Who is "Jack Flash"? His name is Jack Dyer, and he was Keith Richards' gardener. Richards explained to Rolling Stone in 2010: "The lyrics came from a gray dawn at Redlands. Mick and I had been up all night, it was raining outside, and there was the sound of these boots near the window, belonging to my gardener, Jack Dyer. It woke Mick up. He said, 'What's that?' I said, 'Oh, that's Jack. That's jumping Jack.' I started to work around the phrase on the guitar, which was in open tuning, singing the phrase 'Jumping Jack.' Mick said, 'Flash,' and suddenly we had this phrase with a great rhythm and ring to it."
Bill Wyman wrote some of this song, but it was still credited only to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, which Wyman was never happy about. He explained: "We got to the studio early once and... in fact I think it was a rehearsal studio, I don't think it was a recording studio. And there was just myself, Brian and Charlie - the Stones NEVER arrive at the same time, you know - and Mick and Keith hadn't come. And I was just messing about and I just sat down at the piano and started doing this riff, da-daw, da-da-daw, da-da-daw, and then Brian played a bit of guitar and Charlie was doing a rhythm. We were just messing with it for 20 minutes, just filling in time, and Mick and Keith came in and we stopped and they said, 'Hey, that sounded really good, carry on, what is it? And then the next day we recorded it. Mick wrote great lyrics to it and it turned out to be a really good single."
Mick Jagger: "It's about having a hard time and getting out. Just a metaphor for getting out of all the acid things."
As Richards explained in Rolling Stone, he's very proud of his guitar part in this song. "When you get a riff like 'Flash,' you get a great feeling of elation, a wicked glee," he said. "I can hear the whole band take off behind me every time I play 'Flash' - there's this extra sort of turbo overdrive. You jump on the riff and it plays you. Levitation is probably the closest analogy to what I feel."
A promotional film, which was an early music video, was shot with The Stones performing this wearing body paint and outrageous costumes. The paint and costumes would become a trend in the '70s with bands like Kiss.
For The Stones, this was a return to the blues style of their early years. Their previous album, Her Satanic Majesties Request, had more of a psychedelic sound.
In the US, this was a hit for Aretha Franklin in 1986. Her version was produced by Keith Richards, who also played guitar. It hit #21.
The title was used for the name of a Whoopi Goldberg movie in 1986. Aretha Franklin's version was used.
This was intended for Beggar's Banquet, but they left it off the album and released it as a single because The Stones were very pleased with the results.
This was rumored to be about drugs - a "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is supposedly a way to inject heroin into the tear ducts. It was also thought to be about speed - the same pills that were mother's little helpers
Keith Richards: "I used a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic tuned to open D, six string. Open D or open E, which is the same thing - same intervals - but it would be slackened down some for D. Then there was a capo on it, to get that really tight sound. And there was another guitar over the top of that, but tuned to Nashville tuning. I learned that from somebody in George Jones' band in San Antonio in 1964. The high-strung guitar was an acoustic, too. Both acoustics were put through a Phillips cassette recorder. Just jam the mic right in the guitar and play it back through an extension speaker."
Don McLean referenced this in "American Pie
" with the words "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candlestick, 'Cause fire is the Devil's only friend." The 'Devil' was rumored to be Mick Jagger.
Like the other songs he used in the movie Mean Streets
, Martin Scorsese played this song from his original album, giving it more of a raw sound.
In 2004, Chevy used this in a commercial for their Corvette, but the ads were quickly pulled over objections from viewers. The ad showed a young kid driving the car in a very dangerous manner. It was meant to portray the kid dreaming about the car, but a lot of people didn't see it that way.
This song was used as the finale in the rhythm-action game Elite Beat Agents
for the Nintendo DS. It is the second half of a two-part scenario, the first half being "Without a Fight." In the scenario, evil aliens known as the Rhombulans invade Earth and ban music, and the game's characters band together to summon the Elite Beat Agents. In "Without a Fight," the Elite Beat Agents help to free the prisoners in the Rhombulans' concentration camp (while simultaneously making music to injure the Rhombulan guards), then dash into the path of a gigantic laser beam to save the newly-freed prisoners. This results in the EBA being turned to stone, but the game's characters chant out "EBA" repeatedly while clapping in unison. As "Jumpin' Jack Flash" begins, the stone EBA statues crack, allowing the EBA to break free. They then proceed to sing and dance, leading Earth's populace into a high-school-prom-like celebration. At the end of the song ("Jumpin Jack Flash is a gas"), the agents and the people harness the power of music to fire a huge laser at the Rhombulan lead UFO, utterly destroying it and saving the planet.
This is the most performed song by the Rolling Stones. The band have played this during every tour since its release in 1968.
In his autobiography, Life
(2010), Keith Richards wrote about the mysterious power of this song: "I love 'Satisfaction' dearly and everything, but those chords are pretty much a de rigueur course as far as songwriting goes. But 'Flash' is particularly interesting. It's allllll right now. It's almost Arabic or very old, archaic, classical, the chord setups you could only hear in Gregorian chants or something like that. And it's that weird mixture of your actual rock and roll and at the same time this weird echo of very, very ancient music that you don't even know. It's much older than I am, and that's unbelievable! It's like a recall of something, and I don't know where it came from."