Prince wants his music back. Just a month before he releases the first DVD from his New Power Generation Music Club, the club has sent its paid members a list of album rarities Prince would like returned in his continuing struggle to guard against bootlegging and to control his own sonic real estate.
In an e-mail sent Wednesday to the NPGMC, fans were asked to "Help the cause!" and look for "anything with a WB logo that was unofficially released during Prince's tenure at that label."
Among the suggested discs to send in, according to a list provided by the NPGMC, were releases by such companies as Back 2 Back, 2-on-1 and BackTrax, which included such classic Prince singles as "Purple Rain," "Little Red Corvette," "Erotic City," "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy." Much of the material on the list — from CD and cassette singles to box sets and home videos — was released as imports sold in Germany, Japan and the U.K.
The e-mail asks for the material to be mailed to The Ways of the Pharoah, PO Box 169, Vermilion, OH 44089-0169, but without mention of a reward, reimbursement or compensation.
Fans are already in an uproar over the missive. One fan posting to a message board on Prince.org under the name Goldie's Parade wrote, "I bought all those in a shop, so I legally own them, and Prince wants me to send them back free of charge. Fool."
An explanation was later posted on the NPGMC Web site. "Not long ago, an unauthorized version of the concert film 'Sign O' the Times' surfaced online," the message read. "Supposedly originating in Brazil and distributed by WEA International, this DVD is not something that was approved by Prince or any of his affiliates. ... We all know that Prince is one of the most bootlegged artists of his generation, and while much of the activity is tolerated, it crosses the line when Prince's [former] record company ... gets in the mix. The [reason for this request is] to show a federal court the actual truth of this age-old rift between artist and label."
"Let Prince steward his own catalogue," the message pleaded. "Then the 'coupled,' poor-quality, unmastered versions of his classics would cease. Imagine in 2004, a brand new, pristine, remastered version of 'Purple Rain,' released on high-definition DVD with extras, outtakes and liner notes from the Artist himself."
Prince recorded albums between 1978 and 1996 on Warner Bros., whom he's accused of unfair business practices. He split from the label circa the release of Chaos and Disorder, citing issues of control. Though he failed to get Warner Bros. to return the ownership of his master recordings (the label still owns Prince's back catalogue), Prince is legally allowed to re-record any of his Warner Bros. songs.
A spokesperson for the singer could not reach Prince for comment at press time.