The White Stripes was an American alternative rock band, formed in 1997 in Detroit, Michigan. The group consisted of the songwriter Jack White (vocals, guitar, and keyboards) and drummer Meg White (drums and occasional vocals). Jack and Meg White were previously married to each other, but are now divorced. After releasing several singles and three albums within the Detroit music scene, the White Stripes rose to prominence in 2002, as part of the garage rock revival scene. Their successful and critically acclaimed albums White Blood Cells and Elephant drew them attention from a large variety of media outlets in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The White Stripes used a low-fidelity, do-it-yourself approach to writing and recording. Their music featured a melding of punk rock and blues influences and a raw simplicity of composition, arrangement, and performance. The duo was also noted for their fashion and design aesthetic which featured a simple color scheme of red, white, and black as well as the band’s obsession with the number three. After a long hiatus, The White Stripes formally announced their professional split on February 2, 2011.
Jack White first played as a professional musician in the early 1990s, as a drummer for the Detroit cowpunk band Goober & the Peas. This led to work with various other bands, such as the garage punk band The Go (on their 1999 album Whatcha Doin’), for whom White played lead guitar, and Two-Star Tabernacle. Â Also, neighbor Brian Muldoon (later of The Muldoons) played drums with Jack White – still known then as Jack Gillis-and the duo informally called themselves Two Part Resin. Â Their post-breakup 7-inch single Makers of High Grade Suites, released in 2000 on Sympathy for the Record Industry, is credited to The Upholsterers.
Gillis married local bartender Megan Martha White on September 21, 1996.Â In unorthodox fashion, he took Meg White’s surname. While the newly-christened Jack White continued to play in multiple bands, Meg White first began to learn to play the drums in 1997. In Jack White’s words, “When she started to play drums with me, just on a lark, it felt liberating and refreshing. There was something in it that opened me up”.Â The duo then became a band, calling themselves The White Stripes. They first performed publicly on July 14, 1997 at the Gold Dollar in Detroit.
The White Stripes began their career as part of the Michigan underground garage rock scene, playing with local bands such as Bantam Rooster, The Dirtbombs, The Paybacks, and Rocket 455. The White Stripes were signed to Italy Records, a small and independent Detroit-based garage punk label, in 1998 by Dave Buick.Â Buick approached them at a bar and asked if they would like to record a single for the label. Jack White initially declined, but eventually reconsidered.Â Their debut single “Let’s Shake Hands” was released in February 1998.Â Its first pressing was 1,000 copies on vinyl only. This was followed in October 1998 by the “Lafayette Blues” single. Again, 1,000 copies were released on vinyl only.Â A third single, “The Big Three Killed My Baby” on Sympathy for the Record Industry followed in March 1999.
During the early phase of their career, Jack and Meg White provided various descriptions of their relationship. In many early interviews, Jack claimed that he and Meg were siblings; this claim was widely believed and repeated despite rumors that they were, or had been, husband and wife.In 2001, proof of their 1996 marriage emerged,Â yet they continued to insist publicly that they were brother and sister. The couple were divorced in March 2000 just before the band gained widespread attention. In a 2005 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Jack White claimed that this open secret was intended to keep the focus on the music rather than the couple’s relationship:
“When you see a band that is two pieces, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, you think, ‘Oh, I see…’ When they’re brother and sister, you go, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’ You care more about the music, not the relationship-whether they’re trying to save their relationship by being in a band.”
Seven Nation Army
“Seven Nation Army” is the first track on the album Elephant.
The song won 2004’s Grammy Award for Best Rock Song. The song is known for its underlying riff, which plays throughout most of the song. Although it sounds like a bass guitar (an instrument the group had never previously used), the sound is actually created by running Jack White’s semi-acoustic guitar (a 1950s style Kay Hollowbody) through a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave. The riff was composed at a sound check before a show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, according to the set notes in the booklet which accompanied the Under Blackpool Lights DVD. This riff was inspired by the main theme of Anton Bruckner’s Fifth symphony. According to White, “Seven Nation Army” is what he used to call the Salvation Army as a child.
I’m gonna fight ‘em all
A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back
They’re gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back
And I’m talking to myself at night
Because I can’t forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette
And the message coming from my eyes
Says leave it alone
Don’t want to hear about it
Every single one’s got a story to tell
Everyone knows about it
From the Queen of England to the hounds of hell
And if I catch it coming back my way
I’m gonna serve it to you
And that aint what you want to hear
But thats what I’ll do
And the feeling coming from my bones
Says find a home
I’m going to Wichita
Far from this opera for evermore
I’m gonna work the straw
Make the sweat drip out of every pore
And I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding
Right before the lord
All the words are gonna bleed from me
And I will sing no more
And the stains coming from my blood
Tell me go back home
- Audio from the 2003 album, Elephant: