Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 164
Fri. July 12, 2013
The White Stripes
Last night I re-watched Jack White croon this 2005 piano lament to a weeping Meg White at the climax of 2010’s documentary film Under Great White Nights. Although Jack composed this Get Behind Men Satan number five years before the movie was released, you would believe that “White Moon” was penned as a parting song to his former wife and now band mate sibling Meg. Film director Emmett Malloy talked to Vulture about that moving scene between Jack and Meg when he explained, “Everybody thought about it long and hard. Jack looked at this film several times and would ask, “Am I coming off all right? Am I coming off as mean?” And I understood where he was coming from. Their relationship is about genuine, but tough love. Everybody still perpetuates this thing: “Are they brother and sister? Are they husband and wife?” Watching this film, I think people are going to understand more about this band and get more than they ever have on the White Stripes and still get nothing at all. And I think that’s the beauty of it.” Was that musical moment between two close confidents that were on the verge of disbanding? Malloy never realized that he captured the beginning of the end of Jack and Meg’s band; a year after that poignant scene was filmed, The White Stripes were no more.
If “White Moon” wasn’t a song foreshadowing the end of The White Stripes, what was the motivation behind this 2005 piano beauty? You might be surprised to know that the actress originally born as Margarita Carmen Cansino was the inspiration for “White Moon” as Jack White told Rolling Stone Magazine in 2005, “Rita Hayworth became an all-encompassing metaphor for everything I was thinking about while making the album. There was an autograph of hers — she had kissed a piece of paper, left a lip print on it, and underneath it said, “My heart is in my mouth.” I loved that statement and wondered why she wrote that. There was also the fact that she was Latino and had changed her name. She had become something different, morphed herself and was trying to put something behind her. And there was the shallowness of celebrity when it’s thrown upon you. All of that was going around in these songs; what had been thrown on me, things I’d never asked for. Every song on that album is about truth.”
What makes “White Moon” such a moving piano moment on Get Behind Me Satan is that way this sounds like Jack White playing piano in an empty bar at the end of long and lonely night of wine, woman and song. Jack has a way of crafting this timeless piano led landscape that echoes a more saloon inspired time with an undercurrent of his longing for a movie starlet mirroring the flickering of his lust inspired dreams. It’s as if, Jack could summon the spirit of Rita Hayworth to life all of his troubles would dissipate. But by the end, Rita is still a magazine model and Jack is left with the strands of his lonesome piano based ballad of a once imagined love.
But wait, maybe “White Moon” isn’t a broken-heart piano song after all and it’s just an ode to Jack’s favorite custom Gretsch Rancher cutaway acoustic guitar? It’s this same white guitar that Jack named Rita after his favorite vintage actress. Jack not only named his trusty white axe after Hayworth, White also painted Rita on the back of his favorite guitar. Jack must really love Rita for him to incorporate her throughout The White Stripes 2005 album. It sounds like Rita rescued Get Behind Me Satan and White was rewarding her with these lyrical odes through out the album as he explained, “When we were recording ‘White Moon’, Meg’s rack of bells fell over; you can hear it in the background on the album. Nothing was working, everything was broken. And then we wrote and recorded ‘Blue Orchid’, and everything fell together. The riff was so simple, so effective, it cemented the album together. It really rescued our mentality at the time, too, because we were about ready to jack it all in.” Rita saved Satan and more specifically if Jack’s trusty white guitar hadn’t brought this 2005 album back to life “White Moon” might have been the best White Stripes piano lament left on the cutting room floor.
For those of you who believed Jack’s intimate performance of “White Moon” on Under Great White Nights is a torch piano song of sadness dedicated to Meg White, director Emmet Malloy disputes this when he said, “That was after their tenth-anniversary show, the longest show of their career — a very emotional night. I didn’t know it was going to turn out the way it did, but I wanted to have a scene after that show, and that piano ended up being there. It was just a beautiful happenstance — it took on a whole different shape and color. There was nothing sad about that moment, but it was an intense moment. These two have been through a lot — every deep relationship, whether it be brother and sister or husband and wife.”
Watching Jack croon “White Moon” to an emotional Meg White in Under Great White Nights again last night made me wonder if this 2005 piano ballad was a parting song for his soon to be former band-mate or an ode to the actress originally born as Margarita Carmen Cansino? Maybe “White Moon” is just an ode to Jack’s favorite white guitar that he named after that same famed actress Rita Hayworth? Having been known as a guitar and drums based outfit, for Jack and Meg, it must be satisfying to know that after all of these years fans and critics alike are still confused by the meaning of this vividly poignant piano melody. Since the disbanding of our favorite duo from Detroit, it’s exhilarating to know the mystery and the myth of The White Stripes lives in within the piano based potency of 2005’s “White Moon.”