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The White Stripes formed on Bastille Day in 1997, aiming to create simple, vigorous rock & roll with little more than Meg White's percussion and Jack White's guitar-and-vocal attack. Meg's drumming was deliberate and straightforward, while Jack's formidable guitar skills paid homage to garage rock, blues, and punk. A former drummer for the Detroit-based country outfit Goober & the Peas, he also displayed an affinity for American folk music, and the White Stripes took strength in the varied interests of its two members. Moreover, the group bolstered its sound with a controversial backstory (although the bandmates claimed to be siblings, they were actually a married couple until 2000) and a unique color scheme, which saw their clothing and cover art adhering to a red-and-white peppermint candy motif.
Although the band emerged from Detroit's burgeoning rock scene, the White Stripes quickly gained a national following after touring alongside Pavement and Sleater-Kinney. Such performances helped support the duo's self-titled debut album, released in 1999 and dedicated to blues icon Son House. A sophomore effort followed closely behind, as the self-recorded De Stijl appeared in June 2000. However, it was the band's third release -- 2001's White Blood Cells -- that established the White Stripes as forerunners of the garage rock revival. Recorded in Memphis by renowned producer Doug Easley, White Blood Cells was a critical smash, launching the band into the same circle as the Strokes and the Hives. The White Stripes appeared on Late Night with David Lettterman and the MTV Movie Awards program; meanwhile, their music was profiled in such publications as Time, The New Yorker, and Entertainment Weekly.
Faced with a swell in popularity, the musicians made the tough decision to jump to a major label. White Blood Cells was accordingly reissued by V2 Records in January 2002, and the previous two records followed suit in June. The White Stripes' profile continued to build as the music video for "Fell in Love with a Girl" -- a clever piece of Lego-animation directed by Michel Gondry -- was nominated for four MTV Video Awards, including Breakthrough Video, Best Special Effects in a Video, and Best Video of the Year, the latter of which pitted the band against the likes of Eminem and *NSYNC. While many garage rock revivalists struggled to maintain popularity as the decade progressed, the White Stripes proved to be an enduring presence, with 2003's Elephant receiving unanimous critical acclaim (and platinum sales in several countries) upon its release.
The White Stripes returned in 2005 with Get Behind Me Satan, a dizzyingly diverse album that spanned disco-metal and light, marimba-driven pop. In keeping with the band's feverish pace, the album had been written and recorded in two weeks that spring. The Stripes supported its release with a tour, during which they covered Tegan and Sara's "Walking with a Ghost" and released the song as a single at the end of 2005. That same year, Jack White and his new wife, model/singer Karen Elson, moved to Nashville, TN. White also formed the Raconteurs with Brendan Benson and the Greenhornes' Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, and spent much of 2006 touring in support of the group's debut album, Broken Boy Soldiers.
Jack White continued to juggle his responsibilities as he performed with several bands, produced albums for other artists, and made forays into cinema. The White Stripes remained a vital commercial and critical presence, however, and the Grammy-winning Icky Thump appeared in 2007. Recorded in three weeks at Nashville's Blackbird Studio, the album included the first-ever Stripes songs with bagpipes and mariachi horns. After issuing another album with the Raconteurs, Jack White added yet another band to his plate as he joined the Dead Weather, a female-fronted group that released its debut album in 2009. That same year, he also appeared in the guitar-themed movie It Might Get Loud, and produced an album for Elson. That year also saw the theatrical release of Under Great White Northern Lights, the White Stripes' first concert film. Directed by Emmett Malloy, the film documented the band's 2007 Canadian tour and premiered at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival. The DVD of the film and a companion album of the same name were issued in 2010.
Wikipedia:For the album, see The White Stripes (album).
The White Stripes was an American rock duo, formed in 1997 in Detroit, Michigan. The group consisted of Jack White (songwriter, vocals, guitar, bass and keyboards) and Meg White (drums and occasional vocals), who were married from 1996 to 2000. 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 attention from a large variety of media outlets in the United States and the United Kingdom, with the single "Seven Nation Army" and its now-iconic guitar line becoming a huge hit. The band recorded two more albums, Get Behind Me Satan in 2005 and Icky Thump in 2007, and dissolved in 2011 after a lengthy hiatus from performing and recording.
The White Stripes used a low-fidelity approach to writing and recording. Their music featured a melding of garage 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 – which was used on every album and single cover the band released – as well as the band's obsession with the number three. The band's discography consists of six studio albums, one live album, two extended plays (EP), one concert film, one tour documentary, twenty-six singles, and fourteen music videos. Their last three albums each won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.Leahey, Andrew. "The White Stripes". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-12-31. Kaufman, Gil (May 26, 2009). "White Stripes Drummer Meg White Marries In Jack White's Backyard". MTV News. Retrieved March 25, 2010. "White Stripes Marriage License". "Announcement of Split". thirdmanrecords.com. February 2, 2011. Archived from the original on December 22, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2011. "Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Music Performance". RockontheNet. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
ContentsHistory1.1 Early history1.2 The White Stripes (1999)1.3 De Stijl (2000)1.4 White Blood Cells (2001)1.5 Elephant (2003)1.6 Get Behind Me Satan (2005)1.7 Icky Thump (2007)1.8 Later work and breakup (2008–2011)
Jack Gillis, as he was then known, 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. Also, neighbor Brian Muldoon (later of The Muldoons) played drums with and the duo informally called themselves Two Part Resin. 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 also played with The Hentchmen.
Gillis married local bartender Megan Martha White on September 21, 1996. 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." The duo then became a band, calling themselves The White Stripes. They first performed publicly on August 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 was signed to Italy Records, a small and independent Detroit-based garage punk label, in 1998 by Dave Buick. 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. Their debut single "Let's Shake Hands" was released in February 1998. 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. 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, 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."
The White Stripes (1999)Main article: The White Stripes (album)
The White Stripes' debut album, The White Stripes, was released on June 15, 1999 on the independent label Sympathy for the Record Industry.
The self-titled debut was produced by Jack White and engineered by Jim Diamond at his Ghetto Recorders studio in Detroit. The album was dedicated to the seminal Mississippi Delta blues musician, Son House—an artist who greatly influenced Jack White. The track "Cannon" from The White Stripes contains part of an a cappella version, as performed by House, of the traditional American gospel blues song "John the Revelator". The White Stripes also covered House's song "Death Letter" on their follow-up album De Stijl.
Looking back on their debut during a 2003 interview with Guitar Player, Jack White said, "I still feel we've never topped our first album. It's the most raw, the most powerful, and the most Detroit-sounding record we've made."
Allmusic said of the album:
Jack White's voice is a singular, evocative combination of punk, metal, blues, and backwoods while his guitar work is grand and banging with just enough lyrical touches of slide and subtle solo work... Meg White balances out the fretwork and the fretting with methodical, spare, and booming cymbal, bass drum, and snare... All D.I.Y. punk-country-blues-metal singer/songwriting duos should sound this good.
At the end of 1999, The White Stripes released "Hand Springs" as a 7" split single with fellow Detroit band The Dirtbombs on the B-side. 2,000 copies came free with the pinball fanzine Multiball. The record is currently—like the majority of vinyl records by The White Stripes—out of print and difficult to find.
De Stijl (2000)Main article: De Stijl
The White Stripes' second album, De Stijl (Dutch for "The Style"), was released on the Sympathy for the Record Industry label on June 20, 2000. Considered a cult classic and self-recorded on an 8-track analog tape in Jack White's living room, De Stijl displays the simplicity of the band's blues and "scuzzy garage rock" fusion prior to their breakthrough success.
The album title derives from the Dutch art movement of the same name; common elements of the De Stijl aesthetic are demonstrated on the album cover, which sets the band members against an abstract background of rectangles and lines in red, black and white. The White Stripes have cited the minimalist and deconstructionist aspects of De Stijl design as a source of inspiration for their own musical image and presentation. The album was dedicated to furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld of the De Stijl movement, as well as to the influential Georgia bluesman Blind Willie McTell.
Party of Special Things to Do was released as a 7" on Sub-Pop in December 2000. It comprised three songs originally performed by Captain Beefheart, an experimental blues rock musician.
De Stijl eventually reached No. 38 on Billboard Magazine's Independent Albums chart in 2002 when The White Stripes' popularity began establishing itself. One New York Times critic at the time said that the Stripes typified "what many hip rock fans consider real music."
The song "Why Can't You Be Nicer To Me" was also used in The Simpsons episode "Judge Me Tender."
White Blood Cells (2001)Main article: White Blood Cells
The White Stripes' third album, White Blood Cells, was released on July 3, 2001 on Sympathy for the Record Industry. The band enjoyed its first significant success the following year with the major label re-release of the album on V2 Records. Its stripped-down garage rock sound drew critical acclaim in the UK, and in the US soon afterward, making The White Stripes one of the most acclaimed bands of 2002.
Several outlets praised their "back to basics" approach, with Daily Mirror calling them "the greatest band since The Sex Pistols." In 2002, magazine listed The White Stripes as one of "50 Bands to See Before You Die". After their first appearance on network TV (a live set on The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn) Joe Hagan of the New York Times declared that "they have made rock rock again by returning to its origins as a simple, primitive sound full of unfettered zeal." White Blood Cells peaked at number 61 on the Billboard 200, reaching Gold record status and selling over 500,000 albums. It reached number 55 in the United Kingdom, being bolstered in both territories by the "Fell in Love with a Girl" single and its Lego-animation music video directed by Michel Gondry. The video won three awards at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards: Breakthrough Video, Best Special Effects, and Best Editing. It was also nominated for Video of the Year, but fell short of winning, although Stylus magazine later rated White Blood Cells as the fourteenth greatest album of 2000–2005, while Pitchfork Media ranked it eighth on their list of the top 100 albums from 2000–2004.
Elephant (2003)Main article: Elephant
The White Stripes' fourth album, Elephant, was released in 2003 on V2. It marked the band's major label debut and was their first UK chart-topping album, as well as their first US Top 10 album. The album eventually reached double platinum certification in Britain, and platinum certification in the United States.
Elephant was recorded in 2002 over the span of two weeks with British recording engineer Liam Watson at his Toe Rag Studios in London. Jack White self-produced the album with antiquated equipment, including a duct-taped 8-track tape machine and pre-1960s recording gear.
Elephant garnered much critical acclaim upon its release. It received a perfect 5 out of 5 star rating from Rolling Stone magazine, and enjoys a near-unanimous 92% positive rating on Metacritic. Despite the band's increased fame, Allmusic believed the album "sounds even more pissed-off, paranoid, and stunning than its predecessor... Darker and more difficult than White Blood Cells." Elephant was additionally notable for premiering Jack White's first formal use of guitar soloing, and Rolling Stone Magazine placed him at No. 17 on its list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". That same year, Elephant was ranked number 390 on the magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2009, the album came in at No. 18 in NME's "Top 100 Greatest Albums of the decade".
The album's first single, "Seven Nation Army", was the band's most successful. Its success was followed with a cover of Burt Bacharach's "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself". The album's third single was the successful "The Hardest Button to Button". "There's No Home for You Here" was the fourth single. In 2004, the album won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, while "Seven Nation Army" won a Grammy for Best Rock Song.
Get Behind Me Satan (2005)Main article: Get Behind Me Satan
The White Stripes' fifth album, Get Behind Me Satan, was released in 2005 on V2. The title, Get Behind Me Satan, refers to a well-known quotation of Jesus from the Gospel against the disciple Simon Peter, in Matthew 16:23 of the New Testament (in the King James Version, the quotation is slightly different: "Get thee behind me, Satan").
Get Behind Me Satan was recorded in Jack White's then-Detroit home. It has garnered positive reactions from fans, as well as critical acclaim. With its reliance on piano-driven melodies and experimentation with marimba on "The Nurse" and "Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)", Get Behind Me Satan downplayed the explicit blues and punk styles that dominated earlier White Stripes albums. However, despite this, Jack and Meg White were critically lauded for their "fresh, arty reinterpretations of their classic inspirations." Jack White plays with different technique than in past albums, trading in his electric guitar for an acoustic on all but a few of tracks, as his trademark riff-based lead guitar style is overtaken by a predominantly rhythmic approach. Rolling Stone ranked it the third best album of the year and it received the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2006.
Three singles were released from the album, the first being "Blue Orchid", a popular song on satellite radio and some FM stations. The second and third singles were "My Doorbell" and "The Denial Twist", respectively, and music videos were made for each of the three singles. "My Doorbell" was also nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Jack White married British model Karen Elson, whom he had met on the set of the "Blue Orchid" music video, on June 1, 2005. The White Stripes released a cover version of Tegan and Sara's song "Walking with a Ghost" on iTunes in November 2005. The song was later released in December as the Walking with a Ghost EP featuring four other live tracks.
The White Stripes postponed the Japanese leg of their world tour after Jack White strained his vocal cords, with doctors recommending that Jack not sing or talk for two weeks. After a full recovery, he returned to the stage in Auckland, New Zealand to headline the Big Day Out tour. Jack subsequently relocated to Nashville, Tennessee with Elson.
In October 2006, it was announced on the official White Stripes website that there would be an album of avant-garde orchestral recordings consisting of past music written by Jack White called Aluminium. The album was made available for pre-order on November 6, 2006 to great demand from the band's fans; the LP version of the project sold out in a little under a day. The project was conceived by Richard Russell, founder of XL Recordings, who co-produced the album with Joby Talbot. It was recorded between August 2005 and February 2006 at Intimate Studios in Wapping, London using an orchestra. Before the album went out of print, it was available exclusively through the Aluminium website in a numbered limited edition of 3,333 CDs with 999 LPs.
On January 12, 2007, it was announced that in the process of reconstruction, V2 Records would no longer release new White Stripes material, leaving the band without a label. However, the band's contract with V2 had already expired, and on February 12, 2007, it was confirmed that the band had signed a single album deal with Warner Bros. Records.
Icky Thump (2007)Main article: Icky Thump
The White Stripes' sixth album, Icky Thump, was released in 2007 on Warner Bros. Records. This was their first record with Warner Bros., since V2 closed in 2006, and it was released on a one-album contract. Icky Thump entered the UK Albums Chart at number one and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 with 223,000 copies sold. By late July, Icky Thump was certified gold in the United States. As of March 8, 2008, the album has sold 725,125 copies in the US. On February 10, 2008, the album won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.
Following the well-received Get Behind Me Satan, Icky Thump marked a return to the punk, garage rock and blues influences for which the band is known. It was recorded at Nashville's Blackbird Studio and took almost three weeks to record—the longest of any White Stripes album to date. It would also be their first album with a title track. The album's release came on the heels of a series of concerts in Europe and one in North America at Bonnaroo.
Prior to the album's release, three tracks were previewed to NME: "Icky Thump", "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You're Told)" and "Conquest". NME described the tracks as "an experimental, heavy sounding 70s riff," "a strong, melodic love song" and "an unexpected mix of big guitars and a bold horn section," respectively. On the US Billboard Charts dated May 12, 2007, "Icky Thump"—the first single—became the band's first Top 40 single, charting at No. 26, and later charted at No. 2 in the UK charts.
On April 25, 2007, the duo announced that they would embark on a tour of Canada performing in all 10 provinces, plus the Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories. In the words of Jack White: "Having never done a tour of Canada, Meg and I thought it was high time to go whole hog. We want to take this tour to the far reaches of the Canadian landscape. From the ocean to the permafrost. The best way for us to do that is ensure that we perform in every province and territory in the country, from the Yukon to Prince Edward Island. Another special moment of this tour is the show which will occur in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia on July 14, The White Stripes' Tenth Anniversary." Canadian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac opened for the band at the Glace Bay show; earlier in 2007, MacIsaac and Jack White had discovered that they were distantly related. It was also at this time that White learned he was related to Canadian fiddle player Natalie MacMaster.
On June 24, 2007, just a few hours before their concert at Deer Lake Park, The White Stripes kicked off their cross-Canada tour by playing a 40-minute set for a group of 30 kids at the Creekside Youth Centre in Burnaby. The Canadian tour was also marked by concerts in small markets such as Glace Bay, Whitehorse and Iqaluit, as well as by frequent "secret shows" publicized mainly by posts on The Little Room, a White Stripes fan messageboard. Gigs included performances at a bowling alley in Saskatoon, a youth center in Edmonton, a Winnipeg Transit bus and The Forks park in Winnipeg, a park in Whitehorse, the YMCA in downtown Toronto, the Arva Flour Mill in Arva, Ontario, Locas on Salter (a pool hall) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a famous one-note show on George Street in St. John's, Newfoundland. They played a full show later that night at the Mile One Centre in downtown St. John's. Video clips from several of the secret shows have been posted to YouTube. As well, the band filmed its video for "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You're Told)" in Iqaluit.
On September 11, 2007 the White Stripes 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.
Later work and breakup (2008–2011)
Jack reported that The White Stripes was working on their seventh album. Furthermore, Jack formed a group called The Dead Weather featuring himself, Jack Lawrence, Dean Fertita, and Alison Mosshart, although Jack stated at the time that the White Stripes album was his top priority. Jack published a poem on July 6 in the Detroit Free Press, clearing up misconceptions about his love for his hometown of Detroit due to previous comments about the city's "negative" music scene, and his move to Nashville in 2006. In September 2008, Jack White slipped a disc in his neck, causing him to cancel his scheduled appearance on the MTV Europe Awards in November.
A concert film, Under Great White Northern Lights, was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 18, 2009. The film, directed by Emmett Malloy, documents the band's summer 2007 tour across Canada and contains live concert and off-stage footage. Jack and Meg White appeared at the premiere and made a short speech before the movie started about their love of Canada and why they chose to debut their movie in Toronto. A second feature titled Under Nova Scotian Lights was prepared for the DVD release.
The White Stripes performed live for the first time since September 2007 on the final episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien on February 20, 2009, where they performed an alternate version of "We're Going to Be Friends".
In an interview with Self Titled, Jack White alluded to the creation of a White Stripes film to be released later in 2009. In an article dated May 6, 2009 with MusicRadar.com, Jack mentioned recording songs with Meg before the Conan gig had taken place, saying, "We had recorded a couple of songs at the new studio." About a new White Stripes album, Jack said, "It won't be too far off. Maybe next year." Jack also explained Meg's acute anxiety during the Stripes' last tour, saying, "I just came from a Raconteurs tour and went right into that, so I was already full-speed. Meg had come from a dead-halt for a year and went right back into that madness. Meg is a very shy girl, a very quiet and shy person. To go full-speed from a dead-halt is overwhelming, and we had to take a break."
In 2010, a Super Bowl ad by the U.S. Air Force Reserve caused The White Stripes to "take strong insult and objection to the Air Force Reserve presenting this advertisement with the implication that we licensed one of our songs to encourage recruitment during a war that we do not support". The Air Force Reserve denied the song was The White Stripes and the music was scored by an advertising agency for the commercial.
In an interview with contactmusic.com Jack White claimed that working with The White Stripes would be "strange". "It would definitely be strange to go into The White Stripes again and have to rethink my game," adding "But that would be the best thing about it, because it would be a whole new White Stripes."
In November 2010, the White Stripes contributed a previously-released cover version of the song "Rated X" to the compilation album Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute To Loretta Lynn.
In late 2010, the White Stripes reissued their first three albums on Third Man Records on 180-gram vinyl along with 500 limited edition, "split-colored" records to accompany. Jack White hinted at a possible White Stripes reunion in a 2010 interview with Vanity Fair. White said, “We thought we'd do a lot of things that we'd never done: a full tour of Canada, a documentary, coffee-table book, live album, a boxed set...Now that we've gotten a lot of that out of our system, Meg and I can get back in the studio and start fresh.”
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ContentsMusic1.1 Musical style1.2 Instruments and equipment1.3 Recording sessions and live performances1.4 Ballet production1.5 Aesthetics and presentation
The musical and stylistic elements of The White Stripes are grounded and rooted in blues, garage rock, and early punk .
Specifically, the band's most prominent influences include blues musicians such as Son House, Blind Willie McTell and Robert Johnson, garage rock bands such as The Gories and The Sonics, the Detroit protopunk sound of bands like the MC5 and The Stooges, in addition to groups like The Cramps, The Velvet Underground, and the early Los Angeles punk band The Gun Club. Jack has stated on numerous occasions that the blues is the dominant influence on his songwriting and the roots of the band's music, stating that he feels it is so sacred that playing it does not do it justice. Of The Gun Club's music in particular, Jack White has said, "'Sex Beat', 'She's Like Heroin To Me', and 'For The Love Of Ivy'...why are these songs not taught in schools?" Heavy blues rock bands such as the Rolling Stones and AC/DC have also influenced the band, particularly Led Zeppelin, as Jack has claimed that he "can't trust anybody who doesn't like Led Zeppelin."
Traditional country music such as Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn, rockabilly acts like the Flat Duo Jets, Wanda Jackson and Gene Vincent, the surf rock of Dick Dale, and folk music like Lead Belly and Bob Dylan have also influenced the band's sound. Meg White has said one of her all-time favorite musicians is Bob Dylan; Jack has performed live with him, and has claimed "I've got three fathers—my biological dad, God and Bob Dylan".
In his introduction in the documentary film, It Might Get Loud, Jack White showcases his minimalist style and ingenuity by constructing a rudimentary guitar in a pastoral setting. The "guitar" was built out of a plank of wood, two nails, a glass Coke bottle, a guitar string, and a pickup. He ends the demonstration with the memorable quote, "Who says you need to buy a guitar?"
Instruments and equipmentMain articles: Jack White's musical equipment and Meg White's musical equipment.
The White Stripes are notable for having only two musicians, limiting the instruments played live. Jack, the principal writer, said this was not a problem, and that he "always centered the band around the number three. Everything was vocals, guitar and drums or vocals, piano and drums." Jack's prowess on the guitar and "live-wire" singing drew comparisons among fans and critics to Meg's simplistic and reserved drumming.
Early on, the band drew attention for their preference for antiquated recording equipment. In a 2001 New York Times concert reviews, Ann Powers noted that Jack's "ingenious" playing was "constrained by [Meg's] deliberately undeveloped approach," and that "he created more challenges by playing an acoustic guitar with paper taped over the hole and a less-than-high-quality solid body electric."
With few exceptions, Jack White displayed a continued partiality towards amps and pedals from the 1960s. Jack used a number of effects to create his sound, a DigiTech Whammy IV to reach pitches that would be otherwise impossible with a regular guitar. For instance, without the pedal, "Seven Nation Army" and "The Hardest Button to Button" would require a bass guitar and "Black Math" would be very difficult to play without a 29th fret (which does not exist on most guitars) on the highest string. When performing live, Jack White used a Randy Parsons custom guitar, a 1964 JB Hutto Montgomery Airline, a Harmony Rocket, a 1970s Crestwood Astral II, and a 1950s Kay Hollowbody. Also, while playing live, he used an MXR Micro-Amp, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi distortion/sustainer, and an Electro-Harmonix POG (a polyphonic octave generator). He also used a Boss TU-2 tuner pedal. He plugged this setup into a 1970s Fender Twin Reverb, and two 100-Watt Sears Silvertone 1485 amplifiers paired with two 6x10 Silvertone cabinets. In addition to standard guitar tuning, Jack White also used several open tunings.
White also played other instruments such as a black F-Style Gibson mandolin, Rhodes bass keys, and a Steinway piano. He played a custom-made red and white marimba on "The Nurse", "Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)" as well as on the non-album tracks "Who's A Big Baby" and "Top Special".
Meg White's minimalistic drumming style is a prominent part of the band's sound. Meg has never taken a lesson. She played Ludwig Drums with Paiste cymbals, and says her pre-show warm-up consisted of "whiskey and Red Bull." Jack White downplayed criticisms of her style, insisting:
"I never thought 'God, I wish Neil Peart was in this band.' It's kind of funny: When people critique hip hop, they're scared to open up, for fear of being called racist. But they're not scared to open up on female musicians, out of pure sexism. Meg is the best part of this band. It never would have worked with anybody else, because it would have been too complicated... It was my doorway to playing the blues."
Of her playing style, Meg White herself said:
"I appreciate other kinds of drummers who play differently, but it's not my style or what works for this band. I get [criticism] sometimes, and I go through periods where it really bothers me. But then I think about it, and I realize that this is what is really needed for this band. And I just try to have as much fun with it as possible ... I just know the way [Jack] plays so well at this point that I always know kind of what he's going to do. I can always sense where he's going with things just by the mood he's in or the attitude or how the song is going. Once in a while, he throws me for a loop, but I can usually keep him where I want him."
While Jack was the lead vocalist, Meg did sing lead vocals on four of the band's songs: "In the Cold, Cold Night" (from Elephant), "Passive Manipulation" (from Get Behind Me Satan), "Who's a Big Baby?" (released on the "Blue Orchid" single), and "St. Andrew (This Battle Is in the Air)" (from Icky Thump). She also accompanied Jack on the songs "Your Southern Can Is Mine" from their album De Stijl, "Hotel Yorba" and "This Protector" from their album White Blood Cells, on "You Don't Know What Love Is "(You Just Do as You're Told)" and "Rag & Bone" from their album Icky Thump, "Rated X" and also sang alongside Jack and Holly Golightly on the song "It's True That We Love One Another", from the album Elephant.
Recording sessions and live performances
Several White Stripes recordings were completed rapidly. For example, Elephant was recorded in about two weeks in London's Toe Rag Studio. Their 2005 follow-up, Get Behind Me Satan, was likewise recorded in just two weeks.
For live shows, the White Stripes was known for Jack's employment of heavy distortion, as well as audio feedback and overdrive. The duo performed considerably more recklessly and unstructured live, never preparing set lists for their shows, believing that planning too closely would ruin the spontaneity of their performances.
In 2007, music by the White Stripes was used by the British choreographer Wayne McGregor for his new production Chroma, a piece he created for The Royal Ballet in London, England. The orchestral arrangements for Chroma were commissioned by Richard Russell, head of XL Recordings, as a gift to the White Stripes and were produced by the British classical composer Joby Talbot. Three of these songs, "The Hardest Button To Button", "Aluminium" and "Blue Orchid", were first played to the band as a surprise in Cincinnati Music Hall, Ohio. McGregor heard the orchestral versions and decided to create a ballet using the music. Talbot re-orchestrated the music for the Royal Opera House orchestra, also writing three additional pieces of his own composition. The world premiere of the ballet took place on November 16, 2006 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. The ballet subsequently won the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production.
Aesthetics and presentation
Rolling Stone Magazine: Were red, black and white your favorite colors as a kid?Jack White: After I apprenticed as an upholsterer for a few years, I opened my own shop, Third Man Upholstery. Everything was yellow, black and white. All my power tools were yellow and black. I had a yellow van. I ran my business like a cartoon. I was making out bills in crayon and writing poetry inside people's furniture. I didn't care if I made any money. I was so happy to pull up in front of someone's house wearing a yellow-and-black uniform, with a yellow clipboard. But the White Stripes' colors were always red, white and black. It came from peppermint candy. I also think they are the most powerful color combination of all time, from a Coca-Cola can to a Nazi banner. Those colors strike chords with people. In Japan, they are honorable colors. When you see a bride in a white gown, you immediately see innocence in that. Red is anger and passion. It is also sexual. And black is the absence of all that.
— Rolling Stone Magazine: September 8, 2005.
The White Stripes made exclusive use of a red, white and black color scheme when conducting virtually all professional duties, from album art to the clothes worn during live performances. Other affectations included Jack using two microphones onstage."The White Stripes at Blender.com". MTV. Retrieved June 20, 2008. "White Stripes – Candy Coloured Blues". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 20, 2008. "The White Stripes at MTV.com". MTV. July 18, 2007. Retrieved August 30, 2008. Minnesota Public Radio Obscure 1960s rockers The Monks make comeback (accessed June 8, 2008), October 12, 2006. Robertson, Tom. Owen Adams (July 18, 2007). "Why the White Stripes want to join the Gun Club". London: Guardian Music Blogs. Retrieved August 30, 2008. mirror.co.uk Plume Noir"The White Stripes Concert at Manchester", (accessed June 20, 2008) Thorpe, Greg (April 8, 2003). Stripespedia Meg White entry. Retrieved June 20, 2008. "Jack White joins Bob Dylan onstage" News at NME.com . (Retrieved June 8, 2008) September 24, 2007. Hickman, Christopher (2005). The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan FlakMag.com . Retrieved September 27, 2006. Fricke, David (August 25, 2005). "White on White". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved June 20, 2008. POWERS, ANN (February 27, 2001). "POP REVIEW; Intellectualizing the Music Or Simply Experiencing It". Retrieved August 29, 2014. Cite error: The named reference RSB was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Ratliff, Ben (2003). "Rock Review: Contradictory and Proud of It"The New York Times. Retrieved February 5, 2006. Black Math tablature and notes. Broken Bricks. Retrieved May 8, 2006. DeRogatis, Jim (November 2002). "Drumming for the New Duos". Retrieved June 20, 2008. Cite error: The named reference amg was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Frampton, Scott (July 2007), "Jack & Meg White". Esquire. 148 (1):p118-119 "White Stripes ballet gets debut". news.bbc.co.uk/. November 17, 2006. Retrieved May 29, 2009. Rolling Stone Magazine: September 8, 2005. Accessed 26 July 2011.
Appearances in other media
Jack and Meg White appeared in Jim Jarmusch's film Coffee and Cigarettes in 2003, in a segment entitled "Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil". This particular segment contains extensions of White Stripes motifs such as childhood innocence and Nikola Tesla. In 2004, the band released its first music film Under Blackpool Lights, which was filmed entirely using 16 mm film and was directed by Dick Carruthers.
In 2004, a film titled Nobody Knows How to Talk to Children was produced. Its release was suppressed by the band's management after discovering that director George Roca had been showing it at the Sundance Film Festival without permission. The film chronicles the White Stripes' four-night stand at New York City's Bowery Ballroom in 2002, and contains live performances and behind-the-scenes footage. It was shot in high-contrast black, white and red, and has relatively poor sound quality. It remains a highly prized bootleg. The band also appeared as themselves in The Simpsons episode "Jazzy and the Pussycats" in 2006. Jack White is one of three guitarists featured in the 2009 documentary It Might Get Loud, and Meg White appears in segments that include the White Stripes.Gavin, Baker. "Nobody Knows How To Talk To Children - Full Documentary". glbracer. Retrieved 9 January 2014. "White Stripes' News". whitestripes.com. December 20, 2004. Retrieved August 30, 2008. "Nobody Knows How to Talk to Children (2004)". imdb.com. Retrieved August 30, 2008.