Rock provocateur Jack White celebrated this year’s annual Record Store Day in Nashville in outlandish fashion — achieving a vision he called the “world’s fastest record.”
From the time his band started playing for an intimate audience at 10 a.m. Saturday (April 19) until the release of the finished record — a 7-inch vinyl 45 of “Lazaretto” from his upcoming album of the same name and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Power of My Love” — only 3 hours, 55 minutes and 21 seconds had passed.
Outside White’s Third Man Records shop near downtown Nashville, vinyl lovers and die-hard fans waited blissfully in the sun to get their copy, and when White delivered the first batch personally with cameras and highway patrol-styled guards in tow, history had been made. He thinks.
“I never even looked into who has the fastest record,” White admitted in a press conference later that afternoon.
A variety of bands and artists have claimed titles similar to the world’s fastest record, but all measure their achievements in days, not hours.
“George Ingram, we call him Dr. Groove around here, he’s our master cutter,” White explained. “He’s been doing it for decades. He had the idea to cut the world’s fastest record a couple of years ago. We just never had the right moment to figure out this elaborate process and put it together.”
The impressive show of coordination between White’s Third Man Records team and United Records Pressing in Nashville went off without a hitch, and fans in attendance were invited to be part of the process.
Third Man’s Blue Room is the only venue in the world where artists can record live shows directly onto acetate, and the studio plans upcoming releases by the Kills, the Shins, SeaSick Steve and others.
A former photography studio now decked out in searing blue lights, deafening audio equipment and a retro-tech motif, it seemed like a different world of White’s creation.
At the front, a video monitor showed a live feed of a blank disc spinning on a machine and the lab-coated Dr. Groove carefully checking his equipment.
An announcement was made: “When the ’cutting light’ above the stage turns on, we are making a record. PUT AWAY YOUR PHONES.”
Ushered onstage by his guards, White took his place in front of a seven-piece band.
After a pounding warm up on “High Ball Stepper,” a signal was given and the cutting light turned on. You could see the grooves begin carving into the acetate disc in the other room.
White’s alternate version of “Lazaretto” was bold and powerful, earning a pleased smile from the rocker as the song crashed to an end.
The crowd screamed, hoping to be immortalized on a Jack White record in some recognizable way. Foolhardy, obviously … but my voice is still shot.
Dr. Groove removed the first disc, now a master recording, carefully set it aside and placed another on the machine. Time for the B-side.
The light went on, the crowd cheered and White began his blistering version of “Power of My Love.”
Later on, he would say he became aware of the song while producing rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson’s comeback album, The Party Ain’t Over. While the song did not fit her at the time, he said, it stuck with him.
At roughly 10:15 a.m., the two masters exited the building and were hustled across town to start the pressing process. White looked relieved and energized, spending the next 45 minutes jamming on new tunes from Lazaretto and assorted gems.
With ears ringing and my sense of color distorted, the window into White’s parallel universe closed, and he headed over to the plant to personally supervise the rest of the process.
Activity around the shop steadily picked up with performances by Jawws, Waxed and Whirlwind Heat, then White returned with his guards and the first packages for sale — a 7-inch two-sided single with a booklet of photos from the show.
United Records Pressing continued to press and distribute the discs all day.
Chalk it up as another success story for the Record Store Day celebration and the returning interest in vinyl records.
“Every neighborhood wants [a record store] now, I think,” said White. “And I think the thousands of people you see, not just here at Third Man but at Grimey’s and Fond Object and record stores all around Nashville, you can see how popular it is and how important it is to people.”