Almost every album Jack White helms includes a cover song, and his new solo album Blunderbuss continues the trend with a cover of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’.” White is deadly serious about rock’s lineage, so he’s a firm believer in the cover-as-tribute. It’s why Son House’s “Death Letter” was arguably the White Stripes’ most ferocious live number, and why the final song at the final White Stripes concert was a cover of Leadbelly’s “Boll Weevil.” This ain’t no karaoke; White sees his choice in covers as an extension of his art.
Through his three bands and various side projects, White’s put his spin on songs from all the requisite rock categories: rockabilly, delta blues, Dylan, Dolly, etc. But he has also culled material from several seemingly random sources. Below we’ve compiled Jack White’s five most unexpected cover songs.
1. The White Stripes do Patti Page’s “Conquista”
Considering White’s dalliance with marimbas on Get Behind Me Satan, as well as Jack and Meg’s outfits on the cover of Icky Thump, the White Stripes’ garage-mariachi “Conquest” cover doesn’t seem so outlandish in hindsight. But then there’s the all-Spanish 7-inch version, “Conquista,” which is batshit crazy. This was Jack White’s Casa De Mi Padre moment.
2. The Raconteurs perform Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”
You’d never think the laid back groove-hop of this 2006 mega-hit would fit the rootsy Raconteurs sound, but Jack White and company make it work by blowing out the subtle drama of the original into this take’s screeching centerpiece.
3. The Dead Weather perform Tubeway Army’s “Are ’Friends’ Electric?”
It’s one thing for psych-sludge outfit the Dead Weather to cover Pentagram — both bands share lurching guitars and an overall sense of foreboding — but it’s quite another for the Weather to cover synth-pop pioneer Gary Numan. Alison Mosshart’s gravelly voice humanizes Numan’s trademark android vocalizing, while his signature Moog sound is swapped out for psychedelic organs and a healthy dose of reverb.
4. The White Stripes perform Tegan & Sara’s “Walking With A Ghost”
The ultimate twee twin sister indie duo covered by the ultimate fake brother-sister rock duo (who had their share of twee songs like “We’re Going to Be Friends”). It’s all starting to make sense now. The original version is the simplest of circular hooks, so there’s not much meat for the Stripes to pick off these bones. Some guitar acrobatics would’ve helped break the repetition and launched this into the top tier of White’s covers. Instead, we’re left with a brain-burrowing throwaway.
5. Jack White performs U2’s “Love Is Blindness”
As with just about everything he does, White took the brooding, atmospheric closer to Achtung Baby in a more feral direction. That means out with the electro pulses and washes of reverb, in with the drum kit and acoustic guitar. While Bono and The Edge went for an ethereal minimalism in the original, Jack emphasized the song’s pain, heard through his searing yelps and piercing solo.