It’s impossible to say a single bad word about The Rolling Stones number ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’. It’s a near-faultless effort and epitomises what makes the Stones such a vivacious outfit like no other. We’ve got one person to thank for the making of this song an actuality, and while Keith Richards and Mick Jagger undoubtedly played their part, Jack Dyer is the real Jack Flash himself.
The song remains one of the most crucial in their wild and vast career, marking The Rolling Stones returning to their home of the rhythm and blues after making a diversion to psychedelia. Their Satanic Majesties Request saw The Stones wave goodbye to the bluesy brand of rock and roll they had made their own in favour of dipping their toes into trippy, acid fuelled waters.
“The whole thing, we were on acid,” Jagger told Rolling Stone about the record in 1995. “We were on acid doing the cover picture. I always remember doing that. It was like being at school, you know, sticking on the bits of coloured paper and things. It was really silly. But we enjoyed it.”
Even though the band enjoyed creating the record, remaining an exciting listen to this day, it wasn’t The Stones we all adore. Jagger revealed in the same interview that ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ was about the band snapping out of that hazy era and coming back to their origins. The peacocking frontman said the track was birthed “out of all the acid of Satanic Majesties. It’s about having a hard time and getting out. Just a metaphor for getting out of all the acid things.”
The euphoric nature of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ made it an undeniable triumph. While it was subconsciously a reaction to Satanic Majesties, Jack Dyer unknowingly gave The Stones a point in the right direction and accidentally entered his name into rock history.
Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2010, Keith Richards revealed that Dyer was his gardener at the time, and he was unwittingly the first piece of the jigsaw in the creation of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’: “The lyrics came from a grey dawn at Redlands,” Richards recalled. “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.”
Once they had the title, everything else quickly fell into place, and when Richards created the divine riff, the band knew that something special was on their hands. “When you get a riff like ‘Flash,’ you get a great feeling of elation, a wicked glee,” the guitarist 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.”
Inspiration for songs can derive from the most bizarre locations, but as rock ‘n’ roll hits influenced by gardeners go, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ is the top of a shortlist where it’s also the sole entrant.
Whenever The Stones play the track live, it always goes off and produces a moment of magic. It’s astounding to think that if it wasn’t a series of hedonistic events leading to a couple of throwaway comments that The Stones would never have given the world ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’. Thanks Jack Dyer, we are eternally grateful.