No Jack White, The White Stripes Weren’t “Like A Solo Project”

by Dakin Hardwick on March 13, 2018

I’ve been a fan of Jack White for a while now… While working at Wherehouse Music in the early ‘00s, I made sure we were the first chain store to stock The White Stripes in the Bay Area, and I’ve been following White’s career closely ever since. And, yes, he’s a little idiosyncratic. He can be a bit of a jerk. Heck, he took his kids out of a school because his arch rival, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, also sent his kids there! But, despite these quirks, I’ve always had a bit of respect for him. He always elevated female musicians, especially female side players. Most importantly, he would always defend his original drummer, Meg White.

Well, he always did, until now.

For those not wanting to read that whole article, he called The White Stripes “basically a solo project.” The White Stripes were two people. Not two people and a bunch of hired studio hacks. The band was always just TWO people. They played live as a two-piece. They even recorded as a two-piece (on only analog equipment, no less, making it exponentially harder to hide your mistakes in post-production). The band would’ve been just another garage revival band if not for Meg’s contributions.

I’d like to cite the band’s biggest hit: “Seven Nation Army.” Yes, there’s that familiar guitar riff. It’s a great riff, but it’s really driven by that primordial blues stomp. That’s all Meg. There is no way to picture this song without that beat, and that beat is one of the most recognizable drum riffs in music history.

And when you listen to Jack White’s solo band — and his drummer is fantastic, but the sound is lacking that perfect, tribal beat —  it’s something a little more “typical.” I mean, don’t get me wrong… Daru Jones, the drummer in this performance, is a damn good drummer:

Compare it to this live version of the original band, and it’s undeniable which is the superior, more infectious, more heartfelt drum part:

And, in nearly every interview prior to this one, if anyone brought up Meg, Jack would only speak glowingly about her drum skills, and how important they were to The White Stripes. It all gets bundled in nicely in this interview from The AV Club:

AVC: Does a White Stripes song have certain parameters?

JW: Oh yeah, lots of them do. There’s an overall structure of simplicity, and it revolves around Meg’s drumming style. And it can’t be beat. We can’t do those structures in The Raconteurs. We couldn’t do them if we wanted to, and that’s the beauty of Meg. In The Raconteurs, there’s so many more components, so many more personalities involved. If you get another person in the room, you’re dealing with something else. It’s a different kind of collaboration, you know? The parameters of The White Stripes… you know, 70 to 80 percent of what we do is constriction, and the other 20 to 30 percent is us breaking that constriction to see what happens.

The biggest disappointment here, then,  is that, well, Jack White seems like the last guy you’d expect to re-write women out of history. I admit, his first solo tour — the one where he had an all male and an all female touring band both on the road — that experiment seemed a like it could be taken as sexist. And I think it was at least a little misguided. However, by the time he embarked on his second solo tour, he opted for one band that had the best players from both those previous bands. This band was evenly split between men and women. It was beautifully racially diverse, too! It was so refreshing to go to a show and not see a bunch of white guys on stage.

Even Third Man Records, White’s record label, has done an excellent job promoting female musicians. White has used his fame and notoriety to call attention to groundbreaking, but often ignored pioneers, such as Wanda Jackson and Loretta Lynn. The label’s roster of full-time bands are roughly half fronted by women. Such inclusion and promotion is good work, but it feels like White is blowing it by writing off the importance of Meg White.

Look, we all know that Billy Corgan has pretty much done the same thing lately. Specifically, he claimed that people other than D’arcy Wretzky played bass on the classic Smashing Pumpkins records. Billy Corgan, though,  is a terrible person who has abused his bandmates for decades.

Jack White, if you are reading this, remember: you are a better person than Billy Corgan. Maybe you were misquoted… I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt there. But, those words are now out in the world, and are attributed to you. And you are the only person who can correct that.

And, if you are looking for more proof that Meg White was a vital component of this band, just listen to Peel Session from 2001. If that doesn’t convince you, well, then I don’t feel I can trust your judgement on anything drum related.

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