Ice Station Zebra

Album: Boarding House Reach (2018)

Songfacts®:

  • This freewheeling rap-rock track has its origins in a scrapped joint album project that Jack White embarked on with Jay-Z, circa 2009. The former White Stripes frontman laid down a bunch of tracks for Hova, none of which yielded anything lasting, but versions of two of them eventually appeared on Boarding House Reach. Speaking with Metallica's Lars Ulrich for his Beats 1 show It's Electric with Lars Ulrich, White explained regarding "Ice Station Zebra":

    "A couple years ago I had worked on a few tracks with Jay Z - we were going to do an album together, it just never culminated and we didn't finish. But this was something I played drums, piano guitar, and bass on as an idea for him to maybe spur him on to inspire him and do something."
  • The title of "Ice Station Zebra" was borrowed from Scots novelist Alistair MacLean's 1963 arctic espionage thriller and the 1968 Rock Hudson-starring movie adaptation. It's also to do White's interest with American tycoon, inventor and hygiene-obsessive Howard Hughes, who watched the flick on constant rotation in his hotel room.

    "Ice Station Zebra was Howard Hughes' favorite film. He even bought a Las Vegas TV station and explicitly told them to play nothing else from midnight to 8 a.m.," White explained. "It's not that interesting a movie. I watched it and was like, 'Hmm, OK'. I think he must have liked how clean it was in Antarctica, no germs."
  • Jack White commented to The Sun regarding his quickfire lyrical delivery on this song: "I hate to say the word 'rap' but this particular delivery is almost like Eric B & Rakim or A Tribe Called Quest."

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