Detroit in the heady days of 1999 was a town overflowing with electrifying and energetic bands. If one outfit seemed poised above the others to “make it”, the odds-on bet was the Go. Freshly signed to the revered indie label Sub Pop with a clutch of killer songs itching to be laid to tape, their live show was truly thrilling and all the constellations seemed perfectly aligned for their ascendence. Led by band mainstays Bobby Harlow (lead vocals), John Krautner (rhythm guitar) and Marc Fellis (drums) a& rounded out by dear friends Dave Buick (bass) and Jack White (lead guitar) they tracked their debut LP Whatcha Doin’ early in the year and by the time it was released in September, multiple line-up changes piled up and momentum seemed to have dissipated. If ever there was a cult record from the genre, the city, the era…Whatcha Doin is it. Produced and mixed by Matthew Smith (best known for his work in Detroit psychedelic pop stalwarts Outrageous Cherry), the sounds captured in the studio were an impressionist distillation of the band’s songwriting prowess. While responsible for helping garner the band’s badass rock and roll reputation, there was sentiment amongst some that the stylistic mixing decisions on the as-released LP eschewed the band’s in-person ferocity and ultimately kept the album from catching on to a wider audience.
For years, there were disagreements, concessions, shelved albums, joint tours, buried hatchets, and confusion as to who in the hell even possessed the original master tapes. But now Third Man Records, in conjunction with Sub Pop, is proud to present the 20th anniversary remix of Whatcha Doin.
Working directly from the original reel-to-reel tapes, Jack White hunkered down in his Third Man Studio in Nashville with skilled engineer Bill Skibbe (The Kills, Franz Ferdinand, Black Keys) at the knobs and with additional insight from bandmate Dave Buick, these new mixes of Whatcha Doin breathe a fresh, powerful life into the already-strong songs. Utilizing the creme de la creme of studio gear unavailable to the band back in 1999, the likes of Fairchild compressors and Neve consoles helped to crank the album into overdrive. While the original album release utilized takes of the tracks “Meet Me at the Movies” and “You Can Get High” that were early, quasi-demos laid down at White’s Detroit home, this reissues dusts off the previously unheard studio versions of those tunes, of which White describes “…Movies” as “up until that point, my favorite guitar solo I had ever recorded.” Ultimately incorporating a handful of mix suggestions from Bobby Harlow, the end product is a revelation into the true power this line-up of the Go held in the brief 8-month span they were together. Pressed on “Summer Sun” colored vinyl at Third Man Pressing in the Cass Corridor, Detroit.
Pulled from deep within White’s temperature controlled tape vault is a pre-studio run-through of all the tracks that would end up featured on Whatcha Doin. Recorded in the band’s de facto rehearsal space of the 3rd floor attic of White’s Southwest Detroit home (whereas the previous demos were recorded in the ground floor living room), the Ferdinand Attic Demos are a raw, unfiltered view of the band woodshedding before stepping into the clock-is-ticking confines of a traditional studio. Tacked on the end of the disc is a charming, work-in-progress that wonderfully documents the germination of the Harlow/White collaboration “Time For Moon.” Pressed on “Mottled Carpet Remnant” colored vinyl (in celebration of the flooring in said attic) at Third Man Pressing in Detroit.
Additionally, while cataloging the original studio tapes, previously overlooked alternate takes of both “Keep on Trash” and “Time For Moon” were uncovered. Spiffed up & given the remix treatment, they are the perfect companion 7″ single here, leaving no stone unturned in sharing the path these five guys blazed two decades ago.
To top it all off, the Go was quite fortunate to be captured by two of the best photographers in all of Detroit during their 1999 heyday. Unearthed for this anniversary, Patrick Pantano’s striking black-and-white live snaps are wonderfully juxtaposed with his unremembered-by-all-involved photos of the band in the studio during the recording of Whatcha Doin. Furthermore, Doug Coombe’s arresting, stark shots of the band should already be familiar to Vault subscribers via the cover of their Live at the Gold Dollar LP from Vault package 27, we’ve pulled more from his archive and compile them all together for the softcover photo book collection of The Go in Black and White.
Deep dives into brief inspirational moments with exploratory abandon was the main impetus behind the creation of the Vault ten (!) years ago and we can’t think of a more apt collection to help celebrate that milestone. Find all the relevant info at thirdmanrecords.com/vault