Jolly good. Cup of tea, then, Bruce. Let's celebrate.
The White Stripes - 'Well It's True That We Love One Another' (Elephant - 2003)
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Here at The Run Out Grooves, one of the traits we are starting to notice is closing tracks that point the way forward - some form of sonic experiment or tweak to the existing formula that pushes the artist, the genre or even popular music itself forward.
The White Stripes' "It's True That We Love One Another" fits this pattern but with a twist on it. In November 2001, the band were riding on the crest of a wave that tabloid intrigue in their first UK shows drove. Having Kate Moss and Jamie Hince of The Kills rock up at The Forum after a John Peel Session will do that.
The outcome was that, even though the album White Blood Cells was out in early July, (and some of us still have their Sympathy For The Record Industry import), "Hotel Yorba" became the first single in November 2001. As 2001 became 2002, The White Stripes still had three singles to release in the UK and a main stage set at Reading/Leeds that year.
While all that was going on, attention was already turning to what would become Elephant, released April 2003. As it turns out, the last track on the album was the first to be recorded and not even on the first day of the two-week recording session like you might expect. It was recorded at London's Toe Rag studios in November 2001, almost six months' prior to the rest of the album. It turned out to be a test recording to see if the set-up would work. Jack White seemingly wanted to record an album that could have been recorded forty years before. All the recording equipment was pre-1963, and there were no computers involved in the process.
By the time April 2003 rolled around, I was on a long six week Easter break from university, and I was working at the Royal Mail SEDC near where I grew up. One of the things I remember vividly about the period was that when I was working, Capital FM was always on, which meant I probably heard "Cry Me A River", Daniel Bedingfield and Christina Aguilera three or four times each on a daily basis. This repetitiveness was broken up at lunchtime when the TV seemed to alternate between episodes of Third Watch or rolling news coverage of the 2nd Iraq War.
On the journey there and back, I would listen to Elephant, which went on to be a number one album in the UK, and wonder about the speculation in an eight-page NME special that came out when the album did about the dove on the CD. Was it an anti-war message? Was it a coincidence? Even now I can see the artwork pop into my head when I hear place names like Basra, Tikrit and Fallujah.
As for the song itself, it is a rather twee acoustic number that taps into the lore and self-mythologising of "Is Meg Jack's sister, wife or both?" by allowing English garage rock doyenne Holly Golightly to join the party. Golightly was an associate of North Kent’s Medway1 Scene home of the likes of Billy Childish and his various bands as well as The Prisoners, The Dentists, The Claim and Thee Headcoatees, of which Golightly was a member herself. Many of these acts would frequent Toe Rag Studios and there is an element of overlap with the sound of The White Stripes.
Some have said that the song is partially a homage to the Mama's and the Papa's "Creeque Alley." which I can hear, but the most memorable part for me is this section.
Jack: ...Holly give me some of your English lovin'
Holly: If I did that Jack I'd have one in the oven
Why don't you go off and love yourself
Jack: If I did that Holly there won't be anything
Left for anybody else
Which, to translate out of British English, Holly was suggesting that she doesn't wish to become pregnant via Jack White and, in fact, he should "go and sort himself out." Jack White suggests that there would not be enough of his seed left for other interested parties if he did this. Icky Thump indeed.
After that, Holly suggests that Bruce Brand, the musician, artist and graphic designer credited on the record's sleeve as 'Layout' to put the kettle on for a celebratory cup of tea.
Must have been thirsty.
Second mention for Medway, as that was where I grew up.