Jack White III has a thing for things that come in threes, so it perhaps follows that there would be a third Third Man Records location. The surprise, perhaps, is that he hasn’t augmented the Nashville and Detroit storefronts by going to one or the other U.S. coasts with a new retail outlet, but has indulged in Anglophilia by making London the latest city to sport one of his signature record shops.
The new store is located in the Soho district on Marshall Street and will open to the public on Sept. 25. Unlike the more modest original store in White’s adopted hometown of Nashville, this one will have a two-story retail space; like Nashville’s, the London store will have an adjacent, blue-themed space for live music, this one called “the Blue Basement.” As with the two American shops, the vast majority of the inventory is expected to be devoted to product from White’s own Third Man label, or items with attendant branding. The label will also maintain its European headquarters in the shop (located at 1 Marshall Street, London W1F 9BA).
The space was designed by the rocker himself and will give White one more locale to showcase on his just-launched Jack White Art and Design site, dedicated to everything from sleeve design to his upholstery fetish to his storefronts. A statement said the new shop “was conceptualized and created throughout 2020 and 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the aim of creating a physical space to help keep record sales and live performances alive after such a tough period for everyone.”
It wouldn’t be a Third Man store opening — or even just a month in the life of the Third Man label — if exclusive vinyl weren’t involved. The label solicited six U.K.-based artists for new releases to put out on Third Man that will be available exclusively on the Third Man website or in the three shops, and available on limited-edition yellow vinyl only in the London store, as of opening day next month. The half-dozen releases come from the Jesus & Mary Chain, Paul Weller, Cornershop, David Ruffin, Gina Birch of the Raincoats and the “great, lost Manchester group” the Magic Roundabout.
For his release, Weller saluted White back, in a fashion, by covering three Motown songs from the indie mogul’s original hometown, Detroit: “Going to a Go-Go,” “Road Runner” and “What Does it Take?” The Jesus and Mary Chain is also paying homage to Detroit with the single “Live at Fox Theatre, Detroit.” The other releases are Temptations singer Ruffin’s “David” solo album (originally on Motown), the Magic Roundabout’s LP “Up,” Cornershop’s single “Judy Sucks A Lemon (For Breakfast Version)” b/w “Cork It” and Birch’s “Feminist Song.”
Like the other two Third Man stores, the London location will have a do-it-yourself, straight-to-vinyl recording booth.
Original to the U.K store is a “token-operated lucky dip book machine” called the “Literarium,” designed by artist Craig Small and described as only the second of its kind in the world. Although the announcement did not explain the nature of the machine, a clue was offered in that novelist Margaret Atwood was described as being a fan of the other machine. A search on this leads to stories about the “Biblio-mat,” a book vending machine at the Monkey’s Paw store in Canada where Atwood is known to be a customer. No details have been given about what kinds of books or prices will be attached to the Third Man store’s device, but the Canadian forebear is “stocked with books that don’t have any practical retail value, but are still interesting and worth distributing… the machine whirrs to life when the coin is inserted, completing the transaction with the ring of an antique telephone bell.”