Sometimes when I get started talking about the White Stripes, I fear that I sound like one of those old Saturday Night Live Bill Brasky skits.
“Jack White once started a band with his wife, divorced her, and then told the world that they were brother & sister!”
“He once wreaked his car while making out with Renee Zellweger!”
“He once made a cameo in a cheesy Cadillac commercial!”
“He once sang backing vocals on a song that debuted at #2 on the UK music charts under the name John S. O’Leary!”
“To Jack Brasky!”
This last story was definitely the strangest piece of White Stripes musical miscellany that I picked up from reading “Fell In Love with a Band: The Story of the White Stripes” in preparation for a recent roadtrip to Detroit. Here’s the story: on a whim, the Detroit band The Wildbunch invited Jack to Ghetto Recorders studio to sing vocals on their song Danger! High Voltage. The song was a gag gift for an indie record label’s Christmas compilation. Out of nowhere, the song blows up in Europe. Following this unexpected success, The Wildbunch get rechristened Electric Six, and Jack, not wanting to overshadow the band, assumes the mysterious identity John S. O’Leary. Only in Detroit, right?
And as for that cheesy Cadillac commercial, it’s titled ‘Closer to the Edge.’ You should probably google it. It’s hilarious!
Here are my Big Three of other White Stripes Musical Miscellany:
Lebron: Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit. This compilation album was recorded by Jack in the attic of his childhood home in Mexicantown. (As an adult, he moved back into the same house with his wifesister.) For the recording sessions, very band, no matter the size, was forced to squeeze into the tiny attic and record their song in one take. In addition to the White Stripes’ Red Death at 6:14, the album’s other standout track belongs to the Soledad Brothers (Shaky Puddin’). The lead singer of the Soledad Brothers, Johnny Walker, played slide guitar on a number of early White Stripes songs, including my personal favorite Death Letter.
D-Wade: Isis by Bob Dylan. Growing up, Jack was a HUGE Dylan fan. Early in his stint organizing and performing on Sunday nights at the bar in the Garden Bowl (which also happens to be the oldest bowling alley in America), at the bartender’s request, Jack performed this little-known Dylan song in its entirety. This is pretty impressive seeing how, in classic Dylan fashion, it’s a seven minute song without a chorus!
Otherguy: Bacon Fat by Andre Williams. OK, this probably seems like an odd addition to this list, but bear with me. When Jack was young, Williams was a somewhat well-known R&B singer around Detroit. Through a mutual musical friend, Williams agreed to record a single at Jack’s house. To mark the occasion, Jack penned the song The Big Three Killed My Baby for Williams. After Williams refused to record it, Jack added the song to the White Stripes’ repertoire, and it became the signature song of their early gigs.
Flattop Cole: Lack of Communication by The Von Blondies. “Fell in Love with a Band” reaches a dramatic Ulysses-like climax in the description of how Jack once pummeled the lead singer of this douchey band. And here’s the funny thing: the attack occurred while Brendan Benson was playing a set at the Magic Stick. Brendan Benson? Doesn’t he write the most upbeat, sunniest, happiest pop songs this side of California? Imagine kicking the shit out of somebody while listening to Pet Sounds!