Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 42: The White Stripes XX (2019)

The 42nd set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in December 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 42nd Vault package celebrated the 20th anniversary of the self-titled 1999 debut album from The White Stripes, the blues-rock duo of Jack and Meg White. Formally known as The White Stripes XX, the set contained two 12-inch vinyl LP’s featuring previously unreleased bonus material related to that album, a DVD featuring two early live performances, and a picture book featuring photos of the now-defunct duo taken during the debut album’s time period. The White Stripes XX is packaged in a sleek, creatively designed box that resembles a hardcover coffee-table book.

The White Stripes’ self-titled indie-label debut album from 1999 was an efficient introduction to Jack and Meg White’s small-scale blues-rock ethos, reconstructing traditional blues sounds and funneling them through modern garage-rock minimalism. To its credit, this package does not contain a new vinyl pressing of the readily-available original album, as expanded edition CD reissues have taught us to expect. However, the material contained on the two LP’s are very much like the type of material we might expect from the bonus discs of such reissues.

The LP Self-Titled LP Outtakes, pressed in white vinyl, contains demos, alternate takes, and other outtakes from the debut album’s recording sessions. Although these unearthed tracks were newly mixed by Jack White, most of them have a live-in-the-studio feel that makes them seem more up-close-and-personal than the more distant album versions. For example, “I Fought Piranhas” has a lonelier, more intimate sound here, even though Johnny Walker from the Soledad Brothers contributes an extra slide guitar (as he did on the album version). The alternate take of “Slicker Drips” packs a remarkably potent punch in short order. The first take of “Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me” is another standout, and is actually better than the version which turned up on the second album. Oddly, the second take of that song found Jack using a marble-mouthed vocal effect, making one wonder exactly what the intention was. Two of the cuts, namely the early versions of “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” and “Let’s Build A Home”, were previously issued in Vault package #11 on a 7-inch single in 2012; those tracks come across better as parts of the whole of this LP. Take 2 of “Jimmy The Exploder” is almost equal to the album version; Take 3 of the song is rather redundant. The noticeable difference in both takes of “Sugar Never Tasted So Good” included here is that they miked Meg’s drums more closely than they did for the album version; on the first take, the louder percussion is a bit too distracting. The cover of Bacharach and David’s “My Little Red Book”, which was left off the proper album, comes on like a primal garage-rock variation on Arthur Lee and Love’s version of the song; if it had been included on the album, it would have stood out, but it’s hard to say if it would have worked for better or for worse. This version of “Screwdriver” was recorded in the studio, whereas the album version was recorded in Jack White’s house; this version is good, with an added second-voice track making it noticeably different, but it’s not necessarily better than the album version. In any case, it’s good to have this much additional perspective on the time-constrained sessions for the White Stripes’ debut album, and to hear more of the fruits of the duo’s early labors.

The live LP, titled Live At The Ritz – Raleigh, NC – 9/26/99, is pressed in red vinyl. It documents the set that the Stripes performed at that venue on that date as an opening act for ‘90’s alternative rockers Pavement (who were then on the verge of disbanding – but that’s another story). This gig was a big break for the Stripes, placing them before a larger audience than they had been accustomed to. If the duo was nervous about this, it doesn’t show much in the performance, because the Whites seem very focused here. Instead of trying to make a showy impression on the audience, Jack and Meg seemed intent on doing everything to the letter – following their own book, of course. They sound particularly confident on the second side. While the first side finds them respectably performing several songs from the debut album, the second side finds them in even better form. After a strong performance of “Let’s Build A Home” from their then-unreleased second album, the band varies their set with entertaining covers of Dolly Parton (“Jolene”), Iggy Pop (“I’m Bored”), Earl King (“Trick Bag”), and future Raconteurs collaborator Brendan Benson (“Good To Me”). What did the Pavement audience think of this supposed brother-and-sister guitar-and-drums duo playing their then-unknown brand of small-scale blues rock? It’s hard to tell, as it’s difficult to hear much reaction – except maybe at the end, after the Stripes seal the deal with a tight closing performance of “Screwdriver”, complete with a verse of Captain Beefheart poetry inserted by Jack at the end.

The most valuable part of this package is the DVD White Stripes Live, tucked discreetly into an insert inside the back cover of the package’s accompanying booklet. It contains low-resolution video of two White Stripes club shows from earlier in 1999, both performed after the debut album was recorded that January, but before it was released that June. The 37-minute video of a set performed at Paycheck’s Lounge in Hamtramck, Michigan on March 13th of that year is straightforward and excellent. Visual blurriness and anomalies aside, the sound is surprisingly good, coming from two-decade-old indie video. The second show documented on the DVD is a 44-minute set performed at the Magic Stick in Detroit the following May 30th. This video has a dingier rock-club atmosphere and muddier sound, but it captures the excitement of the duo’s intimate, pre-album release show played in their hometown. The performing is intense, especially towards the end of the set. It’s interesting to note the inclusions of two songs – “Same Boy You’ve Always Known” and “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” – that would eventually turn up on the Stripes’ third and fourth albums. And, according to the enclosed description, this was the first show in which Jack used his “soon-to-be-signature Airline Res-o-glass guitar”. Items like this DVD may be what the Third Man Vault is all about.

The package’s 39-page, 11.75” X 11.75” softcover picture book contains many quality color photos (as well as some Polaroids) of the then-married Jack and Meg White, taken during the year 1999. Some pictures were taken in the studio during the album’s recording sessions, some were taken at concerts, some at official photo shoots. Although they were in their mid-20’s, the Whites look like teenagers in some of these pictures, almost like they were innocent kids who had no idea what the future held for them. The book also lists the shows that the Stripes played that year, and reprints studio notes, concert flyers, and other documents from the Stripes’ 1999 adventures. It’s very interesting and visually appealing, on a level that could not be achieved by a tiny CD booklet.

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 Outtakes LP has “Who Knew” carved in Side A, and “So True” carved in Side B. The Live LP has “24 hrs before” carved in Side C, and “The corner closed” carved in Side D.

The White Stripes XX (Third Man Records TMR-649) 2019

The White Stripes “Self-Titled LP Outtakes”

Track Listing:


1. Dead Leaves (acoustic demo fragment)
2. Dead Leaves (outtake, previously released as TMR-134)
3. I Fought Piranhas (alternate take)
4. Jimmy The Exploder (take 2)
5. Jimmy The Exploder (take 3)
6. Let’s Build A Home (outtake, previously released as TMR-134)
7. My Little Red Book (outtake)
8. Screwdriver (alternate take)


1. Slicker Drips (alternate take)
2. Sugar Never Tasted So Good (take 1)
3. Sugar Never Tasted So Good (take 2)
4. Wasting My Time (alternate take)
5. When I Hear My Name (alternate take)
6. Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me (take 1)
7. Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me (take 2)

White Stripes “Live At The Ritz – Raleigh, NC – 9/26/99”

Track Listing:


1. Astro (incomplete)
2. Jimmy The Exploder
3. Wasting My Time
4. Do
5. Sugar Never Tasted So Good
6. Little People
7. Broken Bricks
8. Suzy Lee


9. Let’s Build A Home
10. Jolene
11. Good To Me
12. I’m Bored
13. The Big Three Killed My Baby
14. Trick Bag
15. Screwdriver

The White Stripes “White Stripes Live” DVD

Track Listing:

At Paychecks Hamtramck 03-13-99

1. Intro
2. Broken Bricks
3. Let’s Shake Hands
4. The Big Three Killed My Baby
5. Do
6. Jimmy The Exploder
7. Wasting My Time
8. Cannon
9. Screwdriver
10. Astro
11. Sugar Never Tasted So Good
12. One More Cup Of Coffee
13. Lafayette Blues
14. Slicker Drips

At Magic Stick Detroit 05-30-99

1. Intro
2. I’m Bored
3. Broken Bricks
4. The Big Three Killed My Baby
5. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
6. Jimmy The Exploder
7. St. James Infirmary Blues
8. Astro
9. Cannon
10. Stop Breaking Down
11. Same Boy You’ve Always Known
12. Wasting My Time
13. When I Hear My Name
14. Lafayette Blues
15. Sugar Never Tasted So Good
16. Let’s Shake Hands

Reviews of other Third Man Records Vault packages