It’s rare for a band to create an anthem that exceeds them in fame and not be chastised as a one-hit-wonder. Still, that’s what happened to The White Stripes following the gargantuan success of ‘Seven Nation Army’, a number that only seems to enhance in popularity with every major sporting event.
Due to the overbearing presence of the track across the entirety of popular culture, it’s become a much-maligned piece of artillery in the band’s repertoire, and it’s easy to disregard its brilliance. From the moment that Jack White first landed upon the infectious bass-led riff, he knew that he’d landed upon something special, but he had no idea of the size of the beast that he’d birthed.
When White wrote the song, his band were on an upward trajectory, and the pitfalls of fame were starting to suffocate him. The guitarist could no longer live a normal life, and he’d become the favoured conversation topic among the people who he once considered to be his closest associates.
Understandably, this left him feeling isolated as he no longer knew who to trust, and ‘Seven Nation Army’ was his way of dealing with the frustration he had let up inside of him. However, initially, it all started with just one riff that White created while sound-checking at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne during their tour of Australia in 2002, with the lyrics and meaning arriving at a later date.
“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,” White once recollected to Rolling Stone. “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.”
“I played the riff again, and it sounded interesting,” White said when elaborating on that moment when he stumbled upon the gem with The Independent, “I thought if I ever got asked to write the next James Bond theme, that would be the riff for it.”
After weighing up the possibility of him being selected to record a theme for James Bond, White concluded that he would never be given that honour and elected to use it for The White Stripes instead.
The guitarist then fought hard to convince their record label that ‘Seven Nation Army’ had the necessary legs to become a single, and the song then grew a life of its own which likely played a small part in White being asked to create the Bond theme for Another Way To Die.