Jack White birthday: The White Stripes singer’s seven greatest UK music successes as he turns 49

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Happy Birthday Jack White 🎈

Happy Birthday Jack White, who turns 49 years old today!

The widely-renowned musician, who can boast alongside his chart success the fact he’s also recorded a Bond theme, might have had a much different life had he kept to his initial plans when finishing school. “I'd got accepted to a seminary in Wisconsin, and I was gonna become a priest,” he told 60 Minutes back in 2005.” 

“But at the last second, I thought, 'I'll just go to public school.' I had just gotten a new amplifier in my bedroom, and I didn't think I was allowed to take it with me."

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Instead, White (born John Anthony Gillis in Detroit, Michigan) started a three-year course learning how to upholster, setting up his own business with a familiar title - Third Man Upholstery - with legend stating that some of his work saw him sneak various poems within the upholstery. 

Just don’t go tearing away at the furniture you have, we’re talking many moons ago.

It was through goading from a friend, Brian Muldoon, that led to White forming his first musical project, The Upholsters as they released the album “Makers of High Grade Suites,” when he met Meg White in 1996 and the two got married, with Jack taking on Meg’s surname. 

With Meg learning how to play the drums, the pair passed themselves off as siblings rather than husband-and-wife, with The White Stripes performing their first show at the Gold Dollar in Detroit in 1997, with their chromatic aesthetic becoming as defining a feature for the band as the stripped back, garage-style rock.

The rest as they say is history, with The White Stripes becoming household names; but throughout White’s career, what have been his biggest successes in the United Kingdom?

How successful has Jack White been on the UK charts?

Elephant (April 2003 - #1 UK album charts)

Interest in The White Stripes reached fever pitch in 2003; while the duo were diligently chipping away at being included in mainstream music conversations with the release of “De Stijl” and “White Blood Cells,” earning praise from music critics and rotation on radio and TV, it was “Elephant” that finally propelled Jack White to the top of the UK album charts.

“Elephant” was hailed as a masterpiece upon its release and is considered one of the greatest albums of the ‘00s, regularly appearing on various “Best of the Decade” lists (including my own), while celebrity fans including Kate Moss (who appeared in the NSFW video for “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”) ensured that the band everyone would be talking about throughout 2003 was The White Stripes. 

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“Seven Nation Army” (May 2003 - #7 UK singles charts)

While other songs by Jack White have charted better than “Seven Nation Army,” its place in UK popular culture has overshadowed whatever placement it had upon its release on the UK singles chart. 

The familiar introduction, followed by the rhythmic drum beat from Meg White, has now become a stadium anthem, with football grounds across Europe humming along to the catch introduction without prompting. Add vocals regarding who the crowd are celebrating, and “Seven Nation Army” transcended mere UK chart hit to become part of pop culture’s “vernacular” - if that word works in this instance. 

Icky Thump (June 2007 - #1 UK album charts)

There was a real British sensibility when it came to Jack and Meg White’s follow-up to “Elephant.” The album title itself, “Icky Thump,” was a reference to a phrase used in the north of England to exclaim something (“Icky thump lad, thou knows that is a right album” as an awkward example.) 

The album artwork also saw the pair dressed in outfits drawing comparisons to the great Pearly Kings and Queens of London, owing to the incredible popularity the band had achieved more in the United Kingdom than perhaps the United States at that time. 

The album hit the number one spot on the UK charts in June 2007, propelled by the foot-stomping hit “Icky Thump” - White’s song discussing criticizing the then contemporary American immigration policy.

“Steady As She Goes” (May 2006 - #4 UK singles charts)

The Raconteurs was a project founded by friends Jack White and Brendan Benson, during a period when debate continued if The White Stripes had called it a day. The band were joined by The Greenhornes’ Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler to record their debut album, “Broken Boy Soldiers” (see below), and released the single “Steady As She Goes” as the first record from the album.

It did better than any of The White Stripes' singles on the UK album chart, with the more overtly power-pop record, in part thanks to Brendan Benson’s writing influence, becoming Jack White’s biggest success on the UK singles chart, peaking at number #2 in May 2006 and the music video a perennial request on the recently dearly-departed Kerrang! TV

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Broken Boy Soldiers (May 2006 - #2 UK album charts)

The success of “Steady As She Goes” led to The Raconteurs' debut album, “Broken Boy Soldiers,” peaking on the UK album chart in the second position as the group became another extension of White’s popularity in the United Kingdom.

They were consistent with their tours across the United Kingdom also, undertaking a widespread album release tour across the country in 2006 that led them to have appearances at Leeds and Reading Festival that year. If people were concerned that Jack White had run out of steam musically (Third Man Records put to one side for a moment), The Raconteurs showed his ability with more than another person in a band. 

Horehound (July 2009 - #14 on the UK album chart)

The second of two “supergroups” that Jack White was involved in may not have packed the same chart success punch as The White Stripes or The Raconteurs, but such as the popularity of one of the other members in the group that The Dead Weather became very much the “indie-rock act” du jour in 2009.

Featuring The Kills’ vocalist Alison Mosshart (one of music’s quintessential style icons), “Horehound” may have only just broken into the UK album chart’s top 20, but their live shows became the stuff of legend. 

Blunderbuss (May 2012 - #1 UK album charts)

Jack White’s first solo effort was released in May 2012, earning the musician his third number-one on the UK album chart with “Blunderbuss.” 

While the singles may not have struck quite the chord with the general masses as opposed to the overtly catchy/”hummable” nature of The White Stripes or The Raconteurs, “Blunderbuss” was still a success with critics, praising White for “complex” works akin to earlier White Stripes works. 

It remains as of writing Jack White’s last UK number one, however, I’m certain that more pressing matters (pardon the pun) are seeing his attention, with the advent of Third Man Records continuing its trend of trailblazing vinyl releases.

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Have you seen The White Stripes live or any of Jack White’s other projects? Have you a favourite work from the birthday boy that we’ve missed out on? Drop a comment down below, wish Jack White a Happy Birthday or contact the writer with your thoughts.

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