Red, white and … true?

We really did P.T. Barnum a disservice by only remembering one thing he said. He could be a regular earl of pearls when the muscatel flowed light and easy. Not long after he coined his now-hackneyed catchphrase “There’s a sucker born every minute,” he was heard to exclaim the even better “the truth has no business in show business.” But only turn-of-the-century carny folk still repeat his best quip, “If that dame shaves, she’s got no act.”

In other news, I’ve just listened to White Blood Cells three times in a row and the only line I can’t get out of my mind is “I think I smell a rat.”

Show business is the lie that keeps on givin’ and to my red-and-white mind there’s no better re-gifters than that Detroit duo White Stripes who were able to zero in on the lax fact-checking departments in the American and British media and make it work to their advantage. Not since Liberace sued the Daily Mirror for calling him effeminate has anyone served up nontruths and had them lapped up like lemon mirage pie. Even after several major publications such as Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Magnet and Highlights all reported that the Detroit duo were not bro-and-sis but rather a divorced couple who couldn’t decide which red-and-white clothes to part with, the duping still continues.

Like the proverbial sack of poop that is incapable of truism, the alleged siblings White Stripes will continue to keep mum. Except, of course, on Jack and Meg’s official Web page where Mum is front and center, packing lunches and encouraging her raw rock brood (“Our mother said that she saw us on David Letterman’s show, and she was pleased,” writes Jack, while noting with rather disturbing Oedipal glee that “our father said he fell asleep and missed it, and was not pleased.”) Aw, darn you, Dad!

To anyone with ears, the music of White Stripes dazzles and delights without the layers of misinformation. So why the white-and-red smokescreen? Why run that giant red-and-white lollipop hypno-wheel they run as a backdrop at all their live shows that makes all the kids think they’re God and his sister on the Nile? Here are some theories:

1) It’s to divert attention from the fact that “Hotel Yorba” has enough chromatic and counting similarities to “The Fish Cheer” to snap Country Joe McDonald out of his hippie nest-egg stupor and get all litigant on them. Speaking of frivolous lawsuits, the Cars’ former style coordinator Justin Morecambe had his case summarily dismissed out of a Massachusetts court last month when the honorable Judge Kevin Gliffy ruled, “C’mom! These kids dress in red and white. The Cars dressed in red, white and black!” In all the excitement, few people realize that the Detroit duo based its whole guitar, drums and piano output on what the surviving Cars would sound like without Benjamin Orr!

2) So far the only people who have surmised the White Stripes don’t have a bass player are disgruntled ex-bass players and Ray Manzarek, another guy who plays the press like a piccolo with all his “Jim is alive” propaganda. If the White Stripes were ever to discover low-end and actually add some to those exciting records, its “raw rock” would take on a distasteful sheen. In fact, the duo would sound not unlike the Captain and Tennille if toothsome Toni would only shut up for once and let the Cap’n sing one for a change. Nonbelievers out there can try this experiment if they can find someone with a working turntable and a few Captain and Tennille 45s. If you play “You Never Done it Like That,” “The Way I Want to Touch You” and “Do That to Me One More Time” at 33 rpm, they all sound suspiciously like “I’m Finding it Hard to be a Gentleman.”

3) In lying about their marriage, the White Stripes are simply following a pop music tradition that harkens back to John “sorry girls, he’s married” Lennon (who, if truth be told, was only trying to maintain the integrity of rock and roll by keeping Julian Lennon under wraps for nine months). Fans forgave John’s fab fib because the Beatles were making historically great music. When Bobby Sherman, Davy Jones and Peter Noone pulled the same shit, teens dropped them like a soiled Stridex pad.

4) What rocker hasn’t bluffed about his age — no one more so than Bill “I get more birds than Mick and Brian combined” Wyman, another rock giant who lies like a tombstone? It’s a known fact that the former Bill Perks was actually 42 by the time the Stones’ first album came out which listed him as 26, the same age Jack White purportedly is. What is not known is that Wyman was a resident U.S. alien who only agreed to gig with the Stones on those last couple of tours so he could collect Social Security. Once he retired, Wyman cleared more money than Charlie Watts and Ron Wood did sweating out 53 U.S. dates on the Voodoo Lounge tour!

Jack and Meg enjoy taking turns pretending to be the older sibling. Harmless fun, you say, but did you know at least 2 percent of your hard-earned income for the past three years has gone to funding a government study that collected a staggering $10 million to find out why Americans prefer Marsha Brady over her jealous sister Jan!

5) According to Nostradamus’ 2000 millennium predictions in the National Enquirer, “the field will be wide-open for a new sibling act. Post-puberty will continue to ruin Hanson’s boyish good looks and the only formidable competition will be the Bacon brothers.”

6) White Stripes’ brother-and-sister story is also a ruse to get us to think of the Carpenters, a band everyone hated more than cod-liver Ovaltine in the ’70s but everyone pretends to love now that the threat of any more new records from the group is gone. Karen’s greatest contribution to rock was not her drumming, but that she beat out John Bonham as Drummer of the Year in a 1972 Playboy readers’ poll. Bonham was so distraught at being left dickless in Hef’s paper mansion that he got all drunk and disorderly on a plane. Bon became the first rock star ever sued by an airline for causing a flight attendant’s emotional distress.

7) Meg’s timekeeping has traces of Gene Krupa and Max Roach but, unfortunately, the songs that the White Stripes pen for themselves call for someone to play drums in the same rhythmic fashion most people either jerk off or drive nails into a wall. Indie fanzine Gullabaloo reported a rumor last December that Meg does not actually play on any of the records and that all the beats were supplied by drum legend Bernard Purdie. This was, of course, a lie perpetrated by Purdie himself, who fell on hard times after spreading a similar rumor that he deputized for Ringo on the first few Beatles albums but wouldn’t talk about it unless someone bought the six-figure rights to his story. While we can confirm through compact disc DNA that the beats on the band’s second album White Blood Cells are 100 percent Meg White, careful study of De Stijl proves that a good half of the beats were in fact lifted off Drum Drops, a popular series of drum instructional records released in the ’70s before the invention of drum machines. The Stripes apparently had no uses for Volume 1 (Polka Greatness), Volume 2 (Power Ballad Beats) or Volumes 4 & 5, dealing with funk and fusion, but made constant use of Volume 3 (Awesome Raw Rock Beats) and Volume 7 (The Rhythm and Blues Album), which inexplicably contained a “Santaria Blood Ritual Beat” programmed at the end of a side of “Smooth R&B shuffles.”

7) Even after Time magazine exposed Jack and Meg’s bogus brother-and-sister story and then printed their real names, the publication perpetrated yet another myth that “the growing media frenzy over the White Stripes seems to be happening without an attendant promotional and marketing machine.” That is a lie. The pair does indeed own a promotional and marketing machine, one of only 25 Hypenators that Armlego Industries, Inc. manufactured in the United States. The other 24 are owned by N’Sync, Aaron Carter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rosie O’Donnell, Linkin Park, P.O.D., Ashanti (who is still making use of hers), Enrique Iglesias (who shares his with the Three Tenors), Oprah Winfrey and Oprah’s resident care counselor Dr. Phil McGraw, who also owns Armlego’s prototype Tear Inducing Machine. Two years ago, the White Stripes bought a refurbished Hypenator at a greatly reduced cost from Armlego — a model previously owned by Kathie Lee Gifford, who claimed hers wasn’t working.

White Stripes’ May 22 and 23 shows at Royal Oak Music Theatre are sold out.

Serene Dominic is a freelance writer. His Burt Bacharach biography, The Little Red Book of Burt Bacharach (Omnibus Press), will be in stores in August 2002. Email [email protected]
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