Jack White's Third Man Records just released a three-song 7" record by Butthole Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes. But this isn't your average Butthole Surfers Valentine's Day comeback single—true to White's penchant for all things absurdly quaint, the record is printed on old medical X-rays.
Everyone's favorite color-conscious rock legend may be musically minimalist, but the guy sure does pull out all the stops when it comes to merchandise. Stereogum recently detailed some of the most bizarre of White collectibles, but they missed a few (or a few dozen). We dove in and put together a timeline of all the strange knick-knacks White has concocted over the last 17 years--everything from blood-flecked business cards to the elusive Inchophone, a mini record player that spins three inch vinyl. Gimmicks? Innovations? Hard to tell. And that's probably the way Jack wants it.
Jack and Meg's Michigan state marriage license
1996 — Jack Gillis and Meg White get legally married. They subsequently tell the press they’re brother and sister, even though they divorced in 2000. White kept Meg's last name, even after he married model Karen Elson. When White and Elson had children, they also kept the name White.
1997 — Jack launches Third Man Upholstery with the slogan, “Your Furniture Is Not Dead.” Adopts strict yellow-white-black color scheme for van, uniform, tools, and seemingly everything else. Writes poems inside of furniture, makes sculpture inside his shop, scrawls bills in crayon, etc. Has very few customers.
1997 — The White Stripes form. The garage duo make their first public appearance at open mic night at the Gold Dollar in Detroit, on July 14th (Bastille Day). Their first proper show is also at the Gold Dollar, exactly one month later.
October 1998 — Jack White and Dave Buick (of Italy Records fame) hand paint 15 copies of the Stripes' new single, “Lafayette Blues," to sell at a release party. “We pitched up six dollars for them," White later explains. "I remember me and Ben were talking, Aw that's too much! No-one's gonna buy it at the Gold Dollar for six dollars.” Twelve years later, one of those copies will sell for $18,000.
2000 — The Upholsterers record and release one single, “Makers of High Grade Suites”. Jack and bandmate Paul Muldoon press 100 copies “on clear vinyl with transparency covers,” and hide them in furniture “so even if you x-rayed the furniture you wouldn't be able to find them.” (None have been found yet according to Jack, though he can guess where a few are hiding). They released the rest of them “with a variety of inserts”--a sticker for 'Third Man Upholstery'; White's own business cards; a "fabric" sample of sandpaper; a Muldoon Studio business card; and a reproduction of an WE Klomp upholstery tag. Here’s a picture from a copy that later fetched $823 on eBay. According to White’s nephew and White Stripes manager Ben Blackwell, “Jack hand-defaced some of the business card inserts with blood and numbered and signed those.”
Spring 2000 — The White Stripes release the song “Handsprings” to Multiball Magazine #19, the now-defunct magazine about pinball and rock music.
December 2000 — The Stripes record three Captain Beefheart covers as part of the Sub Pop Singles Club series.
February 2002 — To help promote “Fell In Love With A Girl,” the Stripes' breakout single, Jack and meg release “StripeOut,” a little computer game sort of like Brick Breaker, only a thousand times more badass. The band holds a contest to see who could get the most points and award prizes like J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories, peppermints, drumsticks, Deep Blues by Robert Palmer, coasters, and early 7” singles.
September 2002 — Stripes release “Red Death at 6:14” on red vinyl that comes only with the September issue of MOJO.
April 2003 — The Stripes release their fourth full length record, Elephant. Promotional copies are only distributed on vinyl. "We didn't want any journalists who didn't own a record player writing about us. We wanted to make the first listen more of an event," Jack later explained. "We wanted people to take part in it and that was a nice way to do it. It sort of became a nice artifact you can hold in your hands . . . if a journalist or a critic doesn't own a record player, I don't really trust them. They're obviously not looking back, they don't know enough about music history."
Elephant sees widespread release in 6 different covers, depending on format and point of sale. The European vinyl cover is made from paper made out of elephant dung.
The band does a weeklong stint on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, which includes perhaps the best live TV performance of the last, oh, 15 years. They perform "Let’s Build a Home" and "Goin’ Back to Memphis," at which point Jack takes off his guitar and puts it on Conan’s desk so that he can shred an impromptu slide solo. Only the guitar disconnects; he throws it down--because fuck it, right?--and launches into an a capella version of "John the Revelator."
This is the first public manifestation of a beautiful friendship that started back in the late 1990s when Jack and Conan met by chance in a Detroit bowling alley. Conan will cameo in the ‘The Denial Twist’ video in 2005. And of course the Stripes will perform for the last time on the last ever Late Night episode in 2009. A year later, Conan records a spoken-word piece for Third Man Records.
The White Stripes (via molivera)
July 2003 — Jack breaks a finger in a car crash, forcing the Stripes have to cancel some shows. To prove it, he posts a video of the reconstructive surgery on fan site Whitestripes.net. The operation required three screws being implanted.
March 2004 — The White Stripes release “There’s No Home For You Here” as a vinyl-only single.
November 2004 — The White Stripes release the Under Blackpool Lights live concert film. It screens in small US theaters. It was shot over two nights and stitched into a single performace. If you look closely, you can tell which night is which because on one Jack has “NOXIOUS” written on his arm and on the other it’s “OBNOXIOUS.”
June 2005 — Jack marries model/”Blue Orchid” video actress Karen Elson in the Amazon rainforest in a canoe. A shaman officiates. The maid of honor? Meg White. From Whitestripes.com
Karen Elson and Jack White were married yesterday on the confluence of three rivers - the Rio Negro, the Solimones, and the Amazon - in the Amazon basin in the city of Manaus, Brazil. They were married by a traditional Shaman priest on a canoe at the exact point where the three rivers meet. The bride and groom were accompanied by a small party of close friends. The best man was Ian Montone. Meg White was the maid of honor. The ceremony was immediately followed by a blessing by a priest at a Catholic Cathedral called Igreja Matric in the historical city of Manaus. This was the first marriage for both newlyweds.
That last line, of course, is bullshit.
October 2005 — The Stripes start selling tiny record players called Triple Inchophones, along with 3" records that can only be played on the Inchophone. They also release one tune, "Top Special," solely on 3" vinyl. Adorable.
November 2005 — The White Stripes tour the UK, ande make each live version of new single “The Denial Twist” available for download. In a typical show of Ludditism, they give out blank CD-Rs (with exclusive artwork) to show attendees so that they can rip the download to the CD. They then play the song differently--using different instruments, different tempos, etc.--at each show on purpose. At a later show in the US, they call a little girl up onstage to play hand percussion.
November 2005 — Jack White changes his name to “III Quid” and Meg’s to “Penny Farthing” for the duration of the UK tour.
January 2007 - The White Stripes being selling a sewing kit at shows, complete with red and black thread and custom buttons.
June 2007 — To build up the release of what will be their last long player, Icky Thump, the Stripes put out “a very special limited edition gatefold red vinyl single, featuring the track “Rag and Bone” on side A and an etching on side B attached to the cover of the June issue of the UK music magazine NME. It is “the first vinyl record to be given away with a magazine for over a decade.”
June 2007 - The band drops Icky Thump through a bunch of formats: digital, CD, double 180-gram vinyl, and tiny USBs that look like mariachi Jack & Meg. Only 3,333 of each USB are made.
June 2007 — As part of the Icky Thump release, Jack and Meg take over the old Tower Records building in Los Angeles, renaming it “Icky Thump Records.” They redecorate the place, open a “store” at midnight, and play a special performance. People camp out to get in, duh.
June & July 2007 — The Under Great White Northern Lights tour includes a run of shows in every Canadian province. They even attempts to play the shortest show in the world (one note!) and then later beefed with the Guinness Book of World Records about it. Some other venues from the Canadian jaunt: a bowling alley, a school bus, a boat, and a circle of tribal elders.
As part of their 10th anniversary celebration, the Stripes design an Official Tartan Pattern (which they've since egistered with the “Official Tartan Index”) and beging selling traditional kilts, kilt hose, and balmoral hats.
October 2007 — Jack and Meg start selling official “Jack” and “Meg” Holga cameras. Only 3000 of each are made.
Holga Jack (via)
November 2007 — “Conquest” singles come in three versions— black, red, and white—with three different B-sides and three different fake bullfighter trading cards.
December 2007 — Stripes begin selling fan-designed Jack & Meg “nesting dolls”. Six-hundred of each are made.
February 2008 — Band releases “Conquista,” a Spanish-language version of “Conquest,” credited to “Las Rayas Blancas.” (Stereogum calls Jack “the king of method singing.”)
July 2009 — Jack unveils The Vault, “a social networking and subscription service that provides exclusive offerings from the label’s artists.” Fans can sign up for either the $7/month Premium service, which includes online access to recordings, pre-sale tickets, fan contests, streamed concerts, and artist chats, orthe Platinum service, which at $20/month which gives you all the online stuff in addition to the band mailing you a package every three months stuffed with ill merch unavailable elsewhere--generally a record, a 7”, and something else. Some of the crazier shit that I’ve gotten? A White Stripes tote bag, a vinyl recording of their first show ever, annual compilations of Blue Series singles with awesome collage-posters, and a Dead Weather tour photobook with pictures by Alison Mosshart.
August 2009 — Third Man opens a popup store in Los Angeles called “Third Man Records and Novelties West.” They release “bizarro” versions of some of their singles, with reversed artwork and backwards labels.
August 2009 — Jack is a subject in the documentary It Might Get Loud, which features other guitar legends the likes of Jimmy Page and The Edge. In this clip, Jack makes a guitar out of wood, nails, a coke bottle, string and a pick-up. "Who says you need to buy a guitar?" he says before taking a drag of his cigarette. So casual.
October 2009 — Third Man opens a two-day popup store at Shoreditch Church in East London on Halloween. To celebrate, the label releases glow-in-the-dark pressings of the entire Third Man catalog.
December 2009 — The White Stripes release the Under Great White Northern Lights tour documentary. A crazy, special-edition box set includes the documentary, a live DVD of their 10th anniversary show, a double LP/CD of 16 live tracks, colored 7”, hardcover photo book, silkscreened print. The band sends holiday cards to all preorders.
February 2010 — Third Man Records hosts a concert by Dexter Romweber Duo. The show is recorded directly to vinyl, which attendees can then buy after the show. Jack White announces that this will henceforth be the norm for Third Man shows.
March 2010 — Third Man debuts the "Rolling Record Store," which travels around and sells records and hosts concerts and screenings and other quirky stuff.
April 2010 — Third Man does a non-traditional (or super-traditional, depending on how you look at it) online “live stream” of the new Dead Weather album, Sea of Cowards, in which the website streamed “video footage of a vinyl copy of the album being played at locations in Los Angeles and Nashville.” They called it “Screaming Vinyl Live.”
September 2010 — “Blue Blood Blues,” the latest Dead Weather single, is released as a Triple-Decker Record--a 7” record INSIDE a 12” record. You have to cut one out of the other like so. White also releases a scented record, because he can.
October 2010 — Third Man tries to one-up Dr. Dre by launching a line of headphones. The earmuffs look like little 45s.
November 2010 — The Stripes release “The White Stripes Merchandise Collection.” Only 333 are made, and they cost $500 a pop. Highlights include a custom White Stripes record player, turntable slipmat, record-cleaning brush, headphones, and two sizes of vinyl carrying cases This same month they also release remastered “definitive” editions of their first three records, featuring direct analog-to-vinyl remasterings and “special deluxe old-style tip-on sleeves.” They roll ‘em out in several colors, of course.
January 2011 — Third Man releases Wanda Jackson’s comeback record, The Party Ain’t Over. It lands at No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 200, making Jackson, at 73, the oldest female vocalist to chart.
February 2011 — The White Stripes break up. Whole world cries. The group issues a statement: “It’s for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way.”
April 2011 — Third Man releases the Karen Elson single, "Vicious," on clear vinyl with peach-colored rose petals inside.
June 2011 — Jack and then-wife Karen Elson throw “a positive swing bang hum dinger,” otherwise known as a divorce party, to celebrate “the making and breaking of the sacred union of marriage.”
December 2011 — Third Man begins selling iPhone cases made of old records. The dead Stripes begin selling mini theremin kits. Third Man starts remastering and reissuing super old, previously-rare White Stripes singles. They will continue this for the foreseeable future, we assume.
January 2012 — Third Man opens up their recording space to high school bands and choirs. Each kid leaves with a vinyl pressing of the performance in the school's colors. Unrelatedly, Jack can't hear the rain in his sound-proof home, so he has his drain pipes mic'ed so that he can enjoy that gentle pitter patter as he schemes.
March 2012 — For the Third Man third anniversary, Jack throws a party and gave out a 3RPM vinyl, meaning it makes three revolutions per minute--a first. The record contains every "Blue Series Single" from the label.
April 2012 — On Record Store Day, White releases a "12 single for his song "Sixteen Saltines." The record is filled with blue liquid.
Jack releases 1000 copies of “Freedom At 21” by attaching flexi-discs of the song to giant, helium-filled balloons and releasing them from the Third Man Records office in Nashville. No one knows how many copies were recovered.
July 2012 — Third Man releases a vinyl version of the White Stripes’ first-ever live show--that one at the Gold Dollar in Detroit back in 1997--and a 7” of their first-ever live performance, which was held at the Gold Dollar’s open mic a month earlier.
February 2013 — Jack announces he will re-issue literally thousands of pre-war country blues songs that are owned by the independent Scotish label Document Records.
Phew. That all said, here's a nifty graph we spun up to visualize the trajectory of Jack White being Jack White.
As you can see, White does more weird things as time goes on. By the time 2014 rolls along, this list will probably need serious updating.
Top image via