On this day in music history: December 1, 1987 – “The Black Album” by Prince is withdrawn from release. Written and produced by Prince, it is recorded at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, MN and Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA from Early 1986 – Late 1987. Recorded in response to critics who feel his music has become “too pop oriented”, Prince comes forth with an album that features stripped down funk jams, tempered with often darkly humorous and profane lyrics. It is to be released with no title, text, or graphics on the front or back of the plain black cover (with only the catalog number printed on the spine). Originally scheduled for release on December 7, 1987, the eight track album (coming just nine months after “Sign ‘O’ The Times”) is pulled from release at the very last minute, after the artist has requested that it be rush released. Warner Bros Records ends up destroying several hundred thousand copies of the album before it can be shipped to record stores. However, enough copies survive (most originating from WEA’s West German pressing plant and advance promo cassettes to label personnel and the music press) becoming one of the most heavily bootlegged albums of all time. Prince never publicly gives a reason for the withdrawal, but it has been rumored that he felt the record was “evil” or that he had experienced a bad trip after taking the drug Ecstasy. He goes as far as to insert a subtle message into the music video for “Alphabet St.”, stating “don’t buy The Black Album, I’m sorry.”. Prince allows it be officially released on a limited basis on November 22, 1994. The album is then pulled from the marketplace on January 27, 1995. The vinyl LP version scheduled for reissue by Warner Music Group in December of 2016, is abruptly cancelled (along with several other Prince albums) and at the present time, no new release date has been given. In December of 2017, original US vinyl LP copies of “The Black Album” surface. Former Warner Bros Records executive Jeff Gold, discovers five sealed copies of the LP in his closet at home. Still in the original cardboard LP mailers, and manufactured at WEA’s Specialty Records Corp. pressing plant in Olyphant, PA, Gold finds the still factory sealed albums tucked away in a box. The copies go up for auction through Record Mecca.com, with three of them selling for $15,000 a piece, matching the price of one sold on Discogs in April of 2016. The last of Gold’s five copies sells for a record breaking $42,298 in 2018. In August of 2018, what is believed to be the only surviving Canadian pressed copy of the album is found. Rescued from destruction by an employee at the CBS pressing plant in Toronto, it sells at auction for $27,500 on the Discogs website. “The Black Album” peaks at number eighteen on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number forty seven on the Top 200.
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