Elephant (album)

Elephant is the fourth studio album by the American rock duo the White Stripes. It was released on April 1, 2003, through V2, XL, and Third Man. The album garnered critical acclaim and commercial success,[4] earning a nomination for Album of the Year and a win for Best Alternative Music Album at the 46th Grammy Awards in 2004, peaking at number six in the US Billboard charts and topping the UK album charts.

Studio album by
ReleasedApril 1, 2003 (2003-04-01)
RecordedNovember 2001 and April 2002
StudioToe Rag Studios and Maida Vale Studios (London)
ProducerJack White
The White Stripes chronology
White Blood Cells
Get Behind Me Satan
Singles from Elephant
  1. "Seven Nation Army"
    Released: March 7, 2003
  2. "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself"
    Released: September 2003
  3. "The Hardest Button to Button"
    Released: December 3, 2003
  4. "There's No Home for You Here"
    Released: March 15, 2004

In later years, the album has often been cited as the White Stripes' best work and one of the best albums of the 2000s; Rolling Stone magazine ranked it 390th on its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time",[5] and later the fifth-best of the decade. Third Man Records released a limited edition red, black and white vinyl reissue of Elephant on April 20, 2013, in celebration of the album's 10-year anniversary, as a Record Store Day exclusive.[6]

Background and production


Elephant is the White Stripes' fourth full album and the second to be released by V2 Records.[7] In this album, the White Stripes attempted to achieve the idea of "Back to Basics" as well as encouraging other rockers to try the same way.[8]

Including the song "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" (a Burt Bacharach cover) in their repertoire was Meg's idea, and the band had begun to cover the song live.[9]

It was recorded over two weeks in April 2002 in London's Toe Rag Studios except for the songs "Well It's True That We Love One Another," which was recorded at Toe Rag in November 2001, and "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself", which was recorded at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios. Jack White produced the album with antiquated equipment, including an eight-track tape machine and pre-1960s recording gear.[10] As stated in the liner notes, White deliberately refrained from using computers during Elephant's writing, recording, or production. The White Stripes set their own rules while they were recording this album: ten days in a non modern studio.[11][12] They chose to record in Liam Watson's modest Toe Rag studio in Hackney, London, England.[12] The liner notes included the disclaimer, "No computers were used during the writing, recording, mixing, or mastering of this record,"[12] and none of the recording equipment was more recent than 1963.[13]

The special edition 2013 Record Store Day, and August 2013 180-gram black vinyl reissues were pressed at United Record Pressing in Nashville, TN.[14]


The album's themes revolve around the idea of the "death of the sweetheart" in American culture.[15] In this album, the White Stripes expanded their style more than ever before, such as using a bass line - their rarity, piling with lead and rhythm guitar. Moreover, during the album Jack played guitar or keyboard to fill out the sound, but to the audience it still felt raw.[8] Like other White Stripes records, the cover art and liner notes are exclusively in red, white, and black, and there is a song that contains the word "little" in the title ("Little Acorns").

Cover art

The album has been released with at least six different versions of the front cover—different covers for the CD and LP editions in the US, the UK and elsewhere.[16] To give an example, on the US CD edition Meg White is sitting on the left of a circus travel trunk and Jack is sitting on the right holding a cricket bat over the ground, while on the UK CD edition the cricket bat touches the ground and the image is mirrored so that their positions on the amplifier are reversed. The UK vinyl album cover is the same as the US CD but differs in that the color hues are much darker. The cryptic symbolism of the album art includes a skull sitting on the floor in the background, as well as peanuts and peanut shells in the foreground, and on the circus travel trunk appears the mark "III," Jack White's signature. Jack White is also displaying a mano cornuta and looking at a light bulb intensely, while Meg White is barefoot and appears to be crying, with a rope tied around her ankle and leading out of frame. Both have small white ribbons tied to their fingers. On the reverse side of the U.S. edition, all of the number "3"s are in red (disregarding the authorization notes at the bottom).

The Record Store Day 2013 vinyl and August 2013 180-gram black vinyl reissues have Meg wearing a black dress instead of the usual white dress; the only other release with Meg wearing the black dress was on the V2 advanced copy back in 2003. The advanced copy was on red and white vinyl, while the RSD copy has red, black and white colored vinyl in 2013.

In an interview with Q Magazine in 2007, Jack White said, "If you study the picture carefully, Meg and I are elephant ears in a head-on elephant. But it's a side view of an elephant, too, with the tusks leading off either side." He went on to say, "I wanted people to be staring at this album cover and then maybe two years later, having stared at it for the 500th time, to say, 'Hey, it's an elephant!'"


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyB[18]
The Guardian[19]
Los Angeles Times[20]
Rolling Stone[24]

Upon its release, Elephant received widespread acclaim from music critics. The album enjoys a Metacritic rating of 92.[17] The White Stripes were gaining momentum with their previous three albums and were generally lauded in critical circles,[13][13] and many critics hailed Elephant as one of the defining events of the 2000s garage rock revival.[10] Uncut magazine remarked that "Elephant is where the tabloid phenomenon of summer 2001 prove they are no flash in the pan by making a truly phenomenal record."[27] David Fricke (with Rolling Stone) called it "a work of pulverizing perfection," adding, "It will be one of the best things you hear all year"[24] and Allmusic said the album "overflows with quality".[2] Critics also commented on the development of the band. NME noted that "The eloquence, barbarism, tenderness and sweat-drenched vitality of Elephant make it the most fully-realised White Stripes album yet."[21] PopMatters said the album cemented "their evolution from Blind Willie McTell cover band with a pop sensibility to full-fledged, honest-to-goodness rock 'n' roll gods."[28] Negative critique, though rare, was centered around the "gimmicks" that surround the music, most notably, the White Stripes' insistence on being called siblings. "So maybe it's time to drop the enigmatic charade," Lorraine Ali (with Newsweek) pleaded, although she concluded, "Elephant still sounds great."[29] Robert Christgau initially gave the album a three-star honorable mention () upon release,[30] but later admitted that he had underrated it, and gave it a new grade of A-.[31]

However, this album won big awards in just the first year: three MTV Video Music Awards, two summer dates with the Rolling Stones, and a sold-out gig at the venerable Radio City Music Awards.[32] According to Rolling Stone magazine, White matches the energy from his earlier albums and is even thought to "[exceed] the plantation holler of 2000's De Stijl and 2001's White Blood Cells with blues that both pop and bleed".[33] In 2012, the album was ranked number 390 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[5]

The album debuted at number one in the United Kingdom and reached number six on the Billboard 200 in the US. The album won Grammys for Best Alternative Album and Best Rock Song ("Seven Nation Army"). It was also placed thirty-ninth in Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Albums of all time.[34] In December 2003, NME made it their Album of the Year. In 2011, Rolling Stone called Elephant the 5th best album of the decade,[35] and Seven Nation Army the 6th best song of the decade. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[36]

Track listing

All tracks are written by Jack White, except where noted.

1."Seven Nation Army"3:52
2."Black Math"3:04
3."There's No Home for You Here"3:44
4."I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" (Burt Bacharach, Hal David)2:46
5."In the Cold, Cold Night"2:58
6."I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart"3:21
7."You've Got Her in Your Pocket"3:40
8."Ball and Biscuit"7:19
9."The Hardest Button to Button"3:32
10."Little Acorns" (Jack White, Mort Crim)4:09
12."The Air Near My Fingers"3:40
13."Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine"3:18
14."Well It's True That We Love One Another"2:43
Japan edition bonus tracks
15."Who's to Say" (Dan John Miller)4:36
16."Good to Me" (Brendan Benson)2:07


Charts and certifications


  1. Whitman, Andy; et al. (January 29, 2018). "The 50 Best Garage Rock Albums of All Time seven nation army". Paste. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  2. Phares, Heather. "Elephant – The White Stripes". AllMusic. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
  3. Kitty Empire (March 15, 2003). "They rock - like a beast". The Observer (via The Guardian). Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  4. Leahey, Andrew. "The White Stripes > Biography" at AllMusic. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
  5. "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  6. McGovern, Kyle (March 2, 2013). "Jack White Stomps All Other Record Store Day Exclusives With 'Elephant' Reissue". Spin. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
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