Music

Flash forward 50 years and the Stones' most played song lives on and on

A half-decade since its release, the ultimate Stones anthem shows no sign of dating – and will be a staple of their UK tour. Celebrate it and them while you still can

It’s exactly 50 years since The Rolling Stones released Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Back in those heady days of the late spring of 1968, Mick Jagger’s fledgling sexual legend was such that he still as yet had no known children, while the world’s most high-functioning derelict Keith Richards – a man who, as Del Preston speculates in Wayne’s World 2, “cannot be killed by conventional weapons” – still had some of his own teeth.

That groovy Delta blues fiesta has since gone on to become the most performed song in the quintessential English rock’n’roll band’s entire, mammoth 56-year repertoire, and thus one of the most performed songs of all time. There are at least 1,135 documented inclusions of Jumpin’ Jack Flash in Stones setlists at the time of writing – a figure that’s rising with every night of their latest, feverishly anticipated No Filter tour. To put that figure in some kind of perspective, imagine every time you’ve pulled your socks on, or cooked the dinner, or done the dishes for basically the last three-and-a-bit years, and that’s how many times Keef has twanged that iconic clanging riff and Mick has prattled on about toothless bearded hags and frowning at breadcrumbs (acid’s a hell of a drug) while flouncing about like a chiffon scarf on a mop handle in front of an adoring audience. Wild, right?

“You just jump on the riff and it plays you,” enthuses Richards in his biography, on the eternal ecstasy of Jumpin’ Jack Flash. “Matter of fact, it takes you over,” he foppishly mumbles. “An explosion would be the best way to describe it. It’s the one that I would immediately go to if I wanted to approach the state of nirvana.” And this from a man who’s been to the state of nirvana so many times he’s got a timeshare by the beach!

The Stones are all of our own futile inner battles to feel forever young incarnate

How does one band, much less one single song, remain so endlessly popular and inspiring? When time finally does cease to be on The Rolling Stones’ side – and not even Richards can defy the ageing process forever – what then? Will floodlights fade to black and chill winds blow tumbleweeds through deserted stadiums, guitars be locked away in flight cases for evermore, and everyone go home and just resign themselves to a life of doing the dishes? Maybe.

The Rolling Stones are, it scarcely requires stating, the greatest rock’n’roll band of all time, no contest. Quite apart from Jumpin’ Jack Flash, they’ve written more shufflin’, shakin’, boogyin’, lovin’, tumblin’ good hits than you’ve made hot dinners. And as we’ve already established, you’ve made a lot of hot dinners.

But the Stones’ enduring appeal goes way beyond simply the songs and the shows and the decadence and Ronnie Wood’s charmingly blithe unawareness of what planet he’s on. Sure, they get a little slower, a little less powerful, a little less potent and a lot more ridiculous with every passing tour. Granted, they possibly should have quit years if not decades ago. Yet there remains something so life-affirmingly defiant about their insistence on rocking until they can’t pull on their own socks any more. They are all of our own futile inner battles to feel forever young incarnate.

It’s worth noting that when the Stones gave Jumpin’ Jack Flash its live debut on May 12 1968 at London’s Wembley Empire Pool as part of the New Musical Express poll winners’ party, it eerily proved to be Brian Jones’ last performance with the band, and thus the only ever known live performance of the song by the third most-famous Stone (sorry, Ronnie). Jones of course drowned in his own swimming pool a year later.

No matter what Del Preston might think, rock stars are destructible, and even rock’n’roll itself is temporary and will one day strut its way off of this mortal coil. If there’s a thought to be had every time we are privileged enough to hear Mick, Keef, Ronnie and Charlie crank up Jumpin’ Jack Flash one more time for what could be the last of upwards of a thousand times, then it’s this: have a gas, gas, gas while you still can, it could all be over in a flash.

The Rolling Stones are on tour around the UK until June 19, rollingstones.com

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Bob Vylan: 'Is it OK for me to cry? As a man you can feel there's not space to be vulnerable'
Bob Vylan
Music

Bob Vylan: 'Is it OK for me to cry? As a man you can feel there's not space to be vulnerable'

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community
Soweto Kinch
Music

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'
Ardavan of The Unknowns
Music

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why
The Nefarious Picaroons play at Fiery Bird in Woking
Venue Watch

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know