"It's nice of you to join us for breakfast," Nashville rocker Jack White told a room packed with hardcore fans and friends on Saturday morning, as he and his band took the stage at the Nashville headquarters of his Third Man Records. It was just after 10 a.m.
White and company were playing at this abnormal hour with hopes to make history. To mark Record Store Day — an annual celebration of independent record retailers — he'd announced his goal to make the "World's Fastest Released Record." The plan was to record two new songs live in front of an audience, immediately transport the direct-to-acetate recording to Nashville's United Record Pressing plant, print vinyl singles and return them to Third Man Records for sale to fans on Saturday afternoon.
Three hours and 55 minutes later, they crossed the finish line: White returned from United to personally deliver the first batch of records to a booth set up outside the Third Man storefront, thrilling the fans who'd waited all morning to pick up the first copies. They were now the proud owners of some rare collector's items, and White, in turn, was the owner of a new world record. He assumed so, at least.
"I never even looked into who has the fastest record," he admitted to reporters during a press conference held at Third Man later that afternoon. (Lucky for him, Guinness World Records' digital database has no established category for "fastest released record.")
The three hour and 55 minute journey began just after 10 a.m., when White and his band — now a coed crew, with returning players including Nashville multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin and drummer Daru Jones — hit the stage, warming up with a previously released cut: the instrumental "High Ball Stepper.""I woke up at about 4 in the morning last night, and I thought, 'Wow. I think there's about 12 or 13 things that could really go wrong tomorrow,' he said. "I just thought how difficult it was going to be to explain to people if we didn't pull it off, so thank God we did."
Then, a light turned on in the room signaling that recording had started, and the crowd cheered to introduce the track. White and co. launched into "Lazaretto," the title track from his upcoming solo album. The song — like several other new tunes performed on Saturday — had a bit of funk flavor, fueled by low-note bass and guitar riffs, and Jack singing with the skittering rhythm of a rap verse. For the single's B-side, they recorded a thunderous version of Elvis Presley's "Power of My Love," — a faithful rendition, aside from cranking up the tempo and piling on the guitar overdrive.
Moments after finishing that tune, fans saw on a live video screen that the acetate had been taken off the machine. "The records have left the building," White declared. Luckily for the fans, he and the band stuck around a little longer.
"Originally, we were just gonna do this record and go back to sleep," White said with a laugh, and told the crowd that they would play a few more songs. That extended to an hour-long set, featuring several new numbers (titles mentioned: "Three Women" and "Just One Drink") and fan favorites like "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" by his famous former band, The White Stripes.
Meanwhile, fans hanging outside Third Man's 6th Ave. storefront were getting a show of their own. The acetate master recording was transported from the building in a tiny "Electric Citicar," piloted by the members of Detroit band Whirlwind Heat, and they were escorted by two Third Man employees on motorbikes and dressed as highway patrol officers, looking like they'd stepped off the set of "Chips." An extensive video camera crew was right behind them. Three-and-half-hours later, White led that team back to Third Man, as onlookers cheered and snapped smartphone photos.
Speaking to reporters, White was quick to acknowledge that Third Man was far from the only store attracting crowds on Saturday.
"Now it's bigger than ever, he said. "Every neighborhood wants to have (a record store), I think, And I think the thousands of people you see, not just here at Third Man, but at Grimey's and all of the record stores around Nashville, even, you can see how popular it's become, and important it is to people."