In the year 2000 the White Stripes released their sophomore LP De Stijl. Named after the minimalist Dutch art movement of the early 20th century, the album was a marked deviation from the raw, urban punk blues exhibited on their debut LP from the year prior. Eschewing the cold confines of a studio, De Stijl was tracked in Jack White’s living room, giving the band the freedom to take the time to massage their songs into their picturesque final forms. The year would prove to be a further continuation of the band’s upward trajectory, complete with their first-ever headlining tour, a clutch run of dates opening for Sleater-Kinney, a first-time overseas jaunt hitting Japan, Australia and New Zealand…all culminating in the tiniest peek into the press hype overload that would land their way come 2001.
Before any of that though was the songs.
De Stijl is oftentimes outwardly slow, somber and downtempo. Nowhere is that more evident than on the original acoustic boombox demos recorded by Jack White. Seemingly all done in an afternoon (and some of which may have been accidentally recorded over) the skeletal framework of such deep cuts as “Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise” and “I’m Bound to Pack It Up” butt up against a vocal-less seedling of “Expecting”, an exercise in keyboard dexterity via “Piano Octaves” and the unabashedly ebullient unheard and unreleased gem “Vanilla Fields.” Only recently discovered in the basement of Stripes’ archivist, Ben Blackwell, these recordings, many with alternate and unused lyrics, were completely forgotten by White, yet form a pivotal foundation and structure on which the De Stijl album would build from.
During the White Stripes’ “Three Island Tour” in October and November of 2000, the band found themselves at Corduroy Recording Studio in Melbourne, Australia. The plan was to record two songs direct-to-acetate and press them immediately after as a limited edition tour-only 7-inch single. The a-side was set to be the Billy Childish-via-the-Headcoatees song “You’re Right, I’m Wrong,” complete with Jack White jumping from bass to organ to guitar all in real-time. No room for tripping over a guitar cord of flubbing a lyric…or the band would have to start from scratch. No punch-in’s, no overdubs…just pure 1950’s archaic recording procedure. The b-side was an early attempt at the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” which would be re-recorded by the band the following year at BBC Maida Vale Studios and ultimately end up as a top-line single off their
Elephant album, released to widespread critical acclaim in 2003.
As the way things sometimes go, the recording didn’t feel quite right at that moment. The levels peaked a little bit, there was something still left to be desired, some long-forgotten disagreements about approach and style and volume causing a metaphorical fissure to erupt across the control room window of the recording studio. The recordings were shelved and remained under lock-and-key in Australia until Third Man Records arranged for their safe delivery to the climate-controlled Nashville tape vault in 2012. While it was tough to sit on them, only now does it feel right and appropriate to share these, some of choicest gems the Vault has ever shared with the fans. We’re unaware of any other unheard studio recordings of Jack and Meg from 2000, so the excitement here is palpable.
As New Year’s Eve 2000 crested over to 2001, Jack and Meg performed a celebratory set at the Magic Stick in their hometown of Detroit. Rather than just approach the set the same off-the-cuff way they’d perfected over the previous six months of incessant touring, the band put in the effort to make the evening special. Fresh off their Australian tour dates, the band exhibited a rediscovered appreciation for the early works of AC/DC and decided to place it front and center by starting the show with intense takes on both “Let There Be Rock” and “Dog Eat Dog.” Joined by good friend Chris McInnis (They Come in Threes, PA) on bass for these two songs, it would be one of only a handful of times the Stripes would employ the four-string instrument in the live setting, creating a rock solid power trio here which is totally in service to the songs. The rest of the set is strong, with all the quintessential 2000-era highlights…”Hello Operator” with “Little Bird” and “Lord, Send Me an Angel” along with a stellar “Let’s Build a Home/Goin’ Back to Memphis” medley. All punctuated with a set-closing rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “After Hours.” Originally written by Velvets frontman Lou Reed for drummer Moe Tucker to sing, the Stripes version has Meg stepping out from behind the drum kit for the first time ever in concert, delivering her lines with all the charm and verve that fans would come to love from her later outings singing both “In the Cold, Cold Night” and “Passive Manipulation.” As with the AC/DC tracks, this would be the only time the White Stripes would ever cover “After Hours.” In a career chock-full of outstanding live performances, this gig stands out as one of the most-special and unique shows the band ever played. Available in mediocre quality on bootlegs for years (thanks to a slick fan who fished a copy out of a dumpster), this version is speed-corrected and remastered in high-quality directly from the original board tape.
Furthermore, it wouldn’t be a full Vault package without wholly exploiting the visual medium by including a DVD of TWO killer shows from the peak of De Stijl touring. We 100% guarantee they are shows you have NEVER seen before, taken directly from the original tapes deep within the TMR archives, never previously shared, exciting and insightful as all get-out. But you’re gonna have to wait just a bit to find out which shows those exactly are. Did you see the band in 2000? Maybe you’re in the crowd shot. Didn’t see them in 2000? Well now you can. You like Easter Eggs? Well maybe we’ll include some. Have a show you particularly want to see? Tell us and if we have it, maybe we’ll dig it up and use it to make your day. You’re welcome.
Of further unabated excitement is the archival booklet serving as a road map through the most recondite peaks and valleys of the White Stripes travels and travails in the year 2000. Filled with all sorts of previously unseen photographs, flyers, posters, hand-written lyrics, death letters, ransom notes, Zodiac Killer ciphers, Mongolian horse racing slips, Braille crossword puzzles and other assorted fish-wrapping, giving you, Johnny Q. Fanboy, hours upon hours of fun reading, digging and learning why this is a band, a release and a year worth paying attention to.
Subscriptions for Vault Package #44 are available now through April 30th. Join here.
LP 1 includes:
Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise
A Boy’s Best Friend
Sister, Do You Know My Name?
I’m Bound to Pack It Up
You’re Right, I’m Wrong
I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself
ALL PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED!
LP 2 tracklist:
Let There Be Rock (AC/DC cover)
Dog Eat Dog (AC/DC cover)
You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)
Lord, Send Me An Angel
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise
Let’s Build a Home / Goin’ Back to Memphis
After Hours (Velvet Underground cover)