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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 93
Wed. May 1, 2013

“Hotel Yorba”
White Stripes

2001

“♫ All
they
got
inside is
vacancy
♫”

One of the most poignant things drummer Meg White said about the success of The White Stripes, when she told Melissa Giannini, “That’s the nicest thing is when somebody comes up to us and says they’d been discouraged with music and that we’ve made them feel a new energy for it. That’s the nicest thing, that you’ve made people feel good about music again.”

You have to remember this was 2001, right after The White Stripes had released their very successful follow-up White Blood Cells to 2000’s De Stijl. In that same article, “The Sweet Twist of Success” by Giannini, White said this about White Blood Cells, “We keep getting put with this bringing-back-the-blues kind of statement as a label for the band. And I just wanted to break away from that because it’s really hard to do that, being … where we’re from, even though that’s the music that we really love and that I’m really inspired by. Most of the songs that had been sitting around were these piano-written songs that were more ‘songwriting’ type songs. I wanted to make a whole album of that.”

Even though White Stripes wanted to bring back the traditional blues to American music consciousness, Jack White didn’t have any delusions of his tribute to the blues when he explained, “I’m not black, I’m not form the South, and it’s not 1930. I’m not interested in copying – at all. I’m interested in re-telling the story. I just believe in singing [Delta bluesman Son House’s] “John the Revelator” one more time. It seems like every other kind of music is fooling itself about being original or being the future. Well, it’s not. These electronic instruments, these toys… Music has been storytelling and melody for thousands of years, and it’s not going to change.”’

Being from Detroit, of course, when I first heard of White Stripes, I was so proud to enthusiastically support one of the most famous bluesy rock duos to ever come from the Motor City. White talked about that Motor City mystique when he told Uncut UK, “You’ve got to ask yourself about the White Stripes’ appeal to England had we been from Los Angeles instead of Detroit. The story of the city of Detroit became our authenticity, that dirty, crumbling town. I don’t see a lot of other artists getting asked about where they live, but I get asked about where I live constantly.”

What I loved about The White Stripes, they didn’t just say ‘We’re from Detroit;’ Jack actually wrote about the city he lived and grew up in. Near Jack’s old neighborhood is this old lodge which White immortalized in Hotel Yorba. What was it about the Hotel Yorba that inspired Jack to pen a song for this rundown relic of a hotel? “The Hotel Yorba is a really disgusting hotel,” Jack said in Denise Sullivan’s The White Stripes: Sweethearts of the Blues, “There was a great rumor when I was a kid that The Beatles had stayed there. They never did, but I loved that rumor.”

The truth that made White Stripes a crossover success wasn’t their bluesy rock riffs, it has to be Jack White’s gave his soul in not only those thrashy ‘Heartbreaker’ cuts like “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground” but he also believed in the quiet acoustic majesty of songs like “Hotel Yorba.” It takes more than a hard riff to be a rocker, Jack White believes you actually need to feel the strum like sting of acoustic blues. The White Stripes along with The Beatles may have never stayed at the Hotel Yorba, but after immortalizing it in their 2001 album White Blood Cells, Thanks to Jack White’s vivid lyrical imagination we never had to make reservations inside the Hotel Chelsea of Detroit. All you have to do is press play and after only two minutes, White makes it feel like we all found a home within the friendly acoustic confines of his melodic Mecca that is “Hotel Yorba.”

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