Prince – Original 1987 ‘Black Album’ CD With Full Provenance, Lifetime Guarantee
An exceedingly rare original 1987 U.S. compact disc 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 compact disc, cassette and LP.
This is one of an exceedingly small number of copies given to senior Warner Bros. executives–the only copies to escape destruction. Recordmecca’s Jeff Gold is a former executive vice president/general manager of Warner Bros. who worked closely with Prince. Gold acquired this example directly from a former co-worker.
The Story of The Black Album
Prince’s 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 album. Additionally, Prince wanted it to be a surprise record, with no advertising, marketing, or even a single released to let people know a new album was 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 with an all black cover, with no writing on it. At the time, there was no precedent for a surprise release by a major artist, let alone 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 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 on all formats–an “Explicit Lyrics/Parental Advisory” sticker on the front and a bar code sticker with copyright information on the back. 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 (in the Rolling Stone magazine celebrity poll).
In the ensuing years, a handful of original copies have surfaced, selling at auction for astronomical prices. In February 2018 a vinyl copy sold for $42,000, and in 2021 a CD fetched $8875. A few original German vinyl pressings have also surfaced, but most that have been sold have been very convincing counterfeit copies. The original U.S. commercial LP and CD remain among the most sought after records in the world.
This copy has all of the hallmarks of the 1987 first issue–the 1987 copyright date, the original catalog number 9 25677-2, and the DIDX-2720 manufacturing code on the inside rim of the disc. The barely played disc is in near mint condition. The all-black insert that functions as the front cover is in virtually mint condition, and the back insert is as new. The original plastic jewel case has a very light bit of scuffing.
Included is a handwritten note from the original owner, who explains ‘I worked in the WB production dept. in the 80’s. My job was to make sure we had all of the elements to make the street date of an album on time. This included working with the other departments at WB to get the music, artwork and anything else needed—then coordinating with manufacturing and printing and distribution to make sure all was on time. In 1987, Rick Weitsma, my boss & VP of Production came into my office and gave me a Prince Black Album CD, but asked me not to do anything with it since Prince had recalled all production of it. This CD has survived in good shape after all these years, including several moves….’
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 CD. Included is a letter of authenticity with Recordmecca’s written lifetime guarantee, signed by Jeff Gold.
Very likely your only chance to obtain this extraordinary collectible.
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