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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

The Songs That Saved My Life #5: Jumpin' Jack Flash - The Rolling Stones

In 2024, it's 40 years since I first started buying records properly, so it seems as good a time as any to look back at the records that really shaped my tastes, such as they are. And as Moz said, "don't forget the songs that made you cry and the songs that saved your life..".

In 1986, I got my first Saturday job in the next town (the kitchen of BHS in Bexleyheath) and made friends outside of my immediate school circle. This was important for three reasons:

  1. I met people with different interests and tastes, especially a couple of the older students who were working there - they steered me to new music and were great

  2. Most of the people at my school were arseholes. Ok, not most, but a lot. One of my classmates is now a Tory MP. As I said, arseholes.

  3. There were girls. I went to an all boys' school. I was suddenly surrounded by girls. I had no choice but to learn how to talk to them and my world took a massive leap forward.

Through this Saturday job, I got a great new social circle and every Saturday night we would take our hard earned £1.49 an hour out and try and get in a pub, or go see a film. One film I went and saw in 1986 with my little gaggle of BHS mates was the new Whoopi Goldberg film, Jumpin' Jack Flash.

Whoopi was a big draw then, having just made a huge splash in the brilliant The Color Purple. We were keen to see her new movie, a comedy about a computer operator who gets accidentally sucked into helping a trapped British spy find safe passage from the KGB. His code name? Jumpin' Jack Flash.

It was very much of its time but I remember enjoying it. My cinema companions were unimpressed when the narrator of the messages from the spy to Whoopi's character appeared in the final scene, now safely rescued and buying her dinner at the start of some new romance - it was Jonathan Pryce and rather unfairly, they didn't think he was quite handsome enough. Harsh.

The soundtrack wasn't great, but it featured Aretha Franklin's version of Jumpin' Jack Flash (with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood on guitars). My parents had many wonderful qualities, but their record collection, with one or two honourable exceptions, did not feature amongst their better traits. So, unlike Mrs JO'B and many friends, I did not grow up with the Stones. I knew (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction but that was probably it. I thought Aretha's version of the theme song was amazing, but wanted to hear the original.

I spotted a copy of Rolled Gold on vinyl in the record shop in Dartford and invested my hard-earned BHS cash on a copy. I also wanted to check the Stones out as Keith Richards grew up on Chastilian Road in Dartford, a few hundred yards from where I lived. Jagger went to Dartford Grammar School, as did I. They were local heroes and I knew nothing about them.

I remember asking a couple of my older teachers who had been at the school back in the 50s when Jagger was a pupil what he was like. They all said he was a polite, friendly, studious boy - he certainly wasn't "schooled with a strap right across my back". I acquired Mick Jagger's Latin textbook (even though I didn't study Latin). I have no idea where or why I picked this up, but I had it for a while. In a misguided fit of honesty, I handed it in at some point. I have no idea what it would sell for now, but it would be a pretty different bit of Stones memorabilia to flog on eBay.

The Rolled Gold compilation was released in 1975 and covers tracks from 1963 - 1969. It was unauthorised by the band, but it was a great introduction to their music. My record collection at this stage just contained 80s music, and some 70s post punk like Joy Division. A step into the 60s was new for me and I was quickly smitten, I remember The Last Time was a particular favourite, as was Gimme Shelter. The latter is probably in my top ten songs ever, and often holds the number one spot. But Jumpin' Jack Flash was my favourite back then. Johnny Marr had compared The Smiths' Shakespear's Sister to it and that was one of my favourite Smiths songs. I often played the two back to back.

Jumpin' Jack Flash would appear on the many compilation cassettes I made back then, sandwiched in between The Smiths and some other jangly 80s indie band. By 1990, I blagged tickets through my boss at NatWest - he had a part time job at Wembley, running a bar there and got us in to help set up one Saturday afternoon, then let us down on the pitch for the Stones' gig. It was the day that England were playing West Germany (4th July 1990) - many of the attendees were distracted, listening to commentary on their pocket radios, which was very irritating. If England had won, they were going to play videos of the goals during It's Only Rock 'n' Roll but that was not to be, as Germany won 4:3 on penalties.

The Stones were fab, though I remember grimacing at how terrible Keith's vocals were on Happy (I quite like them these days!). And they finished the set with the obligatory Jumpin' Jack Flash, which was amazing.

Rolled Gold led me to buying The Beatles' Red and Blue albums, compilations of The Kinks and Small Faces and generally becoming more open to music beyond the immediate music being made at the time. I still love The Stones, and have many albums now in my collection, including my late father-in-law's old vinyl. Exile On Main Street, Let It Bleed and Aftermath being favourites.

Hearing a cover of a song in a dodgy 80s film, is an odd start to loving a band, but we have to start somewhere, and for me, it was another gateway into new music I didn't know.

Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x

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