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Thread started 06/02/16 1:10am

electrodyne

A few Black Album questions, incl. one for the old time tape traders

Some questions for everyone:

1. Where, when & how did you first learn of & listen to The Black Album? What were your thoughts on it then-and-now?

2. Do any "old-timers" who traded or bought bootleg cassettes still have their cassettes & sleeves? What was story behind your cassette tape? If so, would anyone mind sharing hi-resolution pictures of your cassettes, please? It's for a project. Feel free to send a private message or post here.
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Reply #1 posted 06/02/16 1:11am

feeluupp

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"project" = bootlegger on eBAY lol lol

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Reply #2 posted 06/02/16 1:17am

electrodyne

feeluupp said:

"project" = bootlegger on eBAY lol lol



"Project" in this instance, is a written essay on Prince tape trading via independently-published regional & more widely-circulated Prince fanzines & the postal service, in the mid-1980s through early-1990s. A time before computers & downloading.

If you lived in the culturally void middle-of-nowhere at that time, even learning about an unreleased Prince album - much less finding a cassette copy of it - was a heavy thing. Almost an urban legend. Especially something that was described as super-funky, but also dark and a little bit twisted. Finding a bootleg LP copy meant driving 6 hours to the "weird" record store you heard about, giving them a password, then being led into a small room with all sorts of LP bootlegs from bigger name classic rock artists (think Dylan, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, etc.). And lo-and-behold, a small section of Prince bootleg LPs.

I'm not exaggerating about this. There was no EBay. No blogs.

I corresponded & traded tapes with a number of people back in the day. Sometimes you'd get lucky if someone you traded with, would take some time to make a really cool decorative sleeve. These sleeves are the photos I'm politely asking others to share & post here. It was a different time then, and I'm writing about it.

Thank you.



[Edited 6/2/16 1:36am]
[Edited 6/2/16 1:38am]
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Reply #3 posted 06/02/16 1:29am

darkroman

I first read about this new album when it was promoted in the music press. Obviously this was long before the release was then cancelled.

.

lol

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Reply #4 posted 06/02/16 1:58am

NorthC

I got it from a friend who made a copy on a cassette tape. So no sleeves or anything. This must have been in 1988 just after the non-release. I don't think I still have that tape, bought a bootleg CD later. My first thoughts? I honestly don't remember. To me it really is just another Prince album, not one of his best from the 80s, it's more famous because of the myth surrounding it than the music itself. But it certainly isn't a bad album either.
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Reply #5 posted 06/02/16 2:31am

jonnylawson

Funny I was just reminiscing about this today
I remember when I read in the NME that a new album with no name but a black sleeve would be released if memory serves me correct 11 December 87

Obviously it got pulled and about February I finally got a TDK c60 of it...

I have such great me memories of bootlegs on tapes

I loved "Wx147" then as I love it now
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Reply #6 posted 06/02/16 2:50am

RaspBerryGirlF
riend

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For those of you who had bootlegs of the original 1988 pressing, how did the sound compare to the 1994 CD release? I've often heard it said here that the mastering on the 1994 edition was pretty lousy and lacks bottom end, so I've often wondered if the mastering those old bootlegs was any better. Mind you I guess many of those tapes would have been several generations down from an original copy so that might have negated any advantages the original master might have had.

Heavenly wine and roses seems to whisper to me when you smile...
Always cry for love, never cry for pain...
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Reply #7 posted 06/02/16 3:26am

Nasalhair

I first heard about it when "Smash Hits" magazine in the UK did a mini-review of sorts and pretty much slated it, using the words "tune-free" quite a lot. This was around the time it was due to be released.

Some years later - 1989 or 1990 - I was at evening class for something to do with my job and one of the other students and I got talking about Prince. She asked me what I thought of the Black Album & I said I'd never heard it, but really wanted to. "I'll bring you a copy next week," she said. Unfortunately she missed the next couple of weeks due to illness, but then she came the next week and handed me the tape. It was all hand-written I think, and I rushed home later and listened to it, and fell in love with it from that first play. I made myself a copy, and another for in case something happened to the other one.

A few years later I found a CD bootleg of it in a record store in Manchester. It cost me about £35. It also had "In All My Dreams" and "Old Friends For Sale" on it. Then, when it got an official release on CD I bought that one too. It's one of my top 5 Prince albums.

[Edited 6/2/16 3:27am]

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Reply #8 posted 06/02/16 3:49am

BartVanHemelen

avatar

RaspBerryGirlFriend said:

For those of you who had bootlegs of the original 1988 pressing, how did the sound compare to the 1994 CD release? I've often heard it said here that the mastering on the 1994 edition was pretty lousy and lacks bottom end, so I've often wondered if the mastering those old bootlegs was any better. Mind you I guess many of those tapes would have been several generations down from an original copy so that might have negated any advantages the original master might have had.

.

The master of the 1994 release is AFAIK exactly the same as the one used in 1987.

© Bart Van Hemelen
This posting is provided AS IS with no warranties, and confers no rights.
It is not authorized by Prince or the NPG Music Club. You assume all risk for
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Reply #9 posted 06/02/16 3:57am

purpleaslan

RaspBerryGirlFriend said:

For those of you who had bootlegs of the original 1988 pressing, how did the sound compare to the 1994 CD release? I've often heard it said here that the mastering on the 1994 edition was pretty lousy and lacks bottom end, so I've often wondered if the mastering those old bootlegs was any better. Mind you I guess many of those tapes would have been several generations down from an original copy so that might have negated any advantages the original master might have had.

I have the 1994 edition and it sounds terrible...so low and no bounce to it....infact i ripped the album to my pc recently and used Audacity to make the mp3's louder...it sounds much better but still isnt amazing....never had a bootlegg of it..so couldnt compare....

[Edited 6/2/16 3:58am]

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Reply #10 posted 06/02/16 7:25am

wishuhvn

Ah, never as good as the first time! It was early '88 for me and I was with my brother at a Jesse Johnson concert at the Ritz and one of his friend worked at WB. We stated talking Prince and he realized that I wasn't just a Purple Rain guy, went out o his car and hooked me up with a mint copy on cassette. I was in heaven and thought it was great. When I moved back to Cali after a year in NYC that copy of the Black Album made me a god on campus and led to a few more dates than I probably would have gotten on my own smile At previous high school year reunions at least one girl will say," You got me the Black Album!!" Yea, Spooky Electric helped me out a lot that year but when Lovesexy did get released, Lovesexy was the only way!!

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Reply #11 posted 06/02/16 7:41am

RodeoSchro

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I got a copy on cassette way back in '87 or '88 (probably 1988). It turned out my wife had a high school friend that married an artist in Minneapolis, and Prince bought some of that artist's work for his home. I don't know exactly how that artist ended up with a copy of the The Black Album, but his wife knew I was a Prince fan so they made a copy of it on cassette and sent it to me.

Since mine is a home-made copy, there aren't any pictures you'd be interested in. But having The Black Album back then sure was useful in trading!

Second Funkiest White Man in America

P&R's paladin
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Reply #12 posted 06/02/16 7:45am

GiggityGoo

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I think it was the summer of 1990... maybe 1991. I was visiting a friend (the same friend who got me into Prince, actually), and as we were wrapping up, he took me to his car to give me a gift. He pulled out an LP with a raspberry-colored Prince logo and photo on a black background. None of the tracks listed on the back - "Le Grind", "Cindy C.", "Bog George" - were familiar. I asked him what this thing was, and he said, "This is an album that he recorded but never came out." My mind was blown. You could record an album but never release it?!?!

I had to go to another friend's house to use his turntable to actually listen to it. That took a few more weeks.

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Reply #13 posted 06/02/16 8:02am

TrivialPursuit

avatar

electrodyne said:

Some questions for everyone:

1. Where, when & how did you first learn of & listen to The Black Album? What were your thoughts on it then-and-now?

2. Do any "old-timers" who traded or bought bootleg cassettes still have their cassettes & sleeves? What was story behind your cassette tape? If so, would anyone mind sharing hi-resolution pictures of your cassettes, please? It's for a project. Feel free to send a private message or post here.


I was in the military, and a friend gave me a cassette copy. It was weird, and I remember not liking some of the songs. They did seem dark, and moody. But I also knew I had my handsd on something special. I have a great appreciation for it now.

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
http://bit.ly/1D3FG2U
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Reply #14 posted 06/02/16 8:03am

suomynona

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I was at a record store in Port Orchard, Washington in 1988 when the record store owner sold me a cassette that he had made for $5. I foolishly let someone borrow it in 1989 and didn't have the Black Album again until 1993 when I acquired it at a record store on CD (boot) in Portland, Oregon.

Has always been one of my favorites by him because that's what I expected from Prince. To sound like no one else in the industry. For me the record hasn't aged. I'm glad Prince pulled the record, because I don't believe WB would have allowed the Black Album and Lovesexy to be released so close together. He had to know that it would be bootlegged -- and I don't think he cared -- otherwise he wouldn't have performed songs from it on the Lovesexy tour. He just wanted the music out there. (See The Undertaker, which he was essentially giving away for free. Free to fans anyways. Same with Planet Earth and 20Ten. And Musicology for that matter.)

I've since picked up the peach marbled vinyl of the 1994 release and have 4 copies of the 1994 release on CD.

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Reply #15 posted 06/02/16 8:05am

suomynona

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Reply #16 posted 06/02/16 8:19am

PurpleMusic07

This is such a cool thread and would honestly make an interesting mini doc or something.

[Edited 6/2/16 8:20am]

"Where you are now is in a place that does not require time." - Rest In Power, PRINCE
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Reply #17 posted 06/02/16 8:21am

PurpleMusic07

I wonder if the general music buying public that weren't rabid Prince fans knew that this was available at the time, or did folks just think oh he cancelled it? He's crazy, on to the next.

"Where you are now is in a place that does not require time." - Rest In Power, PRINCE
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Reply #18 posted 06/02/16 8:26am

PurpleMusic07

electrodyne said:

feeluupp said:

"project" = bootlegger on eBAY lol lol

"Project" in this instance, is a written essay on Prince tape trading via independently-published regional & more widely-circulated Prince fanzines & the postal service, in the mid-1980s through early-1990s. A time before computers & downloading. If you lived in the culturally void middle-of-nowhere at that time, even learning about an unreleased Prince album - much less finding a cassette copy of it - was a heavy thing. Almost an urban legend. Especially something that was described as super-funky, but also dark and a little bit twisted. Finding a bootleg LP copy meant driving 6 hours to the "weird" record store you heard about, giving them a password, then being led into a small room with all sorts of LP bootlegs from bigger name classic rock artists (think Dylan, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, etc.). And lo-and-behold, a small section of Prince bootleg LPs. I'm not exaggerating about this. There was no EBay. No blogs. I corresponded & traded tapes with a number of people back in the day. Sometimes you'd get lucky if someone you traded with, would take some time to make a really cool decorative sleeve. These sleeves are the photos I'm politely asking others to share & post here. It was a different time then, and I'm writing about it. Thank you. [Edited 6/2/16 1:36am] [Edited 6/2/16 1:38am]

That in and of itself is incredibly interesting and I almost feel like the way that things are now w/ the internet and downloading and youtube and blogs etc...almost takes away some of the excitement and the ability to enjoy the physical product.

"Where you are now is in a place that does not require time." - Rest In Power, PRINCE
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Reply #19 posted 06/02/16 8:38am

NorthC

PurpleMusic07 said:

I wonder if the general music buying public that weren't rabid Prince fans knew that this was available at the time, or did folks just think oh he cancelled it? He's crazy, on to the next.


Oh yes, everybody knew about it. It was big news.
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Reply #20 posted 06/02/16 8:49am

PurpleMusic07

That's pretty cool. What country are you in? Did non prince fans think it was funky and that it was "prince" again?

NorthC said:

PurpleMusic07 said:

I wonder if the general music buying public that weren't rabid Prince fans knew that this was available at the time, or did folks just think oh he cancelled it? He's crazy, on to the next.

Oh yes, everybody knew about it. It was big news.

"Where you are now is in a place that does not require time." - Rest In Power, PRINCE
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Reply #21 posted 06/02/16 8:53am

RaspBerryGirlF
riend

avatar

BartVanHemelen said:

RaspBerryGirlFriend said:

For those of you who had bootlegs of the original 1988 pressing, how did the sound compare to the 1994 CD release? I've often heard it said here that the mastering on the 1994 edition was pretty lousy and lacks bottom end, so I've often wondered if the mastering those old bootlegs was any better. Mind you I guess many of those tapes would have been several generations down from an original copy so that might have negated any advantages the original master might have had.

.

The master of the 1994 release is AFAIK exactly the same as the one used in 1987.

Ah okay, thanks, guess we'll just have to cross our fingers and hope for a remaster one day.

Heavenly wine and roses seems to whisper to me when you smile...
Always cry for love, never cry for pain...
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Reply #22 posted 06/02/16 8:55am

NorthC

^I'm not saying everybody was listening to it, but everybody who followed music knew about it. I remember giving a tape to some guy at school who was vaguely interested, but I don't remember his opinion of it. Anyway, the thrill of hearing something you weren't supposed to listen to had a lot to do with the excitement around this album.
If you want to know where I'm from, you can check my profile. wink
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Reply #23 posted 06/02/16 8:58am

SPYZFAN1

1989....There was a guy at a local indoor flea market who sold video and audio bootlegs of artists. He had the "Black Album" and wanted a LARGE ammount of $ for it. Needless to say, it just sat there because no one would buy it. I asked him if he could make a copy on audio cassette (for purchase) and he refused....About 5 months later I went to a record show and found a copy on audio cassette and received it for free (because I knew the vendor and I bought a few P boots from him at the same time)..I found out that my buddy bought the copy from the flea market guy for almost nothing because no one would purchase it. The quality wasn't bad and it was very clear, no hiss...I was just glad to have it. It wasn't as explicit and x-rated as I thought it would be.....I bought the WB cassette release a few years later just to have it....never opened it, still sealed.

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Reply #24 posted 06/02/16 8:59am

LEATHRSAIL

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It was back in 1988 when Alphabet Street was released with the video. On MTV they had reports of the "Secret Message" in the video that said..... "I'm Sorry, Please don't buy the Black Album". So this sent my friends to try and find what this Black Album thing was. A few weeks later my friend Patty got a copy of it from a friend of a friend. It was on tape. But it sounded strange. Superfunkyclalifragisexy restarted three times. We couldn't tell if the tape was at the wrong speed. We got another tape that had been slowed down. Still didn't sound right. So we thought about this. When 2 R in Love was at the same speed as what was on Lovesexy. So we figured that the copy that had When 2 R in Love at the same speed as Lovesexy was the correct speed. At the same time I found a local record shop that had records that were not published from the record companies. I found a copy of the Black Album and it sounded better than the tape. Superfunkycalifragisexy didn't restart three times. It ended up being the best copy we came across until the 1994 release. At this same time I found another bootleg called The Chocolate Box. This had songs All Day All Night, We Can Funk, Girl O' My Dreams, Databank, Can't Stop This Feeling I Got, Crystal Ball, The Ball, The Rebirth Of Flesh, Joy In Repetition, and more.... The Back Album let us know that other "underground" releases were out there.

So what we thought about this.... That this was an intentional underground album. We knew that Prince wanted to put out more music than WB were willing to put out. That this "stunt" was his way of being able to get the music out. To get around the WB gate-keeping. We looked at the Black Album & Lovesexy as a single release. That Prince intended to have both albums together as a concept. The Black Album as the dark side, Lovesexy as the light side. The Lovesexy tour was set up the same way. First half the dark side, the second half the light side. The program book was even set up the same way. Part of this came from the fact Prince kept talking about the Black Album. If you didn't want anyone to hear this music, then why keep talking about it? Why have the VJ's on MTV reporting it. They way it was presented on MTV was like.... OH GEE.... look.... this hidden message. I wonder what this is all about? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. It felt very staged. When we were at the concert, he played two songs from the Black Album. My friend Patty was singing along. The guy next to her was shocked she knew the songs. He had no idea what the black album was. He gave her his address so she could send him a copy. (she did)

So from the video of Alphabet Street, to the Lovesexy tour, playing songs from the album, and listing the names of the songs in the program book. Why keep talking about something if you don't want people to know about it or hear it. If I told you out of the blue to not look inside the box on the table. That the box has nothing in it that would interest you. Why are you trying to sell me this? You know that when my back is turned, you are going to go look in the box. We felt all this was in place to start people on the hunt. Even to know about the other music WB wouldn't let him release. Even with When 2 R In Love being on both albums. That this song was included on both so we would know what speed to play The Black Album. It was the only song on the Black Album not in the Camille voice. To us, this pointed to the conclusion that the Black Album was intended to be released the way it was. That it was intended to be an underground album. It even looked like the other bootleg albums that were in this record shop. No art, just a solid black cover with no lettering.

My feelings about this album then and now havent changed. I have been called out on this site for my view point and was called a liar. That posting my view point was spreading lies because it wasn't in any Per Nelson books <eye roll> I don't need someone to write a book to tell me what my viewpoint should be. I didn't need Prince telling the truth as to why he pulled this album. After all, we all know he was someone who loved to talk about everything he did. Also loved others to talk about it too. The pulling of the Black Album to me was not him having some spiritual epiphany. It was a way of getting around WB. Just like his name change. We were told his name change was another spirtiual epiphany. The truth was a creative way to get around a copyright contract that didn't work.

I still have the albums in storage. They are buried. They are no different that others that are posted on line. If you do a search on line you will find a site with pictures on how to tell a real pressing from a bootleg.

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Reply #25 posted 06/02/16 8:59am

PurpleMusic07

NorthC said:

^I'm not saying everybody was listening to it, but everybody who followed music knew about it. I remember giving a tape to some guy at school who was vaguely interested, but I don't remember his opinion of it. Anyway, the thrill of hearing something you weren't supposed to listen to had a lot to do with the excitement around this album. If you want to know where I'm from, you can check my profile. wink

Lol gotcha!! I'm always curious about where people are from when having music convo's cause I've noticed how the perspectives are often soo different if you're in the US, or an asian country, european country etc...

"Where you are now is in a place that does not require time." - Rest In Power, PRINCE
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Reply #26 posted 06/02/16 11:09am

TheDigitalGard
ener

In the 1980's music papers like Melody Maker, NME and Sounds used to primarily cover independent and alternative music, but they always had time for Prince, especially Melody Maker. That is where I learned of the Black Album and it's bootleg status. Got the tape at a record fair for under a fiver.

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Reply #27 posted 06/03/16 1:26pm

PeteSilas

electrodyne said:

Some questions for everyone: 1. Where, when & how did you first learn of & listen to The Black Album? What were your thoughts on it then-and-now? 2. Do any "old-timers" who traded or bought bootleg cassettes still have their cassettes & sleeves? What was story behind your cassette tape? If so, would anyone mind sharing hi-resolution pictures of your cassettes, please? It's for a project. Feel free to send a private message or post here.

i bought a cassette at the lovesexy show here in seattle, lost it somewhere, my brother got a bootleg black album, he still has it.

Prince.org: With fans like these he didn't need haters.
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Reply #28 posted 06/03/16 1:26pm

PeteSilas

electrodyne said:

Some questions for everyone: 1. Where, when & how did you first learn of & listen to The Black Album? What were your thoughts on it then-and-now? 2. Do any "old-timers" who traded or bought bootleg cassettes still have their cassettes & sleeves? What was story behind your cassette tape? If so, would anyone mind sharing hi-resolution pictures of your cassettes, please? It's for a project. Feel free to send a private message or post here.

as far as the music, i thought it was good, i thought everything was good back then. I always loved anytime he showed humor too, with bob george we got it.

Prince.org: With fans like these he didn't need haters.
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Reply #29 posted 06/03/16 1:39pm

emesem

Cool story.

I read about it in the Village Voice reviewed by none other than Nelson George. (I had no idea who he was then)

17 year old me picks up phone and calls Village Voice and asks for "Nelson George". Mr. George picks up and I say "Hey where did you get the Black Album?" and he says. "Oh. just go to Revolver Records in the Village". I'm like "ok, thanks, man"

And thus started my introduction to the dark magical world of bootlegs and concert video VHSs etc....sigh....good times.

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