How The White Stripes’ song “Seven Nation Army” became a stadium chant

A song sung by thousands around the world, but no one knows the origin of it.

The song “Seven Nation Army” is sung all around the world from stadiums to political protests but many people don’t actually know what it’s called or who wrote it.

The story of how The White Stripes song became a stadium chant is told by YouTube channel Middle 8, starting with the band’s formation in Detroit, Michigan in 1997.

Consisting of two members, Jack White and Meg White, The White Stripes are an essential garage rock revival band with critically acclaimed albums such as White Blood Cells and Elephant. Considering how the band consists of two members they sure make a lot of noise with Jack’s blaring fuzzy guitar tones using his Airline Resoglass guitar and the iconic Big Muff to get the fat distorted tones. Meg supplies minimal but very effective drumming techniques that pair with Jack’s playing impeccably. A big component of the White Stripes is their chemistry. They play together so well that they don’t even use a setlist for their shows. With this chemistry they have had major success throughout the years with 6 MTV Awards, 6 Grammys, 2 Brit awards and more.

“Seven Nation Army” was the lead single for Elephant. Many people assume it is a bass playing the main riff, but The White Stripes don’t have a bass player. Actually it was recorded with Jack White’s semi-acoustic guitar and a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave. The track reached number one on the Alternative Songs chart and maintained that spot for three weeks

So, if the song was so successful and as well as the group, how are people singing their songs without knowing who wrote it?

Jack White told Rolling Stone that the riff was composed at a sound check before a show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia. Jack originally didn’t have lyrics for it but knew it had potential. Jack said that if he was asked to write a James Bond theme song, this is what he would use this. The title comes from when Jack was a kid when he thought the Salvation Army was called the ‘Seven Nation Army’. Though the title references to the Salvation Army, the song has a different meaning. In a list of things you may not know about “Seven Nation Army”, it says Jack said that “The song’s about gossip. It’s about me, Meg and the people we’re dating.” He turned it into a storyline where a protagonist comes into town and the people spread gossip about him so he is forced to leave town.

The reason this hit song made its way into sports stadiums and marching bands all started in Belgium, during the 2003 UEFA Champions League. Brugge KV was playing AC Milan in the group stage and the fans of the “Blue Army” (the fanbase of Brugge KV) heard the song on the radio in pubs and bars and then marched into the stadium while singing it. One goal sparked the moment that whenever Brugge scored they would chant the riff from “Seven Nation Army”. It was Brugge’ chant until 2006 when AS Roma beat Brugge in the UEFA Champions League. From then on it became known as the “Po Po Po Po Po Po Song.” It was in very fashionable time as well because the FIFA World Cup was right around the corner. Italy won and the chant was sung through all of Rome. Eventually it became the unofficial anthem for soccer. It eventually spread to other sports as well became a chant you could sing at almost any gathering.

The song will continue to be sung in stadiums but with its original getting older and less relevant, fewer and fewer people will have any idea where it originally came from.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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