Sympathy for the Record Industry
Now for a rarer item in my collection from the early days of Jack White's career.
This is the so called "blood card version" of one of Jack's first bands "The Upholsterers" first single "Makers of High Grade Suites". The band only released two singles. This one and "Your furniture was always dead... I was just afraid to tell you", which is mega rare. Only 2 copies of the last one are known to have been found inside two persons furniture.
The band consists of Jack White on vocals, guitar and piano, and Brian Muldoon on drums and worm gear saw. Yes you read that right. A worm gear saw.
It is amazing to travel back in time to the year 2000. Jack and Meg had just released their first self-titled album as The White Stripes. So both were working day jobs doing something else than music. Although Jack at one point was Brian Muldoon's apprentice at the Muldoon Studio, Jack had his own Third Man Upholstery at this point (judging by the inserts of this record). Still - what a different time. Maybe it wasn't even clear at that point whether it would be The White Stripes or The Upholsterers that would take off. Probably wasn't clear that anything of this would take off.
For anyone who have been a member of Third Man Records The Vault, you will know that they are pretty good at making unique records. Pretty much all records from the Vault contains inserts of various kinds. Typically pictures, hand written copies of setlists and similar. Apparently, back then, Jack and Brian knew people likes inserts because this one contains a bunch.
Starting in no particular order, first there's the Muldoon Studio business card. Jack White was Brian Muldoon's upholstery apprentice before starting his own studio, Third Man Upholstery.
Then the Third Man Upholstery Detroit Sticker, Jack White's Upholstery studio (this is no joke, it existed and he still upholsters furniture every now and then).
Then there's the copy of a Klomp Upholstering Co. advertisement. W.E. Klomp is apparently an old upholstery master from Detroit. Klomp is also credited as the third person on one of the tracks. Although what he plays on the track is not listed anywhere. The advertisement also appears to have been the inspiration for the title of the 7": "Makers of High Grade Suites".
Then there's the Grindstone Textiles "Grains of Sand" sandpaper, recommended for upholstery use. It comes in neutral color, without a scotchguard but resin coated, indeed.
Then there's a long description of Brian and Jack upholstering a heart shaped chair. And here the Klomp Upholstering Co. ad appears on image 7. It would seem that the chair they're upholstering was previously upholstered by the master Klomp himself. Image nr 9 is also used as the front of the 7". It's pretty funny sheet and probably contains a bunch of upholstery jokes which is lost on me.
Then on the other side of the little upholstery story, a sheet with pictures of various chairs and couches and with a designated number of yards underneath each. I don't know the meaning of the number of yards. Maybe it's the amount of fabric used for each? (If anybody knows please ping me)
Then this is the front of the 7" (which can also be seen up top).
And this is the back of the 7".
A few names mentioned on the back are worth mentioning.
- W.E. Klomp: We have already talked about him, the old upholstery master from Detroit.
- Long Gone John: The founder of the record label "Sympathy for the Record Industry" (the label that put out this 7").
- Steve Shaw: Credited as the photographer, but he is likely also the same Steve Shaw who is one of the founding members of Detroit Cobras - another Detroit gem.
And then there's "The Glass City 3", I'm not sure what that is about. My best guess is that it's a reference to the Soledad Brothers*, whose first album Jack engineered around the year 2000 (same year as this 7" was released). They were 3 in that band and they took the name after 3 inmates that killed a prison guard. Their hometown is very close to Toledo, Ohio, which is also known as Glass City. The band consists of Ben Swank, Brian Olive and Johnny Walker. Ben Swank went on to co-found Third Man Records with Jack and Ben Blackwell, Brian Olive is a part of Greenhornes and Johnny Walker played slide guitar on "I Fought Piranhas" on the White Stripes self-titled first album (released the year before this 7") . So all 3 are Jack White buddies in some way. The 3 could have helped in some capacity with this record. But... This also could be just plain wrong speculation. 🤷♂️
Finally, the pièce de résistance of this 7" and that is the actual "blood card". This is what makes this particular 7" so rare. Jack signed, numbered and hand-painted 133 of the business cards with red nail varnish. Each one different from the rest. It makes an already rare 7" even rarer.
All this stuff is wedged inside a tiny 7" record. I can just imagine half of the people buying one for probably 5$ back in 2000, finding all that stuff inside and tossing it out only to find today that its a priced collectors item 😅. Remember next time you go to a concert with an upcoming band and you buy a 7" to really treasure it.
Ok that's probably enough on the actual physical presence of the 7". What about the audiotory presence of it?
The A side is "Apple of my eye". An original song by Jack, Brian and Klomp.
The track features pumping power chords and riffs worthy of a White Stripes song. And just every now and then you can hear the worm gear saw adding just enough of upholstery for the song to be delicately high grade. The guitar is almost sounding industrial e.g. like an engine turning over (0:09), like an alarm of some sort (0:11), like the saw revving-ish (1:03) (compare to the actual saw at 0:41-0.43). The drums sounds almost metallic, like somebody hammering on a piece of metal. In fact now that I listened more closely, I'm not even sure the beat is played on a drum, sounds more like an actual piece of metal (listen to the beat around 0:14ish). It makes the whole track sound like they're standing in the middle of a busy workshop. Which they would have been if they weren't playing 🙃. Love this track. Also note that there are currently two versions of this on Youtube and only this one is the complete version which also has the actual outro of the song, which is a series of guitar riffs and piano segments.
The B side features two covers: "I ain't superstitious" and "Pain (Gimme Sympathy)".
"I ain't superstitious" is a Willie Dixon cover. However, the sole guitar and drums on this version bears more resemblance to a 60s Jeff Beck cover of the Dixon song. There are tiny verbal differences between Dixon's original and Jeff Becks cover. However, from a music perspective, Jeff Becks is more 60-70s guitar focussed blues. And especially the stops in Jeff Becks version makes me say that the Upholsterers version is a mix between the two. Jeff Beck inspired the guitar with the Dixon lyrics. Judge for yourself:
Then between the two tracks on side B there's a little delightful intermezzo, which is never heard on any of the digital versions I have found or bootlegs for that matter. Listen for yourself to the final seconds of "I ain't superstitious" and until they start "Pain":
It sounds like somebody is either playing some kind of flute or maybe just blowing into a metal pipe. There's a homeless guy close to where I live that plays flute in a very similar style.
Finally, we have "Pain (Gimme sympathy)", which is a Jack Starr cover.
Here's the original:
Starr's version (at least the one I was able to find) is very low key. No distortion, and only him strumming the guitar. Lyrics are very similar. Jack and Brian adds quite a bit of distortion, breaks and of course drums. Something about the Jack Starr version makes me think of early Dexter Romweber. Maybe because of the lofi recording and the reverb.🤔
No worm gear saw found in any of the B-sides.
As for how I obtained it. These are very rare and a bunch of fakes are known to be around. And in my time of collecting I have only seen one, which is this one. It just so happened that during my parental leave in the summer of 2019 I decided to start taking my Jack White record collection more seriously. So I obviously checked eBay for anything noteworthy. And lo and behold there it was. Naturally, I approached my luck with a lot of scepticism. It turned out later that the guy I purchased it from was a guy named Frank Anselmo. For those who are into White Stripes lore, yes, that Frank Anselmo. The fan who bought an ultra rare 3.000$ JB Hutto Montgomery Airline for his own money and gave it to Jack at a show in 2003. Apparently, Frank has been collecting Jack White stuff since the early days around 2001/2002 and got The Upholsterers 7" back then.
Apparently, Frank's spirit of giving does not cover other big Jack White fans as I paid quite handsomely for this lovely specimen😛. But I will treasure it always. Thanks, Frank. And thanks to Jack and Brian for making this fantastic collectors item.
*Soledad Brothers are awesome btw. Take a listen to their classic "Going back to Memphis" (which Jack also covered numerous times live).