The White Stripes: A farewell playlist

the-white-stripesImage Credit: Patrick KeelerToday’s announcement of the White Stripes’ abrupt if not entirely unexpected end has left many red-and-white fans feeling blue today.

But the duo themselves would rather put a positive spin on it: As they say in part in the statement on their official site (currently crashed by excessive pageviews), “The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want. The beauty of art and music is that it can last forever if people want it to.”

With that in mind, EW has compiled an essential—if by no means comprehensive—playlist spanning the band’s nearly-fourteen-year career, from the raw basement bashings of their earliest Detroit days to their long and comparatively glossy run as Conan O’Brien’s unofficial house band. For links and more, read on:
“Seven Nation Army”
(from 2003’s Elephant) Quite possibly the all-time classic Stripes riff—that seismic guitar line is the chorus—so why not start here?
“Fell in Love With a Girl” (from 2001’s White Blood Cells) .. And we fell in love with a band.
“Blue Orchid” (from 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan) Another mondo, unforgettable riff; the flower of our discontent.
“St. James Infirmary Blues” (from their self-titled 1999 debut, The White Stripes) A macabre folk traditional made famous by Louis Armstrong, and done over here as a cacophonous, see-saw creeper.
“Hello Operator” (from 2000’s De Stijl) Is Jack hitting on a telemarketer? Is he running from the IRS? Still don’t know.
“One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” (The White Stripes) So murky and elemental, it’s like they pulled it straight from the La Brea tar pits (though truly, they borrowed it from Bob Dylan).
“The Denial Twist”
(Get Behind Me Satan) Sex on a slow-burn stick.
“We’re Going to be Friends” (White Blood Cells) Nearly a lullaby; the Stripes at their sweetest.
“Wasting My Time”
(The White Stripes)) A man scorned—and yet, still hopeful (He’s hanging on the line!); another classic riff.
“I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” (Elephant) Written by Burt Bacarach, recorded by Dusty Springfield, and reconfigured with utter sincerity by the former spouses White.
“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”
(White Blood Cells) Thrashing rock catharsis meets lawn-care psychosis. Bonus points for containing one of the band’s all-time great lines: “If you can hear a piano fall / You can hear me comin’ down the hall.”
“You’re Pretty Good Lookin’ for a Girl” (De Stilj) Really, you flatter us, Sir Jack.
“I Think I Smell a Rat” (White Blood Cells) We smell fantastic paranoia. And the perfect soundtrack to a Tarantino death scene that never was.
“Icky Thump” (2007’s Icky Thump) Watch your back, gringo: a deliciously malevolent Tijuana-noir travelogue.
“There’s No Home for You Here” (Elephant) Girl, get out. The most corrosive, dismissive relationship diss track ever.
My Doorbell” (Get Behind Me Satan) Come on, when you gonna ring it?
You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You’re Told)” (Icky Thump) Oh, but they know how to tell you what you don’t know, so well.
“Jolene” (originally released as a B-side to “Hello Operator”) Jack refuses to change the pronouns on Dolly Parton’s desperate hands-off-my-man plea, and doesn’t lose one iota of its scorching need.
“Ball and a Biscuit” (Elephant) Is there any chance at all this song is not about filthy, filthy sex? Nope.
“Hardest Button to Button” (Elephant) Excellently sinister; possibly about fratricide, or at least the fantasy of it.
“Death Letter” (De Stilj) Another borrowing from a blues great—this time, Son House—reworked as a thrashing, chaotic anthem.
“In the Cold Cold Night” (Elephant) One last one, just for Meg.

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  • Tomee Blunt

    I’m crying now. This hurts more than when both my grandparents died on the same weekend. Why God? Why? If anyone needs me I’ll be drinking bourbon and listening to “I Just Don’t Know What to do With Myself” on loop.

    • Candy Kane

      Don’t know if I could have put it any better. I feel the same.
      It seems as though the only thing to do now is to start some bands ourselves…

    • Josh

      Same here.

      And btw Icky Thump is SEVERELY UNDERREPRESENTED here. Seriously, where is Martyr for My Love for You or 300 M.p.h. Torrential Outpour Blues. Or the Conquest mexican version, Conquista

  • Pittner

    Every song on De Stijl and Elephant is perfect in my opinion.

    • G.R.


      I’d also go with the hilarious “Rag and Bone” and the awesome “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” (both from ‘Icky Thump’).

      • Diane

        LOVE Rag & Bone!

      • dusen

        Ditto. Rag and Bone is hilarious, and an awesome rocker.

      • Melissa

        I once listened to Rag and Bone like 8 times in a row. Meg is way too cute in that song.

    • Color Me Impressed

      White Blood Cells and Icky Thump are my favorites. May our favorite not-brother-sister-musical-duo be remembered fondly for many years to come. Long live Jack White!

  • LOL

    This isn’t much of a surprise, but it’s still to see an end of an era. Nonetheless I will play a few WS tunes tonight to bring back some good memories.

    • LOL

      still sad to see an end of an era ^

  • theBigE

    The song Icky Thump should be added to your list.

  • Peter

    No “Icky Thump”? Well, good. If only they’d quit before that.

  • Kait

    no Icky Thump!?

    • Leah Greenblatt

      Ack! “Icky Thump” was deleted from the original text; it’s been restored now

  • gert

    Re: “reconfigured with utter sincerity by the former spouses White” — I’m pretty sure Jack and Meg are brother and sister, not former spouses.

    • busterbluth

      nope. they were married for 3.5 years. he took her last name oddly enough.

    • Sleepy in Seattle

      They were married. They just told people they were brother and sister to eff with the public.

  • samantha

    Sad. They’ve been my favorite band for years, and this means I’ll never get to see them in concert. I love that you put in “Jolene” and “Ball and a Biscuit”. Two of my favorites. But you left out “Rag and Bone”…love Jack’s riff on outhouse, dog house, Middle East, halfway homes and catacombs. Boo hoo I guess I’ll really have to listen to the Raconteurs now.

    • Kevin

      I LOVE the White Stripes. That said, the only thing you missed out on by not going to one of their concerts was disappointment. They are a great studio band… they are AWFUL live. Saw them once right after White Blood Cells came out and it was the worst show I have ever seen… but Jack had the flu or something so I gave them another chance. Unfortunately, the 2nd time wasn’t any better. They had ZERO stage presence and played very short sets both times.

      • LP

        Can’t disagree with you more… I saw them live three times, and they were amazing each time. Jack is an incredible live performer, with so much stage presence and energy. I’m truly disappointed I won’t get to see them play again.

  • tracy bluth

    I kept holding out for another album….this makes me so sad. I’ve been listening to my White Stripes CDs nonstop since I heard.

  • John

    I think it’s a travesty that this list doesn’t contain their single-digit salute to their hometown, “The Big Three Killed My Baby” from their first album.

    Yet another great band lost to the morass of porn-pop.

  • slippyal2

    My favorite song is off of the Elephant album “I Want To Be The Boy”.

  • MCS

    You missed Icky Thump and Catch Hell Blues. Both tremendous tracks. Good thing we still have the Dead Weather. I can take solace in knowing that Jack White will never leave music behind completely.

  • Antonio Hicks

    Are you kidding me? 1 song from icky thump. Have you listened to the album? Shame, shame, shame…

  • poughkeepsiejohn

    How could you forget the “Hotel Yorba”? Especially the version recorded at the Hotel Yorba?

    • p70

      Ditto on Hotel Yorba. They made song writing just seem effortless.

    • Dean

      Yeah that’s the song that introduced me and a lot of others I’m sure to the band to begin with.

    • Color Me Impressed

      1,2,3,4 take the elevator at the Hotel Yorba I’ll be glad to see you later! All we got inside is…

  • Esteban

    “Let’s Shake Hands”
    “Hand Springs”

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