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You Don’t Know What Love Is


Rye Silverman writes about his love of the White Stripes and his relationship with music in General.

    I love the White Stripes. This is a declaration that seems sort of silly in 2008. Why take the time to write about your love of a band that has been around since 1999, and has held a firm foothold in the mainstream realm of “cool” music since 2001’s “White Blood Cells”?

   The reason is this: my love of the White Stripes is something I have only recently become aware of. I have always been aware of the band, I’ve noticed the hundreds of magazine articles with Jack and Meg White on the cover, I’ve always stopped my channel surfing when MTV or VH1 was playing one of their videos, I’ve turned up my radio whenever “Seven Nation Army” has come on, I’ve played “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground” on many a jukebox, and I have acquired the occasional single of theirs via iTunes or other, less legitimate means. I even rocked out to a burned copy of the debut album of The Raconteurs, Jack White’s side project, that was given to me by a former coworker. And yet, somehow, in the years between 2001 and now, I have never listed the White Stripes when asked about my favorite bands, and I have never purchased any of their albums.

   In fact, I have even gone so far as to roll my eyes when other people have told me that the White Stripes are one of their favorite bands. When someone tried to inform me of the genius of “Icky Thump,” I would tune them out. Somehow I had convinced myself that I didn’t like the White Stripes, even though I have never heard a song of theirs that I do not, in fact, love. Consistently I have discussed the songs of theirs that I like as the exception. “Oh, I’m not really a White Stripes fan, but I love The Denial Twist.” “But I love My Doorbell.” “But I love their cover of “Just Don’t Know What to do With Myself.”

   In short, if the White Stripes were a woman, they would be that girl I was friends with for a long time but never realized I was in love with. And I think perhaps this has something to do with the nature of my consumption of music in general. I have had similar moments of discovering fandom of a particular artist after the fact, such as Oasis, or Travis. Very rarely do I discover an artist and have that immediate connection. Even my favorite artist, Ben Folds, whose music I have been mocked by my friends for my obsession with, was re-connection, having bought “The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner” in high school, and listened to it maybe twice, before deciding it sucked. This is the same album I actually had to repurchase years later and consider to be the best work done by Ben Folds Five before the group split up and Ben became a solo artist. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I heard the live version of “Still Fighting It,” and soon devoured everything else Folds has done, as well as having gone to see him live four times in the last five years.

   So what happened with the White Stripes? The only thing I can think of is that I had heard of them before I heard them, that they were already being pushed to be as the Next Great Thing so hard that I never even took the time to consider that they actually could be. So even when I enjoyed everything I heard by them, I took for granted how talented they are because this had been told to me on such a regular basis.

   It reminds me of a long running debate I have with my friend Lauren over the perceived greatness of the Beatles. I often joke with her that she “hates” the Beatles, due to her perception of their being overrated. The debate mostly boils down to the fact that the Beatles can be considered as having come along at exactly the right time, in an era before the internet, before cable TV, before the ability to walk into a bookstore and find countless titles on the magazine rack dedicated to the critical deconstruction of music. That in the 1960’s, it wasn’t as hard for a successful band to dominate all media, because there was much less media to dominate and news traveled quite a bit slower. I concede that there are many annoying people who would like to assume that rock and roll began and ended with the Beatles, that say all that came after are pale imitations, people that attribute far too much influence on the modern music scene to the four boys from Liverpool. But at the end of the day, the Beatles made fantastic music and they should not be written off simply because of the overzealousness of their most obnoxious fans. The fact that I, having been born in 1981, over a year after John Lennon’s death, yet can still appreciate “Nowhere Man,” or “Let it Be,” is significant towards the quality of the music.

   And such is the way I now understand the White Stripes. They are a truly talented pair of musicians, and it simply took me a long time to understand that. I never had to think about if they were good or not, because I’d already been told so. I’ve been told it for years by outside sources and written them off as a result of it, but when I finally took the time to view them outside of the articles, the interviews, the commentaries of the peanut gallery, what was left for me was the music itself. And when it’s just me and the headphones, that’s where I get it.

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