“Apple Blossom” by The White Stripes. From De Stijl.
The song that convinced me The White Stripes were legit.
Like everyone but the ultra-hip, my White Stripes experience began with White Blood Cells. Somehow I missed “Fell in Love with a Girl,” but I did catch the music video for “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.” Mostly, I was confused. Jack White was walking through his old house as the ghosts of the past visit him. It was cool-looking, but the heavy distortion lead guitar and the high, thin vocals didn’t grab me, and the song itself wasn’t particularly memorable. These guys was the critical darlings I’d read about?
A year later, I was living in Europe, and the only new music I was hearing came from Kylie Minogue, so to find “new” music was to borrow friends’ old music. This is how I came upon De Stijl. A girl who owned the Stripes’ 2nd album was really into “Hello Operator,” a funny rock song with talking/yelling vocals and multiple drumstick solos. I still wasn’t convinced.
But when I borrowed the CD, there was one song in the middle of the album that caught my ear, not because it was a sound I’d never heard before, but because I couldn’t believe how much it sounded like The Beatles. For starters, the piano sounds like it’s right off The White Album. Then there’s Jack’s voice, which sounds like Paul McCartney after a couple of drinks and an extra-spirited rendition of “Hey Jude.” Like all White Stripes songs, the song recorded on old equipment. Then there’s its concision: the song takes 2 minutes and 11 seconds, and then ends on a punch. This is part of why Revolver can stand so many repeat listens: Each song ends before it has a chance to get old. There’s not a line in the song that could possibly lock “Apple Blossom” in time. It could have been written in 1965 as much as in 2000.
All these traits paired with the singsong quality of the lyrics would make you think that “Apple Blossom” is a light love song in which the narrator has only the purest of intentions for his young lady. “Come and sit with me and talk awhile,” he sings. “Let me see your pretty little smile / Put your troubles in a little pile / And I will sort them out for you.” The only problem with the wooing is that the narrator has convinced himself that he’s both the man of her dreams and the solution to all her problems. This “little apple blossom” has become his project. He spends the entire song telling her that he’s the only one who understands (or even likes) her, and then ends it with a one-two punch: “I’ll fall in love with you,” he promises, implying that it hasn’t happened yet. And then, finally, as if an afterthought, “I think I’ll marry you.” Notice it isn’t a question. There’s more than enough evidence here to declare the relationship doomed before it’s begun.
When the electric guitar enters for a solo, it’s only to outline the melody. Weezer could tell you that the trick gets old when you do it on every song on your album, but on “Apple Blossom,” it only adds to the matter-of-fact swagger of the song. White knows that the best way to present this irritating narrator is through the convention of the love song. It’s a memorable enough narrative that, when at the end of the album, the Stripes cover the old wife-beating anthem, “Your Southern Can,” it could just as well be entitled, “Apple Blossom Part II.”
“Apple Blossom” led me to an appreciation of songs (like “Seven Nation Army”) that don’t sound like the Beatles or anyone but Jack and Meg White. Also, I’ll play it on acoustic guitar for anyone who will listen.