The White Stripes

The White Stripes are an American minimalist rock duo from Detroit, composed of Jack White on guitar, piano and lead vocals, and Meg White on drums. The group rose to prominence as part of the garage rock revival with the albums White Blood Cells and Elephant, the latter featuring their most commercially successful song "Seven Nation Army" which won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song. The White Stripes are known for their raw low fidelity sound and the simplicity of their compositions and arrangements mostly inspired by punk rock, American blues and country music.

The White Stripes (Megan Martha White, drums, vocals; and Jack White whose original name was John Anthony Gillis, guitar, piano, lead vocals) were formed in Detroit in 1997, specifically Bastille Day (see 1997 in music). While the two bill themselves as brother and sister, a marriage license has proved they are in fact a divorced couple.

They decided to call themselves "The White Stripes" because drummer Meg loves peppermint candies. For several years they were a struggling local band, despite touring with Pavement and Sleater-Kinney. During this time, they released singles on various independent record labels including ITALY Records which released the band's first two singles Let's Shake Hands and Lafayette Blues and Sympathy for the Record Industry, the label that released their first three albums.

Jack has described their eponymous debut album (released in 1999), as "...really angry...the most raw, the most powerful, and the most Detroit-sounding record we've made".

Their second release, De Stijl (2000), was named after the De Stijl Dutch art movement which they cited as a source for the approach to their music and to their image. De Stijl-style art was also used on the album cover.

The White Stripes enjoyed their first significant success during 2001 with the release of their first major label album White Blood Cells (initially released on Sympathy for the Record Industry, the album was re-released on V2 Records in 2002). The stripped-down, garage rock sound drew critical acclaim in the UK, soon spreading to the United States and becoming one of the more hyped bands of 2002. In 2002, Q magazine named The White Stripes as one of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die". The Lego-themed video, directed by Michel Gondry for the single "Fell in Love with a Girl" off White Blood Cells, brought them wider attention.

According to Jack, every album since White Blood Cells is the same in that the first songs have been singles and the last songs have been tongue-in-cheek, inside joke songs between Jack and Meg.

Their follow-up, entitled Elephant, was released on April 1, 2003, again to widespread critical acclaim and even more commercial success. Elephant became The White Stripes' first UK chart-topper and US Top 10 album. On February 8, 2004 the song "Seven Nation Army" won a Grammy for Best Rock Song, and the album Elephant won for Best Alternative Music Album. It was recorded with Liam Watson at Toe Rag Studios, London. "The Hardest Button to Button" proved to be another popular single off of the album, as was the cover of "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself", originally by Burt Bacharach. The release of Elephant continued a formula for White Stripes albums begun with White Blood Cells: the first song is a single, the sleeve contains odd photographs of the band members (dominated by red, black and white) together with a strange essay contributed by Jack, and the last song is moderately tongue-in-cheek. During their "50 Years of Rock and Roll" celebration, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Elephant as the 390th best album of all time.

In 2003, Jack and Meg White appeared in Jim Jarmusch's film, Coffee and Cigarettes in a segment entitled "Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil." Later in August of that year, Rolling Stone Magazine included Jack White on a special cover of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time issue at number 17 between Johnny Ramone and John Frusciante.

Released in 2004, the Under Blackpool Lights was filmed entirely using 16mm film and was directed by Dick Carruthers. Jack White alerted fans to secrets within the film on his site postings, one of which was sure to be the writing on his arm. Recorded over two nights' shows, this writing says NOXIOUS which changes to OBNOXIOUS at certain points when film from a different night is used. The film features a cover of Dolly Parton song's "Jolene".

Jack has also enjoyed some success as a producer, helping launch the careers of fellow Detroit rock bands The Von Bondies, The Soledad Brothers, and Brendan Benson. Jack also produced and contributed to Loretta Lynn's highly acclaimed 2004 album Van Lear Rose. His work on this album won him and Loretta a Grammy award for the track "Portland, Oregon".

On June 1, 2005 Jack and model Karen Elson were married during the band's tour of South America. The ceremony took place aboard a canoe on the Amazon River in a native celebration, where the band's manager Ian Montone was the best man and Meg was the maid of honor. The White Stripes website claimed that "this was the first marriage for both newlyweds", despite documentation showing that Jack and Meg were once married. The couple had their first child, Scarlett Teresa, on Tuesday, May 2, 2006.

A fifth album, Get Behind Me Satan, was released in North America on June 7, 2005 and has garnered critical acclaim. So far three singles have been released from the album, the first being "Blue Orchid", which was a popular song on satellite radio and occasionally FM stations. White's new spouse appears in the video for the song. The second single was "My Doorbell". The third single, "The Denial Twist", featured a video by Michel Gondry which documented, in typically bizarre White Stripes fashion, the band's week-long appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

In 2005 Rolling Stone magazine said: "If you happen to be a rock band, and you don't happen to be either of the White Stripes, it so sucks to be you right now."

The band released a cover version of Tegan and Sara's song "Walking with a Ghost" on iTunes November 14, 2005. The song was later released on December 7th as the Walking With a Ghost EP featuring four other live tracks.

On December 1, 2005, the group appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, performing both "The Denial Twist" and "My Doorbell". The White Stripes are one of the few bands to perform on the show (on an earlier show, the group Tenacious D had performed a song after their interview).

The White Stripes postponed the Japan leg of their world tour after Jack damaged his vocal cords. Doctors recommended that Jack not sing or talk for 2 weeks. Since then he has recovered and played in Auckland, New Zealand for the start of the Big Day Out tour.

At the 2006 Grammy Awards, The White Stripes won in Best Alternative Music Album category for Get Behind Me Satan, and they were nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song "My Doorbell".

The Stripes have been taped to appear in an upcoming episode of "The Simpsons" , scheduled to air sometime this fall. In the episode, titled "Jazzy and the Pussycats," Jack and Meg White find themselves in the middle of a family feud when Homer and Marge buy a drum kit for Bart, who becomes a jazz drummer, much to the dismay of his musically inclined sister, Lisa. In one scene — an homage to the Stripes' clip for "The Hardest Button to Button," Bart bashes his kit in his bedroom, down the street, through the halls of Springfield Elementary and into an intersection, where he meets up with the Detroit duo.

According to a spokesman for FOX, Jack and Meg recorded their lines in New York City on November 30, 2005, shortly before Jack lost his voice and was ordered by doctors not to speak. The episode isn't expected to air until season 18.

A dispute has arisen in March 2006 with British musician Billy Childish whom Jack previously admired—he appeared on Top of the Pops with Childish's name written on his arm. Childish criticised White in the US GQ magazine, "They don't have a good sound ... Jack's half into the sound and music, but then he wants to be a pop star as well, so you've got a big problem." White responded on the Stripes' website, accusing Childish of plagiarism and of being "the bitter garage rocker." Childish wrote an open letter to the NME saying White was jealous because he had "a bigger collection of hats, a better moustache ... and a fully developed sense of humour." The Aquarium Gallery in London brought out a spoof boxing poster advertising Jack "whingy" White v Billy "bitter" Childish. Lawyers acting for the White Stripes removed the poster from eBay and have written to the gallery, claiming the poster violates their intellectual property rights.

During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, "Seven Nation Army" became the unofficial hymn for Italy, the Azzurri. The song was picked up by fans of AS Roma, one of Serie A's best teams. The song was sung to serenade Roma's players on the national team, most notably Francesco Totti. The Italian fans often chanted the song's signature bass riff. A version of the song featuring comments from Italian sports commentater Fabio Caressa enjoyed airplay on italian radios and TV shows. Appropriately, the Italian team actually had to play against seven other nations to get the title (Ghana, USA, Czech Republic, Australia, Ukraine, Germany, and France).

The White Stripes are famous for having only two musicians, which limits the amount of instrumentation on any given song, especially when playing live. Jack, the principal writer, has said this has not been a problem, and that he "always centered the band around the number three. Everything was vocals, guitar and drums or vocals, piano and drums." While Jack is the lead singer, Meg does sing lead vocals on three of the band's songs: "In the Cold, Cold Night" (from Elephant), "Passive Manipulation" (from Get Behind Me Satan), and "Who's a Big Baby?" released on the "Blue Orchid" single.

Jack uses a number of effects to create his sound, notably a Digitech whammy pedal to create reach pitches that would otherwise not be possible with a regular guitar. For instance, without the pedal, "Seven Nation Army" would require a bass and "Black Math" would be very difficult to play without a 29th fret (which does not exist) on the highest string.

The guitars he uses live are two 1964 JB Hutto Montgomery Airlines, a Harmony Rocket, a 1970s Crestwood Astral II, and a 1950s Kay Hollowbody. In concert with the WH-1 whammy pedal, MXR M133 Micro-Amp, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Distortion/Sustainer, and Electro-Harmonix POG (Polyphonic octave generator), White can produce a very distinctive sound. He also uses a Boss TU-2 Tuner Pedal. He plugs this setup into a 1970s Silverfaced Fender Twin Reverb and two 100-Watt Sears Silvertone 6x10 combo amplifiers.

He also plays other instruments such as a black F-Style Gibson Mandolin, Rhodes Bass Keys, and a Steinway piano. Jack plays marimba on "The Nurse" and "Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)".

With the standard tuning for guitar, Jack White uses also several open tunings in many of his songs and also in covers by the band:

* Open D tuning: Let's Build a Home, Sister, Do You Know My Name?

* Open G tuning: Death Letter, Little Bird

* Open E tuning: A Boy's Best Friend, I Fought Piranhas, St. Ides Of March, Stop Breaking Down, Suzy Lee, Let's Build a Home (live), Goin' Back to Memphis (live)

* Open A tuning: Red Rain, Seven Nation Army

White also produces a "fake" bass tone by playing his guitars through his Digitech whammy pedal, dropping the tuning down by one octave for a very thick, low, rumbling sound, which he uses most notably on the songs Seven Nation Army and The Hardest Button to Button.

Jack White is known to use GHS strings for his guitars, but the gauge is unknown. Also, in recent concerts, his main Airline guitar has had tuning problems, usually becoming out of tune during concerts. At one concert, Jack is quoted to have said: "I'm sure the back of your tickets say 'Guitars will be tuned!'. He has also shouted out: "E A D G B E !" mid-concert while tuning his Airline.

Many of the records of the White Stripes have been recorded very quickly. For example, Elephant was recorded in about eight days. Also Get Behind Me Satan was recorded in just two weeks.

For live shows, the duo also no longer prepares set lists for their shows, believing that planning too accurately would ruin the natural feeling of their performances. Jack improvises frequently and often cuts a song short to jump into another. Because of this, no two shows in the same venue are the same and show length time can often run from 70-100 minutes due to spontaneity by Jack.

Jack White composes all the White Stripes' music, with the exception of covers. In an interview, Jack White said that hearing the a cappella song "Grinning in Your Face" by American bluesman Son House "was a transformative moment". The band has covered Son House's songs, including "John The Revelator" and "Death Letter". Through LP and singles, they cover other American blues artists such as Blind Willie McTell ("Lord, Send Me an Angel", "Your Southern Can Is Mine"), Leadbelly ("Boll Weevil"), and Robert Johnson ("Stop Breaking Down"). The White Stripes also did a version of the song "St. James Infirmary Blues," which has no known writer but has been performed by many earlier musicians, including Louis Armstrong and Janis Joplin.

The band also plays many covers of Bob Dylan songs ("One More Cup Of Coffee", "Black Jack Davey", "Isis", "Love Sick", "Outlaw Blues"). Jack White said that Dylan covers are mostly proposed by Meg, who is a huge fan of his music. Jack White also performed with Dylan on March 17th at Detroit's State Theatre.

The Stripes have covered Dolly Parton's "Jolene" (which was released as the b side to the single "Hello Operator" in 2000, and as a live version in the 2004 single "Jolene"), as well as Burt Bacharach's "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself," released as a single in 2003.

Party of Special Things to Do, a single released in 2000, features three covers of songs by Captain Beefheart: "Party Of Special Things To Do", "China Pig", and "Ashtray Heart".

Recently they have covered Canadian indie rock duo Tegan and Sara's "Walking with a Ghost."

The White Stripes are, according to Record Collector Magazine, the most collectable band of modern music. Highly sought after are the band's first two releases on small Detroit label ITALY records. The first pressings of "Let's Shake Hands" and "Lafayette Blues" were issued on red and white wax, respectively, and both were limited to 1000 copies. These singles now fetch up to $100+ on auction website eBay.

Also highly collectable is the Sub Pop singles club 45rpm of Captain Beefheart covers issued on a swirled red and white wax and limited to 1300 copies.

The "holy grail" of collectors is the "Lafayette Blues" first pressing with a hand painted sleeve and a marbled red and white vinyl as opposed to plain white. Only 15 copies exist worldwide, and the sleeves were painted by Jack & ITALY records owner Dave Buick. Jack painted 7 (signified by a 'III' in the corner), Dave painted 7 (signified by a HW over the letter B in the corner), and they collaborated on number 15. These extremely rare records are valued at $1500-$2000 and were only sold at the record release party in Detroit's Gold Dollar back in 1998.

In more recent times, the latest collectable is the Triple Inchophone, a specialised record player which plays reformatted Stripes singles on 3inch records, including the previously unreleased track "Top Special", which was limited to 1000 copies. This was available only at the shows on the 2005/06 Who's a Big Baby? World Tour and was limited to 400 machines.

Interpersonal relationships, especially between men and women, are the main theme of the lyrics of the White Stripes songs. Jack White does not, as a rule, write about politics. However, "The Big Three Killed My Baby", could be considered as a political song because the lyrics are an attack on the automotive industry's poor workmanship and the fall of the major labor unions of the 1960s to 1980s. Also, in an altered version of the song played on stage, Jack sings: "and Bush's hands are turning red…and I found out your baby is dead."The song "The Union Forever" features, almost exclusively, lines from the Orson Welles film Citizen Kane.

Many of The White Stripes songs refers to school and childhood ("Sister, Do You Know My Name?", "We're Going to Be Friends", "I Think I Smell a Rat", "Black Math", "The Hardest Button to Button").

Jack White will sometimes make references to an unknown "Suzy Lee" in such songs as "Suzy Lee","We're Going to Be Friends", and the cover of "Good To Me", written by Brendan Benson.There has been speculation she is a relative of White's because the album Get Behind Me Satan is dedicated to her.

Curiously, all five studio albums feature songs with titles starting with the word 'little'. In order of album release, there is "Little People", "Little Bird", "Little Room", "Little Acorns" and most recently, "Little Ghost". Furthermore, on the intro to the song "Let's Build a Home", on the "De Stijl" album, there is a recording of a song called "Little Red Box". This convention may be linked with appreciation of earlier American Blues songs, such as "Little Red Rooster".

The band's signature colors - red, white and black are, according to Jack, "the most powerful color combination of all time, from a Coca-Cola can to a Nazi banner." Those colors are also found in the duo's distinctive wardrobe and album artwork, although it is somewhat unclear why they were chosen. In some interviews, the group has said that the colors red and white refer to peppermint candy, a symbol of childhood innocence. Jack has also mentioned that the colors are the same ones used in baby toys because they are easily visible to infants, who are slightly colorblind at birth. Interestingly, before forming the band, Jack had also created a three-color scheme for an upholstery business he started in his early twenties. All of his tools, his van, and his uniform used the colors white, black, and yellow.

Jack has emphasized the significance the number three holds for the band, citing it as inspiration not only for their tri-colored uniforms, but their pared-down approach to what he considers the three elements of song: storytelling, melody and rhythm. The number three also frequently appears in White Stripes' album artwork, and texts written by Jack, such as liner notes or messages written on the band's website, are often signed with "Jack White III" or simply "III." There are also only three sounds: drums, guitar, and vocals in most of their songs; sometimes keyboard or piano is substituted for guitar. Jack has also been rumored to have built three Megbots: a full size Megbot for performances, and two miniature Megbots featured in the Get Behind Me Satan album art. The two miniatures were supposedly built only because of Jack's #3 fetish.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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