There may still be a faint flicker of hope regarding Glastonbury’s 50th-anniversary event going ahead this year. And while there is we thought we’d look back at some of it’s most cherished moments. One came in the form of the then-breakthrough act, The White Stripes and their unstoppable cover of ‘Joelene’ back in 2002.
The song written and performed by Dolly Parton is one of the most achingly beautiful tracks in modern pop music and ranks highly among the most widely adored songs in the world. But under the control of Jack White on his guitar and Meg White behind the drums, the song got a brand new makeover.
The new makeover wasn’t reserved for country hits either. in 2002, The White Stripes were taking over Europe by storm. Their album White Blood Cells saw them gain instant mystique and with White’s swirling, crazed vocals and thrashing guitar the band were giving rock and roll a quick doll up.
When they were invited to perform at Glastonbury Festival the band had started to set roots as the somewhat deranged guitar heroes of the garage revival scene. Jack and Meg, a simple duo of guitar and drums, had the ability to create a sound nobody thought possible. Meg’s pounding tribal drums were always matched by the crunching, twisted pageantry of Jack’s frenetic guitar. It was a glorious revolution.
What better place for a revolution than the counter-culture stalwart, Glastonbury Festival. As the band took to the illustrious Pyramid stage armed with a setlist of fourteen jaw-chattering tunes, The White Stripes had made the big time. But still, for many of the crowd in attendance, they were relative unknowns.
The band, however, would leave a lasting impression as they tore through a set that not only included material from their sophomore album De Stijl and White Blood Cells but upcoming new record Elephant. But it was a rarely heard B-side from 2000 that caught everyone’s attention.
That track is Dolly Parton’s perfect plea for mercy and sees White interpret the track effortlessly. He conveys the yearning and desperation of Parton’s sensational protagonist, all while still adding his own unhinged flair for the dramatic. The fret-shredding performer is full of rage and burning hearted love and with every lick of his guitar, he bewilders and beguiles the audience. That is, before switching to the buzzsaw fuzz of a jilted lover threatening to burn your house down.
Though sometimes The White Stripes, especially during their early career, could feel like an impenetrable wall of fuzz, on ‘Jolene’ they offered a powerful human connection. It’s a connection that not only ran between The White Stripes and their audience but through Jack White and the song.
Watch below a performance which would cement The White Stripes as bonafide rock stars as they cover Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage back in 2002.