The White Stripes :: My Top 10 Favorite Songs
I was living in The White Stripes home of Michigan, frequenting The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor where people would tell tales of them playing, when I first heard their music. My husband, at the time, brought home a copy of White Blood Cells and would not stop raving for days and days. I have to admit that on those early listens I was not a believer, though I have to admit that this could have been part and parcel to the state of our marriage at the time. It is hard to jump on the bandwagon of a partner who you are sparring with in every other way, so I think it fair to say that my initial introduction was unfairly biased.
Even still, those songs stuck with me, whether I wanted them to, or not. By the time Elephant was released my state of mind had changed, and I fell hard for it, and subsequently dug up White Blood Cells, and fell even harder for it. I was baffled at my initial underwhelm and honestly could not get enough of their music. My love for the band, and for Jack’s other ventures, including his solo work, has not wavered since.
The music of The White Stripes has led me to many other musical finds, either directly through Jack White’s side-projects, or through a similar path of sound and style. Some of my current favorite artists/bands came either directly, or indirectly, from my love of The White Stripes (such as Alison Mosshart and The Kills, The Heavy, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ryan Bingham and Brandon Benson).
The White Stripes music has found a solid place in my heart, a place that has expanded and evolved into a desirous love for this post-modern bluesy rock-and-roll that feels a little Midwest, a little dirty South, and a lot amazing. I do hope that Jack and Meg work together again, and that if they do I get the opportunity to see them play live.
In the meantime, while I wait for that to happen, here are my top 10 favorite songs from The White Stripes:
“You make me feel a little older,
like a full grown woman might.
But when you’re gone I grow colder.
Come to me again,
in the cold, cold night.”
The years can take their toll for bad, age something so many of us run from, kicking and screaming and fighting against, but the years can add something good, too, wisdom and finesse, and a delicious kind of confidence. It was not until I had some years behind me that I became bolder with things like want and need and more, and that I stood my ground in relationships of all kinds, with lovers, friends, and even in business. With age comes a sense of self trust, too, that I will forge through, make it through, and that those I choose to hold tight and close are my choosing, and that it is okay to say “come closer still.”
“Meg do you think Jack really loves me?
You know, I don’t care because Jack really bugs me.”
The first time I listened to Elephant, the album, was in a car full of friends on our way to a concert at The Greek (I think it was the Lotta Piano tour with Tori Amos and Ben Folds). When this song came on we replayed it over and over. After stumbling through the LA mountain parking after the show, and half-collapsing into the car, this was the first song we put on, and tired as we were, it acted as an energy jolt, and instantly we were all singing-a-long between discussing where we were off to next.
“Take back what you said little girl,
and while you’re at it,
take yourself back, too.”
This song belongs in my list of songs that get me wanting to go on, in that we just had an ugly fight or a nasty break-up, but I’m already off and getting on with it all. It is one of those songs that I find it near impossible not to want to dance to, and a song that is impossible not to feel better after listening to. Sometimes you have to say “I’m done fighting, if you need me you know where to find me, but until then I am going to turn up the music and dance.”
“If you think that a kiss is all in the lips,
c’mon, you got it all wrong, man.
And, if you think that our dance was all in the hips,
oh well, then do the twist.”
Love advice from Mr. Jack White seems to be to give it your all, every little single part of you, and if that doesn’t work, then just dance. I sort of love that, though I am sure I am adding my own “twist” to the story, to the perception, to the meaning behind the song (but really, it is our own perceptions that matter to our own way of taking anything in). This song makes me want to not just dance, but to love, and love hard and wild and with all of me, all the time (turn it up, don’t you feel it, too?)
“Every breath that is in your lungs,
is a tiny little gift to me.”
Some days my emotions are upside down, topsy-turvy, out of touch with anything rational. Those days it is hard to exist in my reality, especially as I carry with me the defining characteristic as “calm, collected and peacemaker”, though I never said I was any of those things. On days like that, when no one expects my kind of breakdown, I play this song loudly and scream-sing-a-long to it – this one song – it helps release all the out of my head feelings every single time.
“I been thinking,
of a little place down by the lake,
they got a dirty little road leading up to the house,
I wonder how long it will take till we’re alone,
sitting on the front porch of that home,
stomping our feet on the wooden boards,
never gonna worry about locking the door.”
That house in Michigan had a big front porch and on warm evenings we would sit out there, side-by-side, smoking and talking for hours. The bugs were horrible, the close proximity of the lake bringing so many mosquitos our way, but we stayed out there regardless, despite the many bites we would have to show for it. Sometimes he brought his guitar out, strumming it absentmindedly, and singing bits of songs, like the lyrics above, to me, to us, to the night itself.
“We don’t notice any time pass,
we don’t notice anything.
We sit side by side in every class,
teacher thinks that I sound funny,
but she likes the way you sing.”
This song reminds me so much of Big Star’s song Thirteen, so much so that I often put them back-to-back on mixes. I love the simplicity, the childlike naivete, to the lyrics, to the melody, to the chords, and to the sounds. The song also reminds me of one of my childhood best friends, the boy next door, and the times we spent together when the world seemed vast and endless, and we were not interested in things like kissing and love yet, only Star Wars and blanket forts and games of Battleship.
“Can’t keep away from the girl,
these two sides of my brain,
need to have a meeting.
Can’t think of anything to do,
my left brain knows that,
all love is fleeting.”
Love is fleeting, changeable, fickle and fair-weather, yet I have always fallen easily and willingly, with a free falling reckless abandon. And, perhaps reckless is the key, my brain silenced by my heart and hormones, as I careen off the side of lover’s cliff. Sometimes you just have to fall.
2. You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told), from the album, Icky Thump
“You’re not hopeless or helpless,
and I hate to sound cold,
but you don’t know what love is…
you just do as you’re told.”
Despite the inevitable fall to falling in love, those of us who still believe in love, still grasp hands and jump. Some though, jump in, dragging you hard and fast, and then drop you, leaving you confused and lost and wanting still. They look back briefly, say some shit about still being friends, and go on because that is what they were “supposed to do“, but that is not love at all, love does not suppose anything at all.
“And I’m talking to myself at night,
because I can’t forget,
back and forth through my mind,
behind a cigarette.”
So much power, punch and thump and energy, in this song. It hits hard and demands to be played loudly. Sometimes we all need to hit hard and be speak (and sing) loudly, too.