It was 55 years ago today (April 20th, 1968) that the Rolling Stones finished recording their groundbreaking first single of 1968, “Jumpin' Jack Flash.” The tune, which according to bassist Bill Wyman was based on a piano lick Keith Richards had heard him play, was the definitive Mick Jagger/ Keith Richards track for the newly declared back-to-basics Stones. “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” which was recorded during sessions for 1968's Beggars Banquet collection, shed all vestiges of the psychedelia the band had been dabbling in throughout 1967, which culminated in 1967's Their Satanic Majesties Request album.
Produced by the New York born and raised Jimmy Miller — best known then for his work with Traffic and Spooky Tooth — the Stones ushered in a new era, trimming back their sound into a lean, fierce, almost demonic, hard-edged rock that had only been hinted at earlier in the decade.
Released on May 24th, 1968 and the following June 1st in America, “Jumpin' Jack Flash” topped the charts in the UK and Stateside on the Cashbox charts — but stalled at Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has been a concert staple since first performed on May 12th, 1968 during the Stones' surprise appearance the NME Pollwinners Concert at London's Empire Pool. The song holds the distinction as being the most performed Stones song of their career.
Guitar aficionados have always asked Keith Richards about the various tunings and tricks he's used on his Rolling Stones classics. He told us, it's really the last thing anyone should be worrying about: “Guitars and tunings, hey, that’s for us to know and other people to wonder about. What does it matter whether you’ve got five or six strings? It’s. . . are you getting out of that thing what you’re hearing in your head? And is it coming out the right way? The rest of it’s. . . a dark secret (laughter).”
Although Brian Jones appeared in the promo clips for both “Jumpin' Jack Flash” and its B-side “Child Of The Moon,” he was far from being an active or productive member of the band by 1968. Mick Jagger spoke about the sad deterioration of Brian Jones in the last few years of his short life: “Keith and I took drugs, but Brian took too many drugs of the wrong kind and he wasn't functioning as a musician. I don't think he was that interested in contributing to the Rolling Stones anymore. You certainly didn't know if he was going to turn up and what state he was going to be. . . and then, what was he going to be able to do in that state. What job could you give him?”