Jumpin’ Jack Flash is The Rolling Stones’ most performed song. It’s been on the setlist of every one of their tours since its release in 1968. Keith Richards’ gardener probably had no idea what was coming.
Yet here we are, over fifty years later, oceans away from the source, writing articles on technology that didn’t even exist at the time, listening to spinoffs of a song about him that didn’t even make it onto the album it was intended for. Nevertheless, we’ve put together a list of the five best covers of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, check it out below.
The driving energy and shimmering riffs of Jumpin’ Jack Flash have been reinvented by dozens of musicians over the years. We’ve picked out the best covers that span across soul, rock, blues, punk and Indian music.
After a brief flirt with psychedelia on Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Stones returned to the classic blues sounds of their early years. In his autobiography, Richards describes the sound as being like a “weird echo of very, very ancient music.”
The covers started almost as soon as the single was released, and the interpretations over the years have ranged from soul to punk to everything in between. Here are five of our favourites.
Johnny Winter kills it in this performance in a glorious black midriff top with flared scarlet sleeves and a cream-coloured guitar to match his hair. Winter’s vocals soar above the original riff with a texture akin to Deep Purple, and his hell-bent guitar solo ends right before it explodes and ravages everything in its path.
The Vibrators‘ originally performance of this track took place at the Marquee in 1977, before appearing on their album Guilty in 1983. At 2 minutes 48, this concise punk translation doesn’t beat around with ear-melting extended guitar solos. Instead, the band incorporates an abrasive screech that ascends us into the second verse and the song concludes with a raucous cacophony.
Marcia Hines’ version hits a different chord straight off the bat, with a screaming trumpet and thick, brassy bass tones. The original riffs are uplifted with elements of funk, supported by Hines’ euphoric choruses. The fullness of the big band adds layers of texture and tonal contrast to this energetic, manic bop.
Thelma Houston’s soulful vivacity and velvety tone shine in this reinvigoration. A barefoot, beaming Houston appears on stage alongside five spectacular go-go dancers.
This is an artist who’s perfected the feminine growl with incredible control. The Stones looked to jazz, soul, and blues musicians as primary influences, so Houston jumping onboard makes for some humbling circularity.
Ananda Shankar’s self-titled album is a synthesis of Western and Indian music, where electronic rock meets the traditionalism of the sitar. He’s the nephew of Ravi Shankar, the sitarist who took George Harrison under his wing in the 1970s.
The Bengali musician’s cover features echoes of the original background vocals, but the sitar is the hero. Its deliberate twang is re-contextualised and enhanced by familiar riffs, psychedelic warbles, and a driving rhythm section.
While you’re here, check out a list of the 10 best covers of all time.