I have to start this with an apology to Joshua W. He contacted me via the site, actually not for this but for a similar white label “Steve McQueen” on Ebay which I’d normally have featured as an item of the week.
When Joshua sent me the link, I looked at it and noted a white label “Protest Songs” in the seller’s “Other Items”. Now although the other Sprout albums mostly have white label promo versions circulating in reasonable numbers, “Protest Songs” doesn’t, It had a 4 song sampler CD instead and virtually no promotion at all. I have a white label copy, but this is a test pressing of the European version. So immediately this was of interest.
But more so as I looked at the photos. There are moments in collecting when you figure out you’ve chanced across something very special indeed. The hairs go up on your neck. This was one of those moments. Because counting the tracks on the photographs in the Ebay listing, it appeared – and this wasn’t clear – only to have four tracks on one side. Where the released “Protest Songs” has five on both.
Which would mean – could this possibly be the case? – that this was one of the original 1985 pressings, of which a handful escaped and fell into the hands of bootleggers. There is a history of “Protest Songs” with a slightly temperamental slide show here, by the way (just leave the show alone and it will eventually start scrolling).
If so, this was one of the rarest of all Prefab Sprout vinyl records. Even rarer than the “BBC In Concert” LP from the BBC. I didn’t dare tell anyone, I didn’t dare ask any questions of the seller, and I resisted all temptation to offer a bid to close the auction. I was terrified someone would notice and jump in.
It was a nine day auction.
Day nine dawned, and I got it with the opening bid. £16.94 plus postage. Couldn’t believe my luck.
It just arrived, and just opening it was purgatorial. It was in some senses Schroedinger’s “Protest Songs”: before being opened it might, it just might possibly be a stupendously rare album. Or it might be the standard album or even a mislabelled something else; I wouldn’t know until I’d got it open. And it was one of those packages with a very difficult to remove piece of parcel tape, so it took a while.
Enfin, bref, it was the original. I didn’t know for sure until “The World Awake” segued into “Wicked Things” instead of “Life of Surprises”. Brilliant brilliant brilliant, and I’ll be grinning for days about this.
So thanks again Joshua, sorry for the subterfuge and lack of response. But this may be the only copy that will ever be found, and sometimes when collecting you just have to do what you have to do.