Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jumpin' Jack Flash

"Jumpin' Jack Flash" – 3:43

Despite my stated intention to blog the songs on every album in order, I am sneaking "Jumpin' Jack Flash" in here before Beggars Banquet because it does not appear on a Stones album until the 1969 greatest hits comp Through the Past, Darkly, and I didn't want to wait that long. Besides, it was recorded during the Beggars Banquet sessions, and it pretty clearly fits in with what they were doing on that album.

What were they doing? Why, creating the purest distillation of raw rock and roll ever heard, that's what. Everything I read says that the Stones, after dallying with psychedelic exoticism on their previous two albums (Between the Buttons and especially Their Satanic Majesties Request), "returned to their blues roots" for the Beggars Banquet sessions. To me, that undersells their achievement, especially on this track. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" was about much more than returning to their blues roots.

The song opens with one of the greatest intros in history. When Keith's guitar comes in, you know you're in for something special. An acoustic guitar, played through the mic of a crappy cassette recorder to get that tinny distortion, with a capo high on the neck adding to the "thinness" of the sound. An electric doubles the opening riff, along with a bass. Charlie Watts's drums come in – you're hooked now. (Notice how he doesn't hit the cymbals here. In fact, apart from the high hat he doesn't hit the cymbals at all during the song.)

That guitar sound, more than the riff itself, drives the song. Because Keith couldn't duplicate that sound on stage, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" never sounds as good live as it did in the studio. Here, check out the version from Rock and Roll Circus:

Of course, that is a famously bad Stones performance, but the most striking bit, for me anyway, is that missing guitar part. Check out this one, from the recent Shine a Light:


Anyway, I could take for hours about this song – I didn't even get to the lyrics or the weird instrumentation or anything. But I'll stop here, and get back to this song at some point in the future.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this. We don't need to talk about it.