The Rolling Stones

Jumpin' Jack Flash

Song Review by

Like several other rock superstars in early 1968, the Rolling Stones turned to a back-to-the-basics direction, with the single "Jumpin' Jack Flash" the first track to fly that flag. Like a great many Rolling Stones songs, and most of their 1960s singles, the Top Three hit "Jumpin' Jack Flash" unveiled yet another classic blues-rock guitar riff, similar to the one heard in "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in its ascending insistence, but nevertheless easy to tell apart from that predecessor. The distinctive, grungy (in the pre-Seattle sense of that term) texture of the guitar chords heard in much of the track was achieved by recording some of the guitar parts on cassette -- an early application of the lo-fi aesthetic, perhaps. In common with some previous Rolling Stones songs, such as "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?," "Jumpin' Jack Flash"'s lyric was obscure and somewhat bizarre. Set to an infectious stop-start beat, the verse was a first-person portrait of a guy born in a crossfire hurricane, raised by a hag, and crowned with a spike through his head. Just the sort of fellow you'd like to invite to your next tea party, yes? What most listeners glommed onto, however, was the more immediately understandable chorus, with its ultra-catchy reminders that everything was alright, as jumping jack flash was a gas-gas-gas. One quality that was evident was the overwhelming sardonicism and irony with which the lyrics were delivered, exceeding the level heard in the Stones' pre-1968 records, which were not at all lacking in those traits. In this sense, the group seemed to be building a mythology for themselves, describing themselves as sleazy but charming ruffians, not afraid to wear their unsavory aspects on their sleeves. There were those determined to find some hidden meaning in the lyrics, and in the title especially, with jumpin' jack flash taken to possibly mean laughing gas, or some other potent drug. The true "gas" of the song, though, is its irresistible funky rock groove. The extended tag, a typical feature of Rolling Stones classics, finds the group harmonizing on the key line of the chorus in low, semi-comic voices that made it difficult, as always, to determine how seriously they regarded their self-perpetuated bad-boy image.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Through the Past, Darkly: Big Hits, Vol. 2 1969 ABKCO Records 3:42
Sticky Fingers 1971 Virgin 0:00
Hot Rocks: 1964-1971 1972 ABKCO Records / Universal Music 3:42
No Image 1972 Swingin' Pig
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
No Image 1984 EMI Music Distribution
Digital Dreams [Video] 1985 Classic Pictures
Hot Rocks 2 [Disc 2] 1985 Decca / london 3:43
No Image 1985 Import
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 3:37
Greatest Rarities, Vol. 1 1991 [Bootleg]
No Image 1995 Totonka
12 X 5/Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! 1999 CD Maximum
Forty Licks 2002 ABKCO Records 3:43
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 4:02
Toronto Rocks 2004
Various Artists
Singles 1968-1971 2005 ABKCO Records 3:38
The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 [Vinyl Box Set] 2010 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 3:43
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 3:43
The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1964-1971 2013 ABKCO Records 3:43
No Image 2015 ABKCO Records 3:28
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 3:39
Party Tyme Karaoke: Classic Rock, Vol. 1
Sybersound Records 3:32