A highly rare copy of Prince’s unreleased Black Album is heading for sale at RR Auction in Boston next week.
The mint-condition record is expected to fetch up to $30,000 when it goes up for auction on February 15, in an online sale dedicated to Prince memorabilia.
In 1987 Prince recorded tracks for a record he called The Black Album, which were less pop-oriented and closer to his funky musical roots.
His plan was to release the record with an entirely black sleeve, devoid of any title, artist’s name, track listing or credits.
However, at the last moment the album’s release was cancelled and all copies withdrawn.
Prince allegedly had a spiritual epiphany following a bad experience with the drug MDMA, and became convinced that the Black Album was evil.
He later blamed the entire project on an entity called ‘Spooky Electric’, which he claimed was the dark, demonic part of his personality.
Warner Bros. had already pressed up 500,000 copies of the record on vinyl, but Prince was determined that it should never be released, and ordered all of them to be destroyed.
A handful of promo copies were known to have survived, and these were heavily bootlegged for years, as The Black Album passed into legend as a ‘lost’ masterpiece.
The album was finally released publically in 1994, but never on vinyl, and the few surviving original promo copies were considered the ‘Holy Grail for rare record collectors.
Then in December 2017 something remarkable happened.
A former Warner Bros. executive who worked with Prince during the period was in his attic searching through his old record collection.
His daughter had recently bought her first turntable, and had asked her parents to send her some vinyl records to play on it.
Whilst digging through the collection, which had been boxed up for 25 years, he came across two cardboard record mailers which had never been opened.
Expecting to find some old forgotten promo albums, he tore them open – and discovered five factory-sealed, mint-condition copies of The Black Album instead.
He then contacted rare record dealer Jeff Gold, a former executive vice president of Warner Bros. Records, who authenticated the albums and immediately sold one to a collector for $15,000.
Two further copies were then sold through Gold’s company Recordmecca, and one is staying put in the family’s collection – leaving a single copy for collectors to fight over when it crosses the auction block.