(And no, a Christmas card from Jack to Dan Auerbach isn’t on the list, although I hear a Jack White piano is in production – where all the Black Keys will be removed).
Ever since I heard Bowie’s Space Oddity, I have wanted my own Stylophone. Actually, that’s probably not true. Space Oddity may be one of the few pop songs to feature this versatile instrument, but I suspect there’s a reason for that. They’re actually pretty rubbish, and it seems improbable they will ever displace a ’57 Gibson Les Paul in the hearts of most musicians, with the possible exception of The Pet Shop Boys. Nevertheless, I have coveted one after seeing a friend play “three blind mice” on one at the age of six, and this morning my dream of owning one finally came true a mere thirty seven years later.
But this is no ordinary Stylophone. I bought this one direct from Third Man Records. It’s a Raconteurs-branded Stylophone. Oh yes. It doesn’t play “Three Blind Mice”, it plays “Steady As She Goes”. Or at least it will when I can learn to play it properly. Right now, I’m at the Eric Morecambe stage of Stylophone playing: All the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order.
So, was it the shiny packaging that broke my resolve? My love of Third Man goodies? Well, actually it was the half-price $15 price tag. What’s more, the purchase is timely. Jack White has revealed that a new Raconteurs album (plus a solo and Dead Weather album) is in the pipeline. This news begs the question: In what wacky format will these new albums be released? Fisher Price Record Player? Wind-up Organ? Chanted onto eight-track by norwegian monkeys? Printed on a replica restraining order?
He does like a gimmick, does Mr White. I wrote a satirical piece on new bands in December last year (based upon the BBC’s “Sound of 2013“) where I pretended a band had released a 6” vinyl single (limited in my fictional case to just seven copies). Imagine my delight when I saw that Jack White is releasing a six inch single in the next vault package! I suspect there’ll be more than seven available too.
I’m all in favour of course. We all need some sunshine on our lives. When other record companies produce expensive boxed sets, there’s rarely as much thought, or as much fun put into the releases. And they’re frequently far too expensive. Major label box-set: £100. White’s Vault releases? £40.
In honour of my latest purchase, therefore I thought it was time to summarise some of Jack White’s most esoteric and unusual merchandise. In true magazine article style, here’s a top ten list:
1. The Triple Inchophone: This was a miniature record player that came with 3″ records that could only be played on the Inchophone. They also released one tune, “Top Special,” solely on this 3″ vinyl format. They now sell for £500, if you can find one.
2. White Stripes Cameras: Jack and Meg started selling official “Jack” and “Meg” Holga cameras in 2007. 3000 of each were made, with the Meg ones now having been withdrawn and the Jack ones still available on the Third Man site. For $115 each. Good luck with dealing with puzzled looks from Saturday workers when you try to buy “film” from the high street chemist. (“Do you mean, like, an SD card?”)
3. White Stripes Record Player And Accessories: This $500 set was entitled “The White Stripes Merchandise Collection” and was limited to 333 sets. The 2010 package included a White Stripes branded record player, record-cleaning brush, headphones, turntable slipmat and vinyl storage boxes. The record player was one of those dansette types.
4. Mini theremin sets. Yup – you read that correctly. For all your theremin-related needs, which generally involve putting your hand near a wire so it goes “Whoooo” in different tones. Puzzling.
5. A White Stripes Sewing Kit: sold on tour in 2007, this came with red and black (what else?) thread and specially designed buttons. Great for vajazzling your dinner suit at a moment’s notice.
6. The Vault: Launched in 2009, The Vault has produced fine collectibles in addition to the records (which include the first ever show The White Stripes ever played and a mono Icky Thump LP). Amongst the merchandise there has been a White Stripes tote bag,
and photo books of both The White Stripes and The Dead Weather –
the latter featuring tour photos taken by band member Alison Mosshart.
7. The inverse thunderbolt Jack White solo LP: just a pretty looking vinyl record of the Blunderbuss LP that was sold for $20.
8. IPhone cases made of old records. Next idea: record sleeves made of old iPhone cases.
9. Liquid filled records: On Record Store Day in 2012, White released a 12″ version of “Sixteen Saltines” which was somehow filled with blue liquid. Just in case you get thirsty when playing your record collection perhaps?
10. The Raconteurs Stylophone. Every home should have one. Unless you have kids and high blood pressure. On the upside, it’s no worse than giving a kid a recorder. It’s nice, they’ll have fun and may even learn a bit about making music. But no-one should hear them practising. Headphones recommended.
So there you have it. And I didn’t even mention the record cases, USB sticks, matrioshka dolls, pin badges or headphones….
In a world where Spotify revenues are unlikely to pay for his legal bills (or a new Auerbach-free school for his kids), Jack White is right to find new ways to generate an income. As Noel Gallagher once said, not entirely seriously, “it’s all about the merchandising”…
Record #219: Jack White – Sixteen Saltines