Jack White was a teenager in blue-collar Detroit when he purchased U2‘s heavy left turn of a seventh album, Achtung Baby. “I listened to that a lot in my headphones,” he says. Almost immediately, the bluesman was drawn to the LP’s closing track, “Love Is Blindness.” “I listened to that on repeat quite often,” says White, whose cover of the U2 classic appears on the soundtrack for The Great Gatsby.
Before White entered the studio, the guitarist engaged in brainstorming sessions with Jay-Z (who, in addition to his duties as executive producer, also wrote and performed the original song, “100$ Bill”). “I talked to Jay-Z a lot,” White says. “We went back and forth on a lot of ideas. But the one that I kept thinking about, the one that was interesting just for me, was the “Love Is Blindness” track.”
White was confident that his grimy rendition, one he characterizes as “almost violent,” would fit in well with director Baz Luhrmann’s vision for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic tale of wealth, privilege and deception. “I could imagine it in hundreds of different scenarios,” he says.
The guitarist first recorded his cover of “Love Is Blindness” in 2011 at the request of the Edge (the pair had previously joined forces for Davis Guggenheim’s guitar documentary, It Might Get Loud, in 2008). Afterwards, the U2 co-founder asked White if he’d contribute a U2 cover to the band’s 20th-anniversary Achtung Baby release, Ahk-toong Bay-bi Covered.
“I get requests for some kind of compilation, duet or tribute album twice a week,” White explains. “And I always say no. I can’t stand 99-percent of them – they’re just wastes of time. But this one was different, because I’ve been connected to Edge since we made the guitar film.”
“I thought, ‘Well, this feels real close to me,'” he continues. “As long as I can do ‘Love Is Blindness.’ As long as no one’s taken that.”
White ended up so pleased with his version of the U2 track – which was originally inspired by the Edge’s breakup with his then wife, Aislinn O’Sullivan – that he asked for (and recieved) permission from the guitarist to include it as a b-side to his 2012 solo debut, Blunderbuss.
“This was bigger than just a tribute record,” he explains. “It came off so powerful, we had to ask if we could put it somewhere else.”