The History of the White Stripes

On February 2, 2011, after 6 studio albums, 26 singles, 1 live album, and excessive touring, the biggest blues rock duo around announced that they would officially cease recording and performing music as The White Stripes.

The announcement specifically denied any artistic differences or health issues, simply saying they split for “a myriad of reasons … mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band”.

It is truly a sad, sad day for modern rock music, as I know they influenced many of the great rock bands we see emerging today.

I take a detailed look at their past, their six studio albums, how they changed the face of modern blues rock music for ever, and how Jack and Meg White brought riff heavy, pounding rock back to the UK.

The White Stripes (1999) –

The White Stripes’ debut album “The White Stripes” was released in 1999 on the independent label Sympathy for the Record Industry.

Produced by a young Jack White, the self-titled debut was recorded and developed at Ghetto Recorders studio in Detroit and was the raw beginning for the now Grammy award winning duo.

The album was unofficially dedicated to well known Mississippi blues musician, Son House, an artist who Jack White has admitted to being one of his biggest musical influences and his influence is bursting out of every second of this exceptional take on hard blues.

One of my top 5 debut albums of all time.

De Stijl (2000) –

The White Stripes’ second album “De Stijl” which, when translated, is the Dutch for “The Style”, is exploding with just that. It’s intense, original, raw, crunchy, uncompromising stylish blues rock, and stays true to the sound of their debut.

Released on the same label as their debut, Sympathy for the Record Industry, in the summer of 2000, “De Stijl”, along with “The White Stripes” is now considered to be a cult classic among the modern day blues rock fan, which is an astounding feat considering the whole thing was self-recorded on Jack’s 8-track analog tape in his own living room.

Equally as good as their first, no question.

White Blood Cells (2001) –

“White Blood Cells” was the third album to be released by the blues rock duo and was originally released in the summer 2001, again on Sympathy for the Record Industry.

However, despite gathering plenty of underground acclaim, this was the first time the band enjoyed its first significant mainstream success and “White Blood Cells” was re-released on major label V2 Records the following year.

Jack and Meg White had again decided to stick to their roots by creating a rough, ragged and sharp around the edges piece of musical genius, something for which they gained huge praise, making The White Stripes one of the most critically acclaimed bands of recent years.

Their fame in the UK was instantaneous, British paper The Daily Mirror called them “the greatest band since The Sex Pistols” and in 2002 British magazine Q listed The White Stripes as one of “50 Bands to See before You Die”.

“White Blood Cells” then proceeded to grant us such classic singles such as “Hotel Yorba” and “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” which became the backbone to The White Stripes forever growing, powerful live set list.

Elephant (2003) –

Marking the bands first major label release “Elephant” is often described as “the best White Stripes album of them all” and showed the world that they were only just getting started, and were still unwilling to compromise their raw, heavy blues style.

The album was their first UK chart-topper, as well as their first US Top 10 album, an enormous feat for any act.

The album then proceeded to reach double platinum in Britain, and platinum in the United States, showing The White Stripes had finally, and thankfully, hit the masses.

American magazine Rolling Stone gave the album a coveted 5 out of 5 star rating, and has since then they named Jack White as number 17 on their list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

In 2004 “Elephant” won a coveted Grammy Award for “Best Alternative Rock Album” and in late 2009, British indie magazine NME named “Elephant” as number 18 in the “100 Greatest Albums of the Decade”.

The album’s first single, “Seven Nation Army” has been the band’s most successful single yet and lead the White Stripes to another Grammy success in 2004, winning them “Best Rock Song”

Its success was then followed by a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” which is considered to be one of the best blues covers out there.

It was full steam ahead for The White Stripes at this point.

Get Behind Me Satan (2005) –

Again released on V2 Records, “Get Behind Me Satan” was recorded in Jack White’s then-Detroit home and shows The White Stipes taking a slightly more softer approach to their usually unforgiving and intense blues rock, with Jack White taking a more rhythmic approach to this album, replacing his electric guitar for an acoustic on the majority of the tracks, straying away from his normally riff heavy playing style.

Despite playing down their usual hard rock nature, they once again gained heavy critical acclaim with Rolling Stone ranking it as the third best album of the year, and again, winning them the Grammy for “Best Alternative Music Album” in 2006.

“Blue Orchid” and “My Doorbell” are seen as the two most recognizable singles taken from the album, both getting a large amount of radio air time and charting high both in the UK and US. They are also known as two of the best White Stripes singles behind the classic “Seven Nation Army”.

Icky Thump (2007) –

The White Stripes’ sixth album, Icky Thump, was released in 2007 on Warner Bros. Records, since V2 closed in 2006, and it was released on a one-album contract, something that neither The White Stripes themselves, or the record label knew, would be all they needed.

It entered the UK Albums Chart at number one and by late July had reached gold status in the United States, and led The White Stripes to do something no other rock band had done before. On February 10, 2008, almost two years to the day of their split, the album won them a Grammy for “Best Alternative Music Album”, the third year running for the rock duo.

Following the smoother, rhythmic feel to “Get Behind Me Satan”, “Icky Thump” showed the return to their punk rock and blues influences for which the band became known.

Recorded at Nashville’s Blackbird Studio it took a mere three weeks to record,  with most bands taking months to record an album.

Astonishingly however, this was the longest recording process of any White Stripes album to date, Jack and Meg refuse to sit around and do nothing.

Unfortunately however, it was all downhill for the previously married couple, and despite releasing such a sensational, crowd pleasing sixth studio album, they then unintentionally broke the hearts of thousands, as, in September 2007, they announced the cancellation of 18 tour dates due to Meg’s suffering from acute anxiety problems,

Following this, the duo cancelled the remainder of their 2007 tour dates including their scheduled tour of the UK, which would have been the last ever chance for any British fans to witness the magical live sound of The White Stripes.

And from then on, that was it, The White Stripes wouldn’t perform on British soil ever again, and their highly anticipated follow up to “Icky Thump” would never hit the shelves, leaving fans, musicians, and I’m sure The White Stripes moarning.

I’m still not sure that I’m over the death of this majestic blues rock duo, and my fingers will always be crossed, and I shall forever be hopeful, that one day, The White Stripes will once again play together.

Until then, The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs will have to do, but it will never be the same.


About MetMusic
Journalism students at Leeds metropolitan university

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