In February of 2009 Conan O’Brien was plotting the end of his long-running NBC Late Night show as he prepared for his ill-fated stint as the new host of The Tonight Show. He could have booked nearly any musical act in the world to close out the last episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, but he wanted the White Stripes. The timing wasn’t great since Jack White was weeks away from releasing the Dead Weather’s debut single and the White Stripes hadn’t played since Meg White’s anxiety issues prematurely ended their 2007 tour, but they were both huge Conan fans and they decided to make it happen.
“When we were trying to decide out which musical act to feature on the last show after so many years there was one band that was always on the top of my list,” O’Brien said as he introduced them. “I wasn’t sure this could happen. I am personally very thrilled this could happen this evening. Please welcome our good friends for many years, the White Stripes.”
They performed an alternative version of 2001’s “We’re Going to Be Friends,” and in a highly unusual move, Meg played guitar instead of the drums. It’s unlike any other performance in the group’s history. “That meant the world to me,” Conan told them when it was over. “The White Stripes everyone!”
At the time, Jack White was telling the press that the group was recording new material and were hoping to release their seventh album in the near future. Nothing surfaced and Jack began devoting all his energies to the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. Nearly two years to the day after the Conan performance, the group announced that they were done. “It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way,” read a statement. “Both Meg and Jack hope this decision isn’t met with sorrow by their fans but that it is seen as a positive move done out of respect for the music that the band has created.”
Two years ago, Jack White admitted to Rolling Stone that his relationship with Meg is nearly nonexistent at this point. “I don’t think anyone talks to Meg,” he said. “She’s always been a hermit. When we lived in Detroit, I’d have to drive over to her house if I wanted to talk to her, so now it’s almost never… I don’t think she understood how important she was to the band, and to me and to music. She was the antithesis of a modern drummer. So childlike and incredible and inspiring.”