The Black Keys’ The Big Come Up Demo

The Black Keys Fan Lounge’s recent post about Peter Blomkvist’s comprehensive Black Keys’ record collection, has re-ignited interest in The Black Keys demo for their first album The Big Come Up. Peter had mentioned it was the one recording, never commercially released for obvious reasons, that he would love to have to complete his collection.

The post was read by longtime fan of The Black Keys, Chris Johnson, who has audio-recorded most of the 40 or so live shows he’s attended and videoed many of the band’s earliest live performances. Reading the post Chris felt moved to contact Peter to offer his copy of the demo to Peter to complete his collection. Chris apreciated that a fellow fan had taken the time and expense to gather the collection together.

The fact that Chris was giving his copy of the extremely rare demo away was interesting enough, but that he even had an original copy of the demo was as interesting. The Black Keys Fan Lounge had to find out more.

It turns out, in 2006, Chris saw the demo up for sale on ebay. It was being sold by a record label from Sweden that Dan had sent it to. What was even  more interesting and collectible was that the sale included a copy of the letter Dan Auerbach had sent along with the demo. Chris purchased it on Aug 23, 2006 for $178.01.

It’s very curious that Dan signs the letter “Dan Quine”.  Quine is, of course, Dan’s middle name. It’s also the surname of his famous guitarist cousin Robert Quine. Maybe he thought this surname might have had more resonance with those listening to the demo?

Dan Auerbach’s letter accompanying the demo to the Swedish record label:

Save yourself the effort, the email address noted in Dan’s hand written letter is no longer in operation.

A week after Chris bought the demo, the same seller offered another copy up on ebay. Chris contacted him, and was assured he had received two copies from Dan, and his disc was an original.

After receiving the disc, Chris explains, “I put up images and the music up on YouTube for fans to enjoy. I assumed the demo would never be released. Patrick wrote on the old Black Keys forum that there were only a dozen or so of these made, and that he believed they were personal and not to be shared. I apologized and took down the videos. Copies I had shared with friends have continued to circulate, but it’s all still pretty rare. Dan wrote that someday they may release this music. Time will tell.”

Although it’s not hard to find the demo as a download on the internet, The Black Keys Fan Lounge also respects this view that the demos were not expected or prepared for public release and therefore are not reproduced here.

The cover and back of The Big Come Up demo:

The fine print on the back of the CD cover reflects the dry humour that has come to personify the band’s attitude in later years:

this disc contains songs recorded by the black keys during the late months of the year 2001. due to the fact that Patrick has been on house arrest for the last year, they had to record using his micro-cassette recorder in the dirt room of his basement

The Big Come Up demo has its own mythology amongst fans for good reason. A demo documents the earliest recorded creative beginnings of a band. It’s used as a calling card, to ignite interest from fans and record labels.

Back in late 2001, as is evidenced by the demo cover, The Black Keys’ comprised of Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney and Gabe Fulvimar. Gabe Fulvimar? He was a neighbour of the Auerbach’s, more a friend of Dan’s younger brother, who played keyboards.

It’s long been known that The Big Come Up demo was sent to many record labels by the band. One of those labels it was sent to included Patrick Boissel at Alive Records.

Patrick Boissel contacted the band and offered them a deal. The band went back to Patrick Carney’s basement and re-recorded the demo tracks for what would later be released publicly as The Big Come Up record that first introduced fans to the band’s music. This time the record would be recorded without Gabe Fulvimar.

Fan interest in the demo, apart from its un-released rarity status, is also fuelled by the electronic experimentation on the demo and raw versions of tracks that would later morph into more recognisable favourites on the publicly released version. The obvious example of this is the first track on the demo, Cryin’ Won’t Make Me Stay. It would later re-emerge as Busted musically based on the song Skinny Woman by RL Burnside but here using the lyrics to Cryin’ Wont Make Me Stay by RL Burnside. It also has 240 Years Before Your Time-style outro. It wasn’t until many years later around the time of the Blakroc collaboration that these Wu-Tang Clan inspired moments would fully be appreciated when Dan particularly spoke freely of his love for the rap collective’s production.

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