Prince – Factory Sealed 1987 U.S. “Black Album” LP – One Of The Rarest Records In The World

All available copies have been SOLD.

Read the new Rolling Stone article about the discovery this album and our listing!

Update: 2 of the 3 copies have now sold; at the request of the consignors the price of the final copy is $20,000.

Recordmecca is proud to offer what is surely one of the rarest vinyl albums in the world—a factory-sealed 1987 U.S. pressing of Prince’s legendary The Black Album. Scheduled for release by Warner Bros. Records on December 8, 1987, Prince cancelled The Black Album one week before its release date, and at his direction more than 500,000 copies were destroyed, on cd, cassette and LP.

Our research can find only three other U.S. copies of the 1987 LP to have surfaced in the 30 years since The Black Album was pulled; two sold nearly 25 years ago, and a third was sold by us in 2015.

The Story of The Black Album

Prince desire to rush release an album in December 1987 aroused much controversy at his label, Warner Bros. Records.  Traditionally labels didn’t release records in December, when it was near impossible to get attention for a new release. Additionally, Prince wanted it to be a surprise release, with no advertising, marketing, or even a single released to let people know he had a new album coming. But most controversial was Prince’s insistence that his name be found nowhere on the album, and his refusal to give the record a title. And he wanted to release his album an all black album cover, with no writing. At the time, there was no precedent for a surprise release by a major artist, nor one without an artist’s name or a title on the cover.

While this gave the company great pause, Prince had major clout as a superstar artist, and so the album (which didn’t have an official title, but was dubbed The Black Album because of its all black cover) was added to the release schedule. It was explained to Prince that the album at the very least needed to have the catalog number on it, so he agreed to have that alone printed on the cover—just 1-25677 printed in orange ink on the spine. Warner’s further explained the album absolutely needed a bar code and a parental advisory warning, or retailers wouldn’t stock it. As a compromise, two stickers were added over the shrink wrap–an “Explicit Lyrics/Parental Advisory” sticker on the front and a bar code sticker with copyright information on the back cover. And that was it.

Because this was a highly unusual, essentially secret release, and Warner Bros. was concerned about leaks to radio, security was kept very tight at the pressing plants, which manufactured approximately 500,000 copies, split between cd’s, cassettes, and vinyl LP’s.

And then, a week before it went on sale, Prince changed his mind.

According to Wikipedia The album was abandoned shortly before its intended release after Prince experienced a spiritual epiphany and became convinced it was “evil”; he later blamed the album on an entity named Spooky Electric, described as a demonic, low-voiced alter-ego induced by Camille. The decision may have been influenced by Prince’s having a bad experience on MDMA.

Half a million copies had been manufactured in the United States, and more internationally. But Prince was insistent—The Black Album could not come out, under any circumstances. What followed was one of the great about-faces in music industry history. All copies of The Black Album were recalled, around the world. One executive remembers a senior vice president going from office to office in the Warner Bros. Burbank headquarters, collecting the few advance cd’s that had been circulated. The head of production personally called all the manufacturing plants, insisting that every single copy be secured, and destroyed. Fortunately the albums had not yet shipped from the manufacturing plants to the distribution branches, which made the job a lot easier. One executive involved called it “an I told you so moment…stupid from the beginning”. As Prince had called it off, he paid for the destroyed albums, likely as a charge against his royalties.

Wikipedia notes: Immediately after the decision to pull The Black Album from stores, the album emerged on the streets in bootleg form, arguably becoming popular music’s most legendary bootleg since The Beach Boys’ aborted 1967 album Smile. Several celebrities, including U2’s frontmen The Edge and Bono cited it as one of their favorite albums of 1988 (Rolling Stone magazine celebrity poll).

In the ensuing years, a handful of original CD copies surfaced, selling for up to $10,000.  A few original German vinyl pressings have also surfaced, but most that have been sold have been very convincing counterfeit copies. A copy of a two-disc promotional U.S. version reportedly sold on Discogs in 2016 for $15,000.  But the original U.S. commercial LP offered here is quite likely the rarest, and most sought after vinyl record in the world.

A Remarkable Discovery

This example is one of five sealed copies discovered in December 2017, in the collection of a former Warner Bros. Records executive who worked on The Black Album. The executive’s daughter had purchased her first turntable and asked her parents to send her some albums. Their record collection had been boxed up in a closet for more than 25 years, and while searching for records that might interest their daughter, they stumbled upon two never-opened Warner Bros. Records mailers. Expecting to find some promo albums inside, they opened these for the first time and discovered five perfect, sealed copies of The Black Album. These had been sent to the executive in December 1987 when the albums were ordered destroyed, and for 30 years, the two mailers had sat unopened among their other boxed up vinyl.

After opening one copy and confirming it was a genuine 1987 first pressing, they contacted Recordmecca owner Jeff Gold, a friend and former Warner Bros. colleague. For now, they have decided to sell three of the sealed copies, exclusively through Recordmecca. Two copies have already sold; the third and final copy, listed here, is a perfect factory sealed example.

The Details

The cover is in Mint condition with fully intact shrink wrap with multiple breath holes, the “Explicit Lyrics/Parental Advisory” sticker on the front, and bar code/copyright sticker on the back. The all black cover has no printing other than the catalog number (1-25677) printed in orange on the spine.

The photographs of the disc and pvc inner sleeve, and matrix numbers are from the opened copy, which is not for sale. Side 1 matrix: AL SP 1-25677-A  SH 1 Q B-29645 SH-1 (delta sign) 18817  1-1 SPO-1.  Side 2 matrix: AL SP 1-25677 B SH3 Q B-29646 SH3 Delta 18817 – X //SP01. The open copy has a very slight warp as do many Warner Bros. albums from the 1980’s, but it tracks and plays perfectly. The sealed copies all appear to be flat.

The 1994 Release

Prince finally agreed to let Warners release The Black Album as a strictly limited edition on cd and cassette only, available only from November 1994 through January 1995. It was released with a different catalog number, 1-45793, and wasn’t commercially released on vinyl.

Recordmecca’s Jeff Gold was a senior vice president at Warner Bros. Records at the time, and oversaw the 1994 release, including very limited edition promotional-only colored vinyl copies.  Gold worked closely with Prince, and art directed his album covers for Diamonds and Pearls, the Symbol album, and the compilations The Hits 1, The Hits 2, and The Hits/The B-Sides.

Offered here, however, is the never issued 1987 black vinyl LP. Included is a letter of authenticity with Recordmecca’s written lifetime guarantee, signed by Jeff Gold, and a second letter of authenticity from the original owner, describing the discovery of this extraordinary artifact.

Very likely your only chance to obtain this extraordinary collectible.

 

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