Introducing the Ultimate Music Guide to the White Stripes


An old-fashioned showman, Jack White is a Barnum for the digital age – pitching his tent in a vinyl revival largely of his own making. Perhaps it took the surge of interest in new guitar music around the turn of the millennium to help the world recognize the fact, but this was someone who for several years had approached life, employment (and especially music) with unwavering intensity.

As it presented at that time, White had a bold aesthetic. His colours were red, white and black, and his band had likewise pared things down to a bare minimum: guitar voice and drums. Along with this came a personal mythology (are they siblings or aren’t they?) and self-reference, which shrouded the music of The White Stripes in an attractive uncertainty. You wanted to know more? The less they told you.


Among the delights in the pages which follow are the cat and mouse games which White plays with interviewers from NME and Uncut, as they dutifully, (generally fruitlessly, always entertainingly), try to get to the bottom of his story. The music is occasionally a side attraction in such encounters, so we’ve also dived into White Stripes recordings, reviewing in depth these and every Jack White solo recording since.

As the 2000s have continued, White has evolved his aesthetic to incorporate both fuller bands (The Raconteurs; The Dead Weather) and a wider spectrum of colours (coppers and sepias; latterly blues). There are eccentric fancies of playful originality (a backing band of either all men or all women). There is a record store where employees must dress identically.

Most seriously, though, he counterbalances this Dylanesque playfulness with the drive of an early, nation-building industrialist. Rather than have his reverence for American culture be simply a musical flavor, White has invested heavily in its preservation and means of production.

As driven by his impassioned sense of purpose, White has kept faith with traditional record production in the same way he once kept faith with crafts like taxidermy and upholstery, and in so doing helped turn the analogue studio and the vinyl record from a niche concern into desirable artworks. Which in turn have become more widely-adopted positions across the music world.

As much as he does as an artist, White has great strengths as an influencer and an agent. His Third Man Records produces collectable, aesthetically coherent releases – not least those which mine and repackage early recordings as desirable new releases. In a way that few contemporaries of his have, White ignores the mass market, and grasped the value in creating a specialist product. He doesn’t so much have customers as he does make converts.

Recently his initiatives have put his music in, (where else?) the record books (Lazaretto, the fastest-made single). He’s preserved historic recordings for posterity (his Paramount sets, Third Man’s ethnological albums, his Elvis acetate purchase). He’s put vinyl records in the higher atmosphere – even, with the Icarus Craft, in space. If we once thought the sky was the limit, Jack White is proving that with the right person at the controls, actually, it isn’t at all.


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