Monday, 16 March 2015

The Big Three Killed My Baby by The White Stripes

The artist:

Having burst into public consciousness at the turn of the century, confusion initially reigned supreme as to the nature of Jack and Meg White’s relationship. Claims of being brother and sister were later disproved and evidence of a 1996 marriage between the pair emerged. It really ought not to have been a huge shock that they weren’t genetically related, considering the disparity in natural musical talent between the multi-genre-inducing guitar-keyboard-vocals-mandolin-glockenspiel virtuoso and master of intense heartfelt lyricism that is Jack, and Meg, who hits drums quite hard.  

Meg’s drumming ability was often the subject of above such ridicule during the White Stripes’ time, which in fairness was and is harsh as she provided the perfect platform for Jack’s incredible array of talent to shine. The only relevant outcome is the music and as a contributor to six stunning albums of outstanding quality and variety, not to mention one of the most iconic anthems of the 21st century, it’s fair to say Meg probably wouldn’t trade places with most of those who sneer at her – myself absolutely included.

The album: The White Stripes (1999) 
The White Stripes’ self-titled debut provides something of a definitive definition for lo-fi garage rock – in that it genuinely gives the impression that they’re in a garage. 

While perhaps the most straightforward of all the White Stripes albums in terms of consistency of tone, it is not without variety. Tracks like Wasting My Time (blues rock so intoxicating you phone in sick the next day) and Jimmy the Explorer (pogo stick headbang) are tempered by delicate country serenades like Suzy Lee and Sugar Never Tasted So Good. The likes of Cannon and Broken Bricks are good old-fashioned walls of distorted noise, while covers of Robert Johnson’s Stop Breaking Down, Bob Dylan’s magnificent One More Cup of Coffee and the uncredited St James Infirmary Blues merely add cheeses of intrigue to a smörgåsbord of musical delight

The vibe:

This has all the vibes of a key character in EastEnders having a breakdown upon discovering their spouse’s affair and trashing the Queen Vic. Images of Phil Mitchell throwing a pint glass at the gents or Ian Beale labouring to tip over a table are invoked as Jack raises the anger and pitch with each verse. 

In fact, if you play it in the background, it really captures the emotion of Barry’s commendable effort to trash Pat Butcher’s place from 1:55. (Turn Barry down but not off so you can still hear his distant roars) 

The big three killed my baby
No money in my hand again
The big three killed my baby
Nobody's coming home again

Their ideas made me want to spit

A hundred dollars goes down the pit
30,000 wheels are rollin'
And my stick shift hands are swollen
Everything involved is shady
The big three killed my baby

The big three killed my baby

No money in my hand again
The big three killed my baby
Nobody's coming home again

Why don't you take the day off and try to repair

A billion others don't seem to care
Better ideas are stuck in the mud
The motors runnin' on trucker’s blood
Don't let them tell you the future's electric
Cause gasolines not measured in metric
30,000 wheels are spinnin'
And oil company faces are grinnin'
Now my hands are turnin' red
And I found out my baby is dead

The big three killed my baby

No money in my hand again
The big three killed my baby
Nobody's coming home again

Well I've said it now, nothing’s changed

People are burnin’ for pocket change
And creative minds are lazy
And the big three killed my baby

And my baby's my common sense

So don't feed me planned obsolescence
Yeah my baby's my common sense
So don't feed my planned obsolescence
I'm about to have another blowout
I'm about to have another blowout


Everyone loves a murder mystery, even when it concerns the particularly morbid crime of infanticide, so allow me to don my detective’s hat and get to the bottom of this one. Jack White pins culpability for this callous crime on a non-further elaborated ‘big three’, so let’s examine the suspects on the basis of the clues he gives us.

‘The Big Three’ colleges

- Harvard University
- Yale University
- Princeton University

Case for the prosecution

Affiliated to various hospitals in the area and home to scientific departments conducting experimental research, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that a baby could die under the ‘care’ of one of these institutions. If they do indeed have medicinal equipment ‘running on trucker’s blood’, as Jack claims, then it’s quite easy to see how this could pose a danger to patients. 

Case for the defence

These are highly respectable institutions and infant death by medical negligence is a very serious accusation indeed. As institutions that sit on a combined endowment of $80.8bn, I find it tough to believe that not only would they collude to murder a child, they’d rob the parent as well (‘no money in my hand again’).

‘The Big Three’ at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences of 1945

- Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Later replaced by Clement Atlee)
- Franklin D Roosevelt / Harry S Truman, Presidents of the United States
- Joseph Stalin, Communist Party General Secretary of the Soviet Union

Case for the prosecution

Well, when it comes to murder, it’s fair to say Stalin has a track record. Supposedly capable of crushing a bird in his hand upon his deathbed, it probably wasn’t beyond his capabilities to strangle a child. Lyrically Jack asserts that ‘everything involved is shady’, and Yalta and Potsdam certainly meet the definition, what with giving Eastern Europe to Stalin while giving him a nudge and a wink about having the deadliest weapon in human history. The 30,000 spinning wheels could be a reference to tank movements across the continent at the time. 

Case for the defence

These guys were busy people, and no matter how critical Jack is of the post-war agreement, it seems a bit of a stretch to imagine they’d kill his child in response. Furthermore, with this meeting of the big 3 often seen as the start of the Cold War, they didn’t agree on much, least of all targets for assassination. 

The Big Three – Merseybeat group best known for 1963 recording of Some Other Guy

- Casser (Rhythm guitar, lead vocals)
- Adrian Barber (lead guitar, vocals)
- Johnny ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson (drums)

Case for the prosecution

Supposedly The Big Three were once seen as rivals to the Beatles – Johnny ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson once claimed towards the end of the 1950s that the Beatles “weren’t worth a carrot”. Considering their contrasting fortunes from thereon in, it is easy to see how this group could end up being embittered out-of-pocket arsons for hire (‘people are burnin’ for pocket change’), and you can’t rule out Jack’s child being an accidental victim. Jack’s mention of ‘creative minds [being] lazy’ could be a pop at The Big Three’s complacent inability to capitalise on the original popularity of the Merseybeat scene.

Case for the defence

A lazy, unoriginal and offensive man might suggest that these Scousers are responsible because there’s ‘no money in [Jack’s] hands again’. They might link ’30,000 wheels are spinnin’’ with some kind of hubcap theft.

This is patently ridiculous. 10,000 hubcaps per man is far too much. 

The Big Three infectious diseases

- Malaria
- Tuberculosis 

Case for the prosecution

Well it’s not difficult to see how a combination of these three would be tough even for the most resilient newly born to resist. Jack is likely to have been in close contact with his child during the infection process, which might explain why ‘[his] hands are turnin’ red’ and/or why his ‘stick shift hands are swollen’. 

Case for the defence

It seems unlikely to me that an infant would catch all three diseases at the same time – it would require not only a horrendous run of luck, but exposure to all sorts of ill-advised conditions. Which would suggest that, even if true, Jack as a parent should accept ultimate responsibility.  


For me the Second World War leaders have probably the least regard for human life out of all those on the suspect list, including the non-sentient diseases whose existence is tied up in killing humans. However their bastardism was almost always tied up in some sort of self-interest, and I can’t for the life of me pin down a motive for having the KGB and CIA collude to kill a non-politically aligned kid at the same that Greece is ravaged by left v right civil war. Not to mention the chronological difficulties involved here. INNOCENT

I can’t accept that the US colleges would engage in such behaviour – not just on the basis of institutional reputation, but also because Jack White actually spoke at Yale last yearWould seem a bit odd if he held them partly accountable for the death of his first born. INNOCENT

Malaria, HIV and TB are shits yes, but in the western world they rarely hunt in packs. INNOCENT

Quite honestly I just can’t shake the feeling that The Big Three of Merseyside have something undoubtedly ominous about them. Perhaps reaching conclusions regarding murder on the basis of one photo isn’t the most forensic approach to detective work, but tell me that these guys aren’t capable of burning down a house for a few quid because they heard that Paul McCartney lived there.


Ultimately I wouldn’t imagine that they intentionally set out to kill anybody, rather this was a vandal attack gone horribly awry. I imagine they wept in horror when they realised the house actually belonged to Jack White and was occupied at the time. As such I would recommend a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter*.

*- If The Big Three of Merseyside are litigious types, I am officially not advocating a charge of involuntary manslaughter. 

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