When it comes to the greatest rock anthem of the 2000s, there are few more worthy of the top spot than The White Stripes’ 2003 offering ‘Seven Nation Army’. Both a response and a catalyst to the garage-rock duo’s rising popularity, the Elephant single has since become one of the most recognisable rock songs of all time, rivalling Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ and ACDC’s’ Back in Black’. But it’s not Jack White’s guitar playing we’re concerned with today. Instead, we’ve bought you an isolated recording of Meg White’s simmering drum track.
The greatest strength of ‘Seven Nation Army’ is its simplicity. The band had no bass player at the time, forcing Jack White to run his guitar through an octave pedal to give the central riff the necessary depth. While Jack does his thing, Meg provides momentum by keeping up a concrete 4/4. Her involvement is gradual. To begin with, she employs only the kick drum, the high tom, and the hi-hat, occasionally brushing the ride cymbal to add interest. As White chugs along, Meg adds touches of snare on the offbeat before breaking out into a crash-heavy chorus.
According to Jack White, the iconic guitar riff was composed at a sound check at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia. Speaking to Rolling Stone, the frontman recalled: “There’s an employee here at Third Man named Ben Swank, and he was with us on tour in Australia when I wrote that song at soundcheck. I was playing it for Meg and he was walking by and I said, ‘Swank, check this riff out.’ And he said, ‘It’s OK.’ [Laughs] He added: “I didn’t have lyrics for it until later on and I was just calling it ‘Seven Nation Army’ – that’s what I called the Salvation Army when I was a kid. So that was just a way for me to remember which one I was talking about, but it took on a new meaning with the lyrics.”
Surprisingly, neither his label in the US nor the UK wanted to release ‘Seven Nation Army’ as Elephant’s lead single. Thankfully, they eventually agreed and the song became The White Stripes’ first song to chart on the US Hot 100 and in the UK top ten. Speaking to XFM, White said: “I can think back to when Elephant came out. I wanted to put ‘Seven Nation Army’ out as a single. The label in England and the label in America both didn’t want to. They wanted to put ‘There’s No Home For You Here’ [out], can you imagine not putting ‘Seven Nation Army’ out as a single?” No, we can’t.
Make sure you check out the isolated drum track for ‘Seven Nation Army’ if you haven’t already.