Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Genius Of… Jack White #2

The White Stripes playing their debut show: 4th Street Fair, Michigan, Detroit in 1998

#2: Let’s Shake Hands

This is where it all started really. The White Stripes didn’t so much burst onto the scene as crept in through the back door. They played their very first show in a street fair in Detroit before entering the studio shortly afterwards. During those early studio sessions, two songs were recorded that would comprise the debut single.

The b-side, Look Me Over Closely was a song made famous by Marlene Dietrich, but it was the main track which signalled the band’s intent. The recording was lo-fi, the musical arrangement raw and basic, emulating the stripped down, turned-up-loud ethic of US garage bands of the 1960s. Meg White’s drumming was rudimentary at best, yet her pounding beat allowed Jack White’s primal howling and scratchy guitar work to do its own thing whilst maintaining a semblance of order and tempo.

Let’s Shake Hands makes good use of stop-time, with instrumentation pausing on the first beat of the ninth bar of the verse, and resuming on the first beat of the 13th. But let’s not get all muso-like here because the White Stripes were all about simplicity.

Only 500 copies of the single were originally pressed in 1998, all on red vinyl. A second pressing of 1000 on standard black vinyl was made in 2002, the year the White Stripes exploded onto the mainstream, while a secret third edition of 1000 hand-numbered copies in a special sleeve was sneaked out in 2008. ‘Tis a highly sought-after item, expect to pay an awful lot of money for a copy these days.

While the White Stripes would undoubtedly make better records than this, the Let’s Shake Hands 7” certainly is a notable piece of modern pop history.

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