The duo, White Stripes, hailed from Detroit in the late '90s. Former Country/Rock drummer (with Goober and the Peas) turned guitarist/vocalist, Jack White (born John "Jack" Anthony Gillis) and drummer Meg White used Punk and Blues as their base while incorporating Folk and Art Rock. Jack worked with several area groups including a stint singing and playing guitar on the Go's debut single "Whatcha Doin'." White was soon on his way to becoming a highly eclectic and emotive songwriter. The idea for White Stripes was to create simple, basic Rock. Done.
Jack and Meg were married briefly with Jack taking the relatively unusual step of adopting his wife's name. For reasons best kept between them the couple divorced but maintained their working relationship.
Debut album "White Stripes" came out in '99 and was supported by a North American tour. Sophomore release "DeStijl" hit the following year as the duo toured Japan and Australia. '01 saw the release of "White Blood Cells" containing the popular and highly lauded track "Fell In Love With A Girl."
Two years later, Jack and Meg released the acclaimed "Elephant," containing the hypnotic hit "Seven Nation Army." "I wanted to put 'Seven Nation Army' out as a single," White said in a radio interview years later. "The label in England and the label in America both didn't want to. They wanted to put 'There's No Home For You Here'." Fortunately, White got his way.
The White Stripes were rolling through '03 until Jack was involved in a Detroit auto accident. A broken index finger caused the cancellation of several tour dates but the group was soon back on the road. Then things got a bit dicy around the holidays. Jack was charged with aggravated assault after a fight with the Von Bondies lead singer Jason Stollsteimer. The December 13th dust-up began shortly before midnight at Detroit's Majestic Theater Center. It seemed there was some dispute as to how beneficial White's production efforts were to the Von Bondies in their early days. End result, White was ordered by the court to attended anger management sessions.
White produced Country legend Loretta Lynn's highly acclaimed and Grammy winning "Van Leer Rose" album. This project led to a timely revelation. "I felt embarrassed that I wasn't hitting these notes," said White. "So I stopped lying to myself that the smoking wasn't doing it." He quit cold turkey.
White also contributed songs to the Bluegrass oriented Cold Mountain soundtrack, which starred ex-girlfriend, Renee Zegweller. Jack ended up marrying model Karen Elson in Brazil. Meg served as maid of honor.
Any fears that Jack had gone Country quickly disappeared with the release of "Get Behind Me Satan," in '05, featuring the pulsating first single, "Blue Orchid." Elson appeared in the video.
Starting the Raconteurs with fellow Detroit native Brendan Benson was Jack's next adventure. Though initially labeled as a "supergroup" the band dismissed the tag stating they were actually "a new band made up of old friends." The group released "Broken Boy Soldiers" in May, '06, and went on tour.
Some were concerned that this new venture spelled the end for the White Stripes (people are always fretting about this band). No worries, Jack and Meg returned in '07 with "Icky Thump" which earned two Grammy awards the following year: Alternative Music Album and Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.
Following The Raconteur's tour in support of their sophomore album ("Consolers Of The Lonely") White continued on his own trajectory. First, he wrote and recorded, with Alicia Keys, the theme for the James Bond flick Quantum Of Solace (yeah, it is a goofy title). White voiced his displeasure that the song got its first exposure in an advertisement. "We are disappointed that you first heard the song in a co-promotion for Coke Zero, rather than in its entirety," said a statement from White's management.
White's next film appearance was later in the year when the documentary It Might Get Loud with fellow guitarists Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and The Edge (U2) premiered at the '08 Toronto Film Festival.
Even with no new material in sight, the White Stripes still managed to make news in early '10 when the Air Force Reserve used a version of "Fell In Love With A Girl" for their "Grab Some Air" recruitment campaign that premiered during the Super Bowl. "We believe our song was re-recorded and used without permission of the White Stripes, our publishers, label or management," the band wrote in a statement. "We have not licensed this song to the Air Force Reserve and we plan to take strong action to stop the ad containing this music. Two days later, the Air Force pulled the spot from their website.
Later in the year, the documentary Under Great White Northern Lights was available on DVD, CD and vinyl as part of a limited edition box set. The Emmett Malloy-directed film chronicled the band's '07 Canadian tour. And the 16 track CD/vinyl included "Seven Nation Army," "Fell In Love With A Girl," "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" and "Ball And Biscuit."
The Stripes' past continued to resonate as White announced the sale of a rare copy of the band's '98 seven-inch single, "Lafayette Blues," for $18,000. It was one of only 15 copies with a hand-painted cover by White and Italy Records head Dave Buick. The single, the group's second, originally went for $6 at the Stripes' '98 concert at Detroit's Gold Dollar. The song appeared on the group's eponymous debut album.
White Stripes reunion rumors had been circulating for months but they proved unfounded when the duo announced on 02/02/11 that they had disbanded so as to preserve the band's legacy. "The reason is not due to artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue, nor any health issues as both Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health," said the band's statement. "It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band."
Though White Stripes had been on hiatus since '07 their final live performance occurred in '09 when they appeared on the final episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
1999 The White Stripes
2000 De Stijl
2001 White Blood Cells
2005 Get Behind Me Satan
2007 Icky Thump
There is a school of thought that feels the White Stripes can do no wrong. And they have managed to pull off some amazing stunts in a long career. But the White Stripes have become two bands. One is a guitar/drums Hard Rock outfit that knows how to get to the hook. The other band is more experimental - often captivating.
Delivering tight, concise, Rock in 2 to 3 minute blasts, is White Stripes' specialty. "White Blood Cells," with the Dylan influenced "Hotel Yorba," and Rocker "Fell In Love With Airl" is easily the group's best. The set also features the tortured "The Union Forever" and "Offend In Every Way."
"Icky Thump" is as eclectic a collection as the White Stripes have ever produced. It is also the most bombastic. The group runs over, under and through Blues, Metal and Garage Rock. There's also some Folk and acoustic pop. But the album's litmus test is "Conquest." This '50s cover sounds like a Tijuana wedding with a Norteno band taking a turn toward Metal. Either listeners find this track is humorously clever or one of the worst songs in the group substantial catalog. If it's the latter, "Icky Thump" is a waste of time. But if "Conquest" strikes the right chord, so will the rest of the album.
As expected, the White Stripes do best with Metal (the title track), Blues ("300 M.P.H. Torrential Blues") and Garage ("Bone Broke" and "Rag And Bone"). "Little Cream Soda" is a Nu Metal headbanger with a riff - apparently one Jack made up in-concert and came across on a Stripes bootleg no less. He decided to use it again. "I'm Slowly Turning Into You" features the Stripes' endearing D.I.Y. approach.
Whether intentional or not, the '60s are invoked on two cuts. The Folk tune "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn," complete with a bagpipe, is a nod to Jack and Meg's Scottish ancestry (the thistle is Scotland's national flower). It could have been a Donovan track. "St. Andrew (The Battle Is In The Air)" sounds like an updated "Revolver" outtake.
With a title like "Get Behind Me Satan" it would be reasonable to expect the CD to deal with moral dilemmas. But that's not the case - at least in any obvious sense. Oh well, it is a catchy title.
The album has some incredible Rockers scattered among quirky offerings. "Blue Orchid" and "Instinct Blues" kick. The former features Jack's sassy vocals and a killer guitar line. The latter comes straight from the Grunge School of Rock. There is also the frantic cool of "My Doorbell ("when you gonna ring it?").
The album audibly and lyrically changes direction with "Little Ghost," which sounds like a Folk sing-a-long that wouldn't be out of place around a campfire. The bopping "The Denial Twist" and "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet") are piano driven and project a cabaret feeling.
"Elephant" opens with riff-Rocker "Seven Nation Army" and the surging "Black Math." They mine the Bacharach and David classic "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" and follow it with the vamping "In The Cold, Cold Night." The campy vibe continues with "I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart" and the acoustic "You've Got Her In Your Pocket." That Jack and Meg pull these songs off is a credit to their talents. More importantly, they come back Rockin' with "The Hardest Button To Button" and "Hypnotize." The CD represents a successful departure from their "White Blood Cells" sound.
White Stripes' self-titled debut with "Stop Breaking Down" and dense Rocker "Jimmy The Explorer" is another strong choice. Overall, "DeStijl," is mellower with a couple acoustic gems, "I'm Bound To Pack It In" and the charming "You're Southern Can Is Mine." It too has a couple notable Rockers in "You're Pretty Good Looking" and "Let's Build A Home."