When the White Stripes split back in 2011, the news was received by some like the death of a beloved relative with anger management issues, and with good reason. Alongside The Strokes, they were the defibrillator to the flat-lining corpse of rock’n’roll at the start of the century, reanimating the hoary spectre of the blues with a modern garage punk brio and, on Jack’s part at least, a virtuosity that made the likes of Matt Bellamy and Bernard Butler look like chimps trained to bang their guitar necks with a brick. They did that rare and magical thing: taking the classic ore materials of rock music and making them sound utterly fresh and original.
Because of The White Stripes, Job Centres across the globe were rammed with bassists for a decade, bluesy howling became a legitimate form of self-expression for the first time since 1974, Led Zeppelin made a comeback mint and the world was graced with ‘Gay Bar’. But like Jack’n’Meg said in their farewell accord, The White Stripes is now ours to do with what we will, so let’s take this chance to celebrate the solid gold classics they’ve given us since unveiling their candy cream blues rock way back in ’97. Here’s my thoroughly subjective take on their ‘best bits’, your own lists most welcome…
1. Fell In Love With A Girl
The most fiery 1:50 of priapic garage rock of the age, and one of the wittiest too: “These two sides of my brain need to have a meeting”…
2. Seven Nation Army
The barn-storming crowd-pleaser widely regarded as one of the best singles of the century so far, even though perhaps the best ever live rendition was this writer’s karaoke performance of it to a 5000-capacity tent at Reading the year the Stripes pulled out.
3. You’re Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl)
One of the first tracks to filter through to the UK on The White Stripes’ emergence in 2000, and still Jack’s finest pure pop moment, and that includes ‘Danger! High Voltage!’
4. You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)
The Stripes’ big country rock classic and the highlight of ‘Icky Thump’ thanks to one of the most memorable guitar licks ever and Jack finally giving in to his inner Eagles.
5. Hotel Yorba
The bouncy hoe-down that turned every Stripes gig into a straw-flinging, swing-yer-pardner riot for two minutes.
6. The Hardest Button To Button
The song that launched a million ‘secret bassist’ rumours, and a video that lived out every busker’s biggest fantasy.
7. My Doorbell
Where Jack rocked a Steinway as deliciously as he did any Gibson, presumably killing time until this mate of his turned up.
Twisting Dolly Parton’s jaunty swinger into a harrowing, desperate howl of pure heartbreak was a nifty trick for The White Stripes to pull, and suited the song’s tale of a wicked, husband-pilfering seductress to a tee.
9. We’re Going To Be Friends
Proof that Jack was as much a master of the downbeat foot-tapper as the squealing blues ‘shred’.
10. There’s No Home For You Here
Proof that it is possible for two people in a room to sound like a choir of prog demons from 1968.