This past year was a massive one for Jack White, as he stepped out from the shadow of his successful bands (the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather) by releasing his first-ever solo record, Blunderbuss, and hitting the road for a much-publicized tour.
Much like the Flaming Lips in 2011, we could always count him to keep us guessing. From outrageous claims in the press to crazy studio excursions, to unconventional releases and headline-grabbing live gimmicks, it seemed like scarcely a week went by without some announcement from the songwriter and his label, Third Man Records.
Here are the top five most memorable moments from Jack White's outstanding 2012. We'll omit Blunderbuss — excellent as it is — and focus solely on the hijinks that really made him stand out from the pack.
Top 5 Highlights of Jack White's Memorable Year:
5. Releasing flexi-discs by balloon
A few weeks before Blunderbuss arrived in stores, Jack spread the word with a one-of-kind stunt that involved tying 1,000 flexi-disc singles to helium balloons and releasing them into the sky. Naturally, they started landing and quickly ended up on eBay, causing White to claim the title of most expensive flex-disc ever (one copy fetched $4,238.88). This may be the last time we ever see a balloon-powered release like this thanks to that pesky global helium shortage.
4. More big-name collaborations
Much like in past years, White recruited a wacky assortment of big-name and high-profile collaborators to release music through Third Man Records. He produced music for lady-killing septuagenarian Tom Jones and the ever-unpredictable Beck. He also hosted and recorded live shows from the Black Lips, the Shins and the Kills, while Radiohead recorded some tracks (without Jack's involvement) at the Third Man studio.
3. Feud with Guinness World Records
White's shenanigans are so unique that he believes he deserves to be recognized by Guinness World Records. He lashed out at the bookmakers for not acknowledging the White Stripes' one-note performance in 2007 as the shortest-ever concert, calling them "a very elitist organization." The company responded that playing such a short concert "trivializes the activity being carried out," prompting White to issue a withering reply that he would "attempt to break the world record for most metaphors in a single concert." He never broke a record, but we were all reminded of just how volatile and funny he can be.
2. The 3 RPM record
Of all the crazy vinyl releases Third Man Records has put out in its years of existence, this is perhaps the most hilariously impractical. At the company's three-year anniversary party, it gave out these over-stuffed compilations containing songs from its Blue Series of 7-inch singles. In order to fit all of the tracks on one 12-inch disc, the record plays at just 3 RPM, meaning that users will need to use their finger to slow it down as it spins on the turntable. It's basically impossible to listen to, but it sure is a cool artifact.
1. Taking both male and female bands on tour
It's a relatively simple stunt compared to, say, releasing music via helium balloons, but nothing White did in 2012 generated more talk than his plan to take two separate bands on tour, one male (the Buzzards) and one female (the Peacocks). The fans weren't told beforehand which band would be playing that night, and even the players themselves didn't learn until the morning-of. Even better, the bands reportedly weren't allowed to listen to one another, meaning that each developed as an individual unit. This (doubtless expensive) trick helped give Jack's shows an energetic spontaneity that harkened back to the White Stripes roller coaster gigs — something that was necessary when the band performed beefed-up interpretations of some classic Stripes material.