The White Stripes made history on July 16th in 2007 when they played the shortest live set of all time. Playing just a single note before leaving the stage the group delivered a record-breaking performance, one which is, undoubtedly, the achievement that the seminal group will be most proud of from their iconic career. We think.
During the band’s extensive tour of Canada, Jack and Meg White decided to play a series of free pop-up shows along the way as they travelled from state to state. Not only did it provide them with a proving ground for new songs and tightening up their set, but also allowed the band to indulge in the intimacy of smaller venues. The tour was set to end in St. John’s on July 16th, 2007 at the Mile One Stadium, and that afternoon they decided to carry out their final pop-up show of the run, but this one would be unlike any they had carried out before.
The White Stripes took to an outdoor stage on George Street and performed a career-spanning set that even Bruce Springsteen would be proud of. When we say career-spanning, what we really mean is career distilling. Clocking in at just 50 seconds, there’s an argument to have that the charged guitar and drum combo, even for that short time, was the essence of the garage rock duo. “We have now officially played in every province and territory in Canada,” Jack White said to the crowd before their swift departure from the stage.
The show was briefly included in the Guinness World Records but much to Jack White’s dismay it was removed in 2009 as they didn’t think the category was worthy of inclusion in their book. In 2012, White vented his frustration to Interview Magazine about the slight, during a conversation with Buzz Aldrin and Dimitri Ehrlich.
“Let’s play one note today,” White told Aldrin. “So we’ll put on a show and tell people it’s a free show, but we’re only going to play one note… I told Meg as we were getting out of the car. I said, ‘Make sure you grab your cymbal — when you hit the cymbal, grab it so that the note only lasts a millisecond.’”
“I was thinking that afterwards we could contact the Guinness World Records people and see if we could get the record for shortest concert of all time,” said White. “So we did it, but ultimately they turned us down.”
“I like that — just don’t show up. The thing is, though, that the Guinness book is a very elitist organisation. There’s nothing scientific about what they do. They just have an office full of people who decide what is a record and what isn’t.”
White then continued: “With something like the shortest concert of all time, they didn’t think whatever we did was interesting enough to make it a record I don’t know why they get to decide that, but, you know, they own the book… Maybe this will help us get the word out.”
Guinness did respond to his complaint and issued the following statement to NME in one of the most bizarre feuds of all time: “Subsequent to this appearance we received a large volume of applications from bands and performers seeking to beat this record. The ultimate results of this was individuals claiming that simply appearing onstage was enough to qualify them for this record.”
They added: “The results were difficult to objectively measure (for example, how many members of the crowd need to be able to see the performer before they disappear off stage?) and as such it’s difficult to justify an appearance as a concert by any reasonable definition of the word.
“The nature of competing to make something the ‘shortest’ by its very nature trivialises the activity being carried out, and Guinness World Records has been forced to reject many claims of this kind. As such, we have been forced to cease listing records for the shortest song, shortest poem and indeed the shortest concert.”
Watch the short clip that kickstarted this timeless feud for the ages between Guinness World Records and Jack White, below.