Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 41: The Go “Whatcha Doin’ 20th Anniversary Remix Redux” (2019)

The 41st set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in September of 2019. 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. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (usually one full-length album and one 7” single) to its Platinum members every three months.

The 41st Vault package was centered on the 1999 debut album from The Go, the Detroit-based indie rock band which then included Jack White in its lineup. Formally known as Whatcha Doin’ 20th Anniversary Remix Redux, the set contained a 12-inch vinyl LP featuring a newly remastered version of The Go’s Whatcha Doin’ album, on which White played lead guitar. Also, it contained another 12-inch vinyl LP with previously unreleased home-recorded demos of the album tracks. The package also contained a 7-inch single with two alternate studio tracks, as well as an exclusive book of band photos.

The Whatcha Doin’ album was originally issued by the Sub Pop label in 1999, catalogue no. SP 478. It was the only Go album to feature Jack White, and it was released the same year as the White Stripes’ self-titled debut album. White’s presence has helped the album acquire a cult following.

The Go’s three constant members from 1996 until 2013 were lead vocalist Bobby Harlow, rhythm guitarist John Krautner, and drummer Marc Fellis. The bass on Whatcha Doin’ was played by Dave Buick, aka David Italy of the Detroit indie label Italy Records. The Go should not be confused with the 1970's progressive rock band called Go.

The original 1999 version of Whatcha Doin’ had a lo-fi acid rock sound reminiscent of the Detroit pre-punk scene from 30 years earlier, recalling the Stooges, the MC5, and Pretties For You-era Alice Cooper. The original mix had an aura of garage-rock psychedelia quite similar to what you’d hear on a Nuggets compilation, sounding particularly authentic when lead singer Bobby Harlow sang the titular lyrics of “You Can Get High” – a song about a girl, not about a drug, as far as I can tell. White’s lead guitar often gave the tracks an intense layer that was largely missing from much of The Go’s later indie work (which often evoked the year 1969 in different ways – but that’s another story). “It Might Be Bad” and “Suzy Don’t Leave” are standout examples of the album’s Motor City garage-psych. White’s guitar playing is recognizable, but it seems less blues-based than usual, and is quite reminiscent of James Williamson’s work on the Stooges’ Raw Power album. White’s guitar sounded particularly trippy on “But You Don’t Know”, and took on more of its usual blues-based qualities on White’s two co-compositions: “Keep On Trash” and the closing track “Time For Moon”.

The 2019 Vault edition of Whatcha Doin’, pressed in orange “Summer Sun” vinyl, was remixed by Jack White from the original reel-to-reel tapes. Although White’s newer mix still has a rather raw retro-‘60’s feel, the sound has been brought out of the murky garage and into the daylight. The different instruments now sound more pronounced, instead of blending into the haze of the original mix. Not surprisingly, Mr. White’s guitar has a particularly enhanced degree of audibility. Previously unreleased studio takes of “Meet Me At The Movies” and “You Can Get High” replace the demo versions that were used for the 1999 release. (One catchy song from the original album, titled “Get You Off”, is mysteriously absent from the whole Vault package). The unearthed studio version of “Meet Me At The Movies” surely gets the album off to a stronger start than before, with a far more potent guitar display. The studio version of “You Can Get High” sounds a bit more contemporary than the demo version, and features a more noticeable backing vocal from White. If these changes suggest that White wanted to make his presence more obvious on the new mix of Whatcha Doin’, it’s also notable that his two co-compositions “Keep On Trash” and “Time For Moon” have less of a pre-White Stripes sound this time around, as they come across more like full-group creations. The bottom line: as remixed by Jack White with 2019 technology – as well as with the help of engineer Bill Skibbe – The Go’s Whatcha Doin’ now sounds something like a less refined variation of a Raconteurs album.

The second LP, titled Ferdinand Attic Demos, contains pre-studio-session rehearsal recordings of nearly all of the album’s songs (excluding the aforementioned “Get You Off”), played in the attic of White’s then-home in Southwest Detroit. The LP is pressed in creatively ugly “Mottled Carpet Remnant” colored vinyl, which supposedly resembles the flooring in that attic. (To my eyes, it looks like translucent light-yellow with purple blotches). As you might expect, the sound quality is equally dirty and discolored, as White did not make any attempt to clean up the muddy and spontaneous sound of these informal practice tapes. The LP sounds much like a bootleg recording of a punk band playing in a tiny claustrophobic club. “But You Don’t Know” and “On The Corner” are the tracks that come off best in this setting. “Hesitation” (which is cut off at the end of Side A) and “Tired Of The Night” sound amusingly like discarded early Stones outtakes. Not surprisingly, “Keep On Trash” and “Time For Moon” could almost be mistaken for early White Stripes attic recordings. The false start at the beginning of “It Might Be Bad” and the redundant work-in-progress version of “Time For Moon” are the other precursors of Jack’s future endeavors. The Ferdinand Attic Demos LP is strictly for connoisseurs of underground indie-rock collectibles.

The 7-inch single, titled The Studio Outtakes, was pressed in black vinyl, and contained alternate studio takes of “Keep On Trash” and “Time For Moon” which also got the remix treatment. As noted before, these two tracks were the ones that were co-written by White, and were most predictive of his blues-rock future – at least in their 1999 forms. That’s even more so the case on these takes. The alternate take of “Keep On Trash” on the A-side has an even denser wall of fuzzy guitar sound than its album version(s), while Harlow’s lead vocals sound clearer and less distant (not always for the better). The alternate take of “Time For Moon” on the B-side has a sound very close to that of the early White Stripes, with just a bit more instrumentation, and a quicker pace than the album version(s) of the song. At the end of both sides, we can hear discussions between band members about possibly doing the songs differently. The discussions sound polite enough, but Jack White was clearly destined to be his own boss.

The softcover picture book The Go In Black And White contained 48 pages of mostly black-and-white photographs taken of The Go by Detroit photographers Patrick Pantano and Doug Coombe, in late 1998 and early 1999. (A few color shots of White and Harlow are at the center of the book, and are credited to Ewolf, aka Eric Wheeler of the Dirtbombs). Some of the photos were taken during the Whatcha Doin’ recording sessions, some were taken (by Coombe) during the November ’98 show at Detroit’s Gold Dollar which was documented in Vault package 27, and the rest were taken at two Hamtramck club gigs in March ‘99. It’s nice to see this package include such a generous amount of visual representation of the obscure group, although the now-famous Mr. White easily steals every photo he appears in.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The 7-inch single has “Please Do Not” carved in Side A, and “Hang On The Heavy Bag” carved in Side B. The Whatcha Doin’ LP has “Whatcha Doin?” carved in Side A, and “Taking Off My Pants” carved in Side B. The Ferdinand Attic Demos LP has “Cool as a June Bug” carved in Side A, and “Where’d You Get Your Shoes” carved in Side B.

The Go “Whatcha Doin’ ” (Third Man TMR-643) 2019

Track Listing:


1. Meet Me At The Movies (previously unreleased studio version)
2. Summer Sun Blues
3. Keep On Trash
4. Whatcha Doin’
5. But You Don’t Know
6. Suzy Don’t Leave


7. It Might Be Bad
8. Tired Of The Night
9. You Can Get High (previously unreleased studio version)
10. On The Corner
11. Hesitation
12. Time For Moon

The Go “Ferdinand Attic Demos” (Third Man TMR-644) 2019

Track Listing:


1. Meet Me At The Movies
2. But You Don’t Know
3. Summer Sun Blues
4. Whatcha Doin’
5. On The Corner
6. Suzy Don’t Leave
7. Hesitation (partial)


8. You Can Get High
9. It Might Be Bad
10. Tired Of The Night
11. Keep On Trash
12. Time For Moon
13. Time For Moon (songwriting demo)

The Go “The Studio Outtakes” single (Third Man TMR-645) 2019

a. Keep On Trash (alternate studio take)
b. Time For Moon (alternate studio take)

Bonus book (Third Man Books TMB-029):

The Go In Black And White. Nashville: Third Man Books, 2019.