Happy M*therfucking Holidays: A White Stripes Anthology Collection is Released This Week
Jack White has been such a media presence for so many years, his nimble fingers in multiple pies, from forming and playing in The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, to opening the now exalted record label and shop Third Man, to marrying model Karen Elson (they are no longer together), having really cool children, to making a film with Jimmy Page and The Edge, all in addition to maintaining a formidable solo career…that it can take a minute to remember where it all began for him. Indeed, one has to go back over 23 years to get to the time when White (nee Gillis) and partner Meg debuted a raucous punk-blues duo they called The White Stripes.
The band that was to become White’s launching pad on his way to millions of sales and 12 Grammy awards had its humble beginnings in Detroit coffee shops and record stores when he was still in high school. He met and married Meg White in ’96, in appropriately idiosyncratic fashion taking her last name, and when, on a lark, she started playing his drum set, The White Stripes were born.
The band were hugely successful throughout the early aughts, their six albums selling a collective six million units in the US alone, and spawning such hits as ‘Seven Nation Army,’ ‘Icky Thump,’ ‘Fell in Love with a Girl’ and so many others. Their shows were freeform, feedback drenched extravaganzas; how two people could make that much noise was astounding. Yet, as with everyone except The Rolling Stones (and U2 and The Cure), the duo eventually packed it in, rock stardom and constant touring having run its course for Meg, and Jack continuing his upward trajectory; it’s been over a decade since they’ve played together.
It was particularly exciting then, to hear that a best-of collection is on the way. Indeed, The White Stripes Greatest Hits, a first ever anthology of 26 essential tracks, arrives in stores December 4 via Third Man/Columbia. White is known for promoting such old school elements of the music biz as specialty vinyl packages and honest to god record stores, and as such has created an array of added value items with associations to each of the songs on the album, from buttons (‘Hardest Button to Button’) to bells (‘My Doorbell’) which will be available with purchase at select indie outlets. There’s also a raffle for the vinyl test pressing, admirably prompting fans to shop locally.
The late ’90s / early 2000s were a great time for guitar rock, with The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, and certainly Jack and Meg providing the soundtrack for a thrilling new wave of guts ‘n’ glory bands. It’s something which, alas, has depressingly dissipated over the ensuing decade (replaced by computer generated aural wallpaper).
“While folding copies of the White Stripes’ ‘Let’s Shake Hands’ single on a dog-hair-covered floor in Detroit back in 1998,” recalls Motor City music legend and Third Man co-founder Ben Blackwell, “I never imagined that I would have a reason to professionally speak about the record over twenty years later. But here we are, still making records and still talking about The White Stripes. As a band that has only ever put out great albums, it has always been a challenge to recommend a starting point to a White Stripes neophyte. But now, that task has become easier to tackle.”
Of course, dropping the needle on any of these tracks will remind you exactly what’s missing from pop music these days…and might just inspire you to help get it back.
Or as Blackwell so pithily puts it…”Enjoy!”