  19. 19
    Paulito on 12 Aug 2013 #

    In his hilariously self-aggrandising autobiography ‘Stone Alone’*, Bill Wyman claims that it was he who came up with the famous riff upon which the rest of JJF was constructed, and that he wuz robbed by not being given a joint songwriting credit.

    (*Sample paragraph, paraphrased from memory: “One night in ’65 we all counted up the number of girls we’d slept with since we had begun touring a couple of years earlier. My tally was 230. Brian’s was 78. Mick and Keith, who had spent much of their spare time on the road busily songwriting, had scored 30 and six respectively….”)

  20. 20
    hectorthebat on 12 May 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Songs to Download Right Now! (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 1
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 320
    Greil Marcus (USA) – STRANDED: “Treasure Island” Singles (1979)
    Jimmy Guterman (USA) – The 20 Best Rock and Roll Singles of All Time (1992) 11
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 68
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 124
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 125
    San Antonio Express-News (USA) – Rock ‘n’ roll timeline (2004)
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 65
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1960s (2008)
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 27
    Mojo (UK) – The Ultimate Jukebox: 100 Singles You Must Own (2003) 4
    New Musical Express (UK) – 40 Records That Captured the Moment 1952-91 (1992)
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 21
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 88
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 80
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 742
    Q (UK) – The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever (2002) 10
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Sounds (UK) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1986) 30
    Berlin Media (Germany) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1998) 10
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – The Best Singles of 5 Decades (1997)
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – Top 100 Songs by The Rolling Stones (2005) 13
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Rolling Stone (France) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 51
    Rocks Musiczine (Spain) – The 100 Best Rock Songs in History (1995) 81
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  21. 21
    Larry on 26 Oct 2014 #

    There was a hilarious page or two about JJF in Tom Carson’s novel TWISTED KICKS, with a bunch of druggy teens offering theories about the song’s meaning at a party

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 25 May 2016 #

    as a young kid (aged 8 when this was released) I had very little awareness of the Rolling Stones, partly I suspect because most of my exposure to pop at the time was pretty limited. While my dad had bought Sgt Pepper (perhaps because he perceived it as an object of modernity and progression) the Stones would I suspect have appeared to him as too wilfully primitive.
    I became vaguely aware of them as my own interest in pop ignited at the age of 12 but again I was interested in what was new (glam, prog) rather than older acts.
    Anyway, at some stage I began to take an interest in the band but it probably wasn’t until the early 1980s that I began listening to them attentively.
    This song is a delight – energetic, light on its feet and packing a punch. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Jagger both as performer and writer and I honestly don’t think he is celebrated as much as he deserves as a lyricist. The words to this are chosen and delivered with a precise glee which is hugely infectious.

  23. 23
    Gareth Parker on 11 May 2021 #

    Tom is spot on with the 9/10 here. A wonderful single, in my book.

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