(Credit: Artist Management)

What's That Sound? The mystery squeal in 'Jump Around'

If you’ve ever been to a sporting match or a rowdy wedding or even just a social gathering where alcohol and personal interaction go hand in hand, chances are you have defied gravity to the sweet dulcet tones of House of Pain’s eternal 1990s jam ‘Jump Around’. 

Famous for its unparalleled ability to get just about anyone airborne, the arrangement for ‘Jump Around’ is surprisingly sparse. Crafted by House of Pain’s turntablist DJ Muggs, the song is mainly reliant on three factors:

  • The opening fanfare that immediately signals you to get on your feet.
  • The tumbling beat from which Everlast waxes poetic about cops in doughnut shops and serving people like John McEnroe.
  • The siren-like noise that repeats throughout the song.

That siren accomplishes something that is almost impossible: it’s a high pitched squeal that never actually gets tiresome or annoying, even though it has every right to. There’s just something about the way it fits in between the song’s gang vocals and rollicking beat that creates an infectious sort of energy. All told, it works fantastically to inspire even those with bad knees to try and get vertical.

Despite its unmistakable sonic quality, the origin of that squeal is actually a hot topic. Everlast has claimed that the famous sound was sampled from New York rapper Divine Styler’s ‘Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’, which itself sampled Junior Walker and the All-Star’s ‘Shoot Your Shot’. That song has a high horn squeal from Parker’s tenor saxophone right at the beginning of the tune that matches the ‘Jump Around’ squeal almost perfectly. So we’ve got an almost perfect match straight from the source. It’s just that easy, right?

Apparently not: you see, in an interview with Newsweek back in 2016, Amir ‘Questlove’ Thompson offered up a different source. He claims that the squeal is not from a horn, but from the mouth of the legendary Prince Rogers Nelson. The very first thing that we hear at the start of Prince’s monster 1991 single ‘Gett Off’ is a squeal that is uncanny in its resemblance to the high-pitched sound throughout ‘Jump Around’. The article’s author, Anil Dash, posits a theory that the boys in House of Pain purposefully pointed away from ‘The Purple One’ in order to avoid paying Prince royalties. 

For his part, Prince never commented on the possible connection between ‘Gett Off’ and ‘Jump Around’ during his lifetime. Another figure who’s remained quiet on confirming the source is DJ Muggs, who claimed in a 2012 SPIN anniversary piece on ‘Jump Around’ that the origin of the squeal came from neither Parker nor Prince. Take a listen to both potential sources and decide for yourself where that iconic sound came from.