The band’s goodbye message claims they’d rather preserve their history than tarnish it. Considering years of talk about recording new material and impending new albums, why the sudden lack of confidence?
Rumors of a possible White Stripes split were abound as early as 2006 when Jack White’s new group, The Raconteurs, released their debut album, “Broken Boy Soldiers.” When the duo bounced back with the brutally powerful “Icky Thump” the next year, it seemed like Jack and Meg would be a union forever.
Even with the creation of another Jack White curated band, The Dead Weather, and a slew of non-White-Stripes activity from 2009-10, it seemed like a given that White would return with his “big sister” for another round, and there were many reasons to think he would.
As early as 2008, Jack White was talking of a seventh White Stripes album in the works, something he mentioned around the time Meg White walked onstage during a Raconteurs show and sat behind the drum kit. She and Jack curiously did not play one of their songs that night – instead Brendan Benson walked on and said “Whoah…wrong band!” to which Meg gracefully walked off, letting the band finish their encore.
Many questions arose with the creation of The Dead Weather in 2009 and how this would affect The White Stripes. White, however, declared on several occasions that the Stripes were his number one priority. Last November, White said in a Vanity Fair interview, “We thought we’d do a lot of things that we’d never done: a full tour of Canada, a documentary, coffee-table book, live album, a boxed set…Now that we’ve gotten a lot of that out of our system, Meg and I can get back in the studio and start fresh.”
So what went wrong? What comes to mind first is that business involving the canceled leg of their 2007 tour. 18 US tour dates and an entire tour of the UK were scrapped due to Meg White’s acute anxiety problem. Notoriously timid, Meg’s issue with traveling and performing had never come to a head so publicly up until this point. Jack retreated to The Raconteurs to cut “Consolers of the Lonely” which came out the next March. He later addressed this incident in an interview with Music Radar,
“I just came from a Raconteurs tour and went right into that, so I was already full-speed. Meg had come from a dead-halt for a year and went right back into that madness. Meg is a very shy girl, a very quiet and shy person. To go full-speed from a dead-halt is overwhelming, and we had to take a break.” When asked about a possible break up, he assured fans there would be “nothing of the sort,” and that Meg’s issue with anxiety were “a very real problem, but one that I’m happy to say is in the past.”
It seems clear that Meg White has not overcome her anxiety problems. Saying as recent as November that The White Stripes were ready to work on new material, and then saying that they would rather “preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way” a mere three months later is an odd turnaround.
Jack White’s consistent optimism on the matter seems to support the idea that he was protecting Meg and trying very hard to keep the band alive in hopes that she would be well enough to pick it up again. It seems like something must have happened in January that made it clear that the band could absolutely not continue. They were not out of ideas. They were not disillusioned. They were apparently totally ready to retake their crown as the world’s favorite rock band. The announcement earlier this month was bizarre and unexpected, and something that I can’t help but be morbidly curious about. The real reason has to come out sooner or later.
Of course nothing stops for Jack White. While he has ruled out the idea of joining a new band in a recent interview with music-news.com, he’s stated that he will turn his focus onto his two present bands and has hinted at possible solo work with the statement, “I won’t join another band again. Three’s enough for one lifetime. If I can’t say it in any of these bands, then I’ll say it by myself.”
The White Stripes has always been his project, being the sole songwriter and producer. One can only wonder what the difference between a solo Jack White album and a White Stripes record would be, but it will hopefully rectify any doubt in the unique quality that Meg White’s rickety drumwork and occasional deadpan vocals brought to those fantastic records.