Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 13

Last week I received the thirteenth set of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its platinum members every three months. According to the postmark, my package was sent on September 26th. I received it on the 28th.

This thirteenth set of items documents the very first public appearances by the White Stripes in 1997. The 7” single contains three songs which the duo performed at an open mic night that year, while the 12” LP contains their first full concert set from later that year.

The three songs on the single, which is pressed in red vinyl, were recorded on July 14th, 1997 at an open mic night at the now-defunct Gold Dollar in Detroit. Considering that this was the first time the White Stripes performed in public, Jack and Meg White clearly knew what they wanted from the beginning. The short and informal set showcased the duo’s now-famous basic guitar-and-drums approach, which sounds a bit loose at this stage of the game, but nonetheless conveys the trademark White Stripes aesthetic. Sure, they made a few expected mistakes, but they are barely noticeable. Jack already sounds quite confident, telling the audience (tongue-in-cheek, of course) that their version of the oldie “Love Potion #9” was “the original”. Those people in attendance surely had no idea that this husband-and-wife (or did they say they were brother and sister?) duo of minimalist blues-rockers would hit the big time a few years later. Who could have predicted that such a less-is-more musical act would soon appeal to a worldwide audience, without changing their small-scale ethos?

(Note: On July 14, 2017, the three songs from this show were made available for digital streaming or purchase to mark the show's 20th anniversary, under the title The White Stripes - The First Show: Live On Bastille Day.)

The full-length LP Live At The Gold Dollar 8/14/1997, pressed in white vinyl, was recorded one month later on August 14th, 1997 at the same venue. At the beginning of the half-hour-long, eleven-song set, Jack speaks the words: “Hello, we are the White Stripes” – effectively voicing the duo’s first introduction to the world. And it sounds like the Stripes wanted to make a good first impression on the world from inside that Detroit club. The set sounds tightly controlled throughout, as if the Whites rehearsed their hearts out during the month following their open mic performance. Sure, they still sound like a minimalist two-piece garage rock band here, but they sound about as professional as such an act can be, making their sound as accessible as possible for an audience who didn’t know them yet. The recording quality is surprisingly good, as well. Even when they cover the potentially anarchic Stooges classic “TV Eye”, Jack and Meg seem like they were remarkably focused on this night. “Screwdriver” and the early version of “Lafayette Blues” are particularly impressive. Live at the Gold Dollar 8/14/1997 is as satisfying as it is historic.

In an earlier Vault package, the White Stripes’ final concert was issued as Live in Mississippi. This raises the question: has any other well-known band ever issued both their very first and very last concerts as live albums, even as exclusive club offerings? If you know of any other examples, please drop me a line.

The “bonus” item in this package is an official White Stripes tote bag, designed to carry 12-inch vinyl records. It’s nice, but it probably should have been cut a bit wider. I’m finding it a bit tricky to place an album sleeve inside it, and trickier still to slide it back out. A more interesting enclosure is a copy of the Gold Dollar’s schedule flyer from August ’97, which suggests (perhaps it’s a typo) that the Stripes were actually scheduled to debut there on the 15th, as one of two opening acts for the Hentchmen.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the forgotten practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The A-side of the single has “Got your motor running” carved in the dead wax; the B-side has “Head out on my a***ole” carved. Side One of the LP has “Reissue of Mama 0-37” etched in the runout grooves; Side Two has “Two bands formerly featuring ex-Gories” carved.

The White Stripes - Live on Bastille Day '97

The White Stripes “Live at the Gold Dollar” (Third Man single TMR164) 2012

Track Listing:

a1. St. James Infirmary
a2. Jimmy the Exploder
b. Love Potion #9

The White Stripes - Live at the Gold Dollar

The White Stripes “Live At The Gold Dollar 8/14/1997” (Third Man TMR163) 2012

Track Listing:

1. St. James Infirmary
2. Jimmy the Exploder
3. Red Bowling Ball Ruth
4. I Can Learn
5. Love Potion #9
6. Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me?
7. Marantette Blues (Lafayette Blues)
8. Jumble, Jumble
9. TV Eye
10. Big Girl (Little People)
11. Screwdriver

Reviews of other Third Man Vault packages