Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rolling Stones – "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1968)

I was crowned 
With a spike right through my head

When I was in college, I went to a lot of afternoon movie showings.  The price was right, and a dark, air-conditioned movie theater was a great place to escape the heat and humidity of a Houston afternoon.  

My college years – 1970 to 1974 – were a veritable golden age of American movies.  We’re talking about masterpieces like The Godfather (Parts I and II), Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show, The French Connection, American Graffiti, Badlands, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Conversation . . . and directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, George Lucas, and Terence Malick.

Martin Scorsese’s 1973 low-budget masterpiece, Mean Streets, is as good as any of those movies.  The critics went gaga over it: the Rotten Tomatoes website gives Mean Streets a 98% rating – which means that 49 out of the 50 critics who reviewed liked it.  (Try to think of something else you can get 49 out of 50 people to agree on.)

The soundtracks of many of Scorsese’s best movies utilize classic pop and rock songs, and Mean Streets is no exception.

Scorsese on the set of "Mean Streets"
with Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel
One of the great scenes in the movie is the one that introduces the character “Johnny Boy” (played by Robert DeNiro) to the audience.  The scene, which was shot in slow motion, depicts DeNiro strolling into a Little Italy bar that is inhabited mostly by small-time hoods and Mafia wannabes.  DeNiro has two coeds on his arm, and is the very essence of cool.  “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is the perfect song to accompany the scene.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was also used in the soundtrack of the 1986 movie of the same name, a spy comedy directed by Penny Marshall and starring Whoopi Goldberg.  The closing credits of that movie roll to a cover of the song by Aretha Franklin – the less said about Aretha’s version of one of the Stones’ most electric songs ever, the better.

Here’s a live performance of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”:

Click here to buy the studio version of the song from Amazon:

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