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Super Rare Vinyl Copies of Prince’s 'Black Album' Have Resurfaced

Prince's 'Black Album'. Image credit: Recordmecca

Prince’s Black Album is considered one of the rarest vinyl records on the planet. But recently, miraculously, several sealed copies have resurfaced. What makes the news more interesting is that these newly discovered records are thought to be ones that should have been destroyed.

Back in 1987 Prince was due to release what is referred to as the Black Album (due to the cover being totally black) and his then label Warner Bros. printed 500,000 copies. But then Prince declared the album “evil” and ordered all the copies be destroyed.

Prince posing backstage at the Paradiso, Amsterdam during his Dirty Mind Tour in 1981. © Virginia Turbett

Here’s the story behind Prince's 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. [via]

Of course it never saw a release, but that hasn’t meant the eight track album has disappeared completely, because fans have been listening to it on bootleg for years. And in 1994 it got an official release on CD and cassette tape—but not on vinyl. Which means that the only vinyl copies were those that somehow missed getting destroyed back in the 80s, making it super rare.

Prince performing at his first UK gig in London, June 1981. © Tony Mottram

Last year, not long after the singer’s death, a promo copy was discovered and sold at auction for $15,000. And now, for collectors who had the money to spare, three copies were up for grabs.

The story of how the records resurfaced involves the daughter of a former Warner Bros. executive. After purchasing her first turntable she asked her dad if he could send over some records. So he went and took a look in some boxes that had been stashed away in a closet for 25 years. Inside the boxes were two mailers from Warner Bros. that had never been opened and in these were five sealed copies of Prince’s Black Album. It’s thought they had likely been sent to the executive back in 1987 when Prince asked the album be destroyed. And have sat, unopened and unknown, for 30 years until now.

Three of them got sent to Jeff Gold, former Warner Bros. Executive Vice President, who now runs a memorabilia store called Recordmecca where they were for sale for $15,000 each.

Prince performing at his first ever UK gig at the Lyceum, London in 1981. © Tony Mottram

"It is easily one of the rarest records in the world, if not the rarest." Gold told Rolling Stone. And, as you might expect, that has meant that they all got bought pretty quickly. According to the listing for the album on Recordmecca, all three have now gone with the last one going for $20,000.

Still, if you’re annoyed that you missed out, don’t worry, because as Gold notes, there’s more expensive and rare Prince LPs out there for collectors to seek out.

“Recently two test pressings of another never-released Prince album, titled Camille, have surfaced and sold for huge amounts," Gold told Rolling Stone. "Not much is known about it – I think it was probably something Prince pressed up himself, not made by Warner Bros, his label at the time. None of my former WB co-workers know anything about it.”

Listen to the opening track off Prince’s Black Album, “Le Grind”, below.

Rockarchive is delighted to offer many iconic Prince images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.