Detroit minimalist rock duo (specifically, southwest Detroit minimalist rock duo) the White Stripes -- Jack White, guitar and vocals, Meg White, drums -- formed in 1997 (Bastille Day, to be precise) with the idea of making simple rock & roll music. From the red and white peppermint candy motif of their debut singles, self-titled album, and stage show to their on-the-surface rudimentary style, they succeeded wildly and immediately with that mission. Their first recordings were a mix of garage rock, blues, and the occasional show tune. In frontman Jack (a former drummer for Detroit country outfit Goober & the Peas), the White Stripes have a formidable songwriter, guitar player, and vocalist capable of both morphing between styles and changing the musical styles themselves; ranging from the folk blues of Blind Willie McTell to soaring Kinks-esque pop and narrative pop tunes worthy of Cole Porter and into deepest Captain Beefheart territory within the span of 15 minutes is not an uncommon listening experience with either the White Stripes live show or on record. In drummer Meg, the White Stripes have a minimalist percussionist who seems to sense intuitively exactly when to not play. The White Stripes are grounded in punk and blues, but the undercurrent to all of their work has been the aforementioned striving for simplicity, a love of American folk music, and a careful approach to intriguing, emotional, and evocative lyrics not found anywhere else in the modern punk, or garage rock (or amongst post-modern "blues" practitioners such as Jon Spencer, for that matter).
While they may have sprung from the Detroit rock scene (and they remain regular fixtures on the Detroit club circuit with Jack producing or working with many Detroit-area bands), the White Stripes quickly gained a national following after two successive tours with indie rockers Pavement and Sleater-Kinney in 1999 and 2000. The White Stripes released their second LP, De Stijl, in 2000 and it further spread the group's reputation. They followed its release with successful tours of Japan and Australia and entered the Memphis studio of renowned producer Doug Easley for 2001's White Blood Cells. The album was a critical smash and the White Stripes soon found themselves, along with the Strokes and the Hives, at the forefront of the new wave of rock & roll bands poised to take over the world. The band certainly did their best to acheive world domination, appearing on Late Night with David Lettterman, being written about in Time, the New Yorker and Entertainment Weekly, playing the MTV Movie Awards and having their video for "Fell in Love with a Girl" in heavy rotation on MTV. They also made the tough decision to jump to a major label; White Blood Cells was reissued on V2 in January of 2002 and their first two records followed suit in June. The White Stripes truly became big time rock stars when their "Fell in Love with a Girl" clip was nominated for four MTV Video Awards including Best Video of the Year (alongside Eminem and *NSYNC!), Breakthrough Video, Best Special Effects in a Video and Best Editing in a Video. That summer the group also played four triumphant shows with the Strokes, two apiece in the bands' respective hometowns. In spring 2003 their fourth full-length Elephant -- recorded in two weeks at London's Toerag Studio and dedicated to "the death of the sweetheart" -- arrived to nearly unanimous critical acclaim. ~ Chris Handyside, All Music Guide
Biography by Jason Ankeny
Live rose to chart success on the strength of its anthemic music and idealistic, overtly spiritual songwriting, two hallmarks which earned the group frequent comparisons to U2. Live first formed in the early '80s in their hometown of York, Pennsylvania, when future members Chad Taylor (guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums) began playing together under the name "First Aid" while attending middle school. After losing an area talent contest, they decided to enlist singer Ed Kowalczyk, and as a foursome the group played under a series of names before settling on Public Affection.
After earning a rabid local following, in 1989 Public Affection released a cassette, The Death of a Dictionary, on their own Action Front label. After graduating to CBGB and other famed New York clubs, they earned a demo deal with Giant Records which proved unsuccessful; the completed demo earned them a deal with Radioactive, however, and before drawing their new name out of a hat, Live recruited Talking Head Jerry Harrison to produce their 1991 debut, Mental Jewelry. A collection of songs based on the writings of Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, the record made Live one of the key players in the post-Nirvana alternative music scene thanks to singles like "Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)" and "Pain Lies on the Riverside."
Three years later, Live returned with the muscular Throwing Copper, which lingered a number of months on the charts before pushing the group into the rock mainstream; after a series of popular singles like "Selling the Drama" and "I Alone," the album's slow build climaxed with the funereal "Lightning Crashes," which propelled the album to the top of the charts and paved the way for the hits "White, Discussion" and "All Over You." Secret Samadhi, the third Live LP, followed in early 1997, but failed to match either the commercial or critical success of previous efforts. The band resurfaced two years later with The Distance to Here. Through 2003, the band continually refined their ambitious, spiritual sound; both 2001's V and 2003's Birds of Pray cracked the Billboard Top 30.