Jack White is a record record-breaker. That’s not a typo. His latest album, Lazaretto, became the best-selling vinyl LP since SoundScan began tracking such figures in 1991. In its first week, it sold nearly as many vinyl copies as CDs—40,000 and 41,000, respectively—and debuted at the top of the Billboard charts.
Much of Lazaretto’s vinyl success can be directly attributed to White himself, who issued it on his Third Man imprint and manufactured it with as many extras as he could dream up. The A-side plays backwards, from the inside of the record out. Two songs are hidden under the paper labels, each requiring a different speed from the rest of the album’s 33 1/3 rpm, making them unplayable on most standard turntables. Another song utilizes a dual groove to provide either an acoustic or electric intro, depending on where one places the needle. There’s even a hand-etched hologram.
Such attention to detail—right down to his carefully curated custom-made suits—helps explain White’s success, which is directly attributable to his ambition. He not only writes, produces, and releases his own albums, but does the same for others—for example, for Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson. Also a dedicated music historian, he’s as interested in making music and its various tools as in writing it. His Third Man Records houses a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph machine, a phone booth-sized recording studio which for $15 allows visitors to record two and a half minutes of music right onto a vinyl single.
Like few other rock acts of his generation, White follows his instincts fearlessly. Even if this doesn’t always hit the mark, the result is always interesting (as at a recent show at Detroit’s Fox Theatre, when he walked offstage mid-set, citing a lackluster crowd, only to return and crank out a 22-song encore). Call him what you will, Jack White is a true renaissance man whose success seems limited only by his imagination. This live show will not disappoint. Jack White with Curtis Harding. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 682-1414, stgpresents.org/paramount. SOLD OUT. 7:30 p.m. Mon., Aug. 25 & Tues., Aug. 26.