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Remember the 2008 Universal fire? What MUSIC was lost?

Discussion in 'Music' started by MielR, Jun 11, 2019.

  1. MielR

    MielR Advanced Member

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    I think many here remember the 2008 Universal "vault" fire that destroyed many films and videotapes, but apparently, a lot of music masters were also lost as well. What is most disturbing, is that UMG still doesn't seem to have a precise grasp on what was lost, or at least they're not saying, if they do.

    From Variety: "...the fire, which took place on June 1, 2008 on the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood, destroyed 'almost all of the master recordings stored in the vault … including those produced by some of the most famous musicians since the 1940s, [likely including] masters by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland; as well as some of Chuck Berry’s greatest recordings, the masters of some of Aretha Franklin’s first appearances on record, almost of all of Buddy Holly’s masters and John Coltrane’s masters in the Impulse Records collection. ' "

    And that's just for starters!

    Full Variety article here: https://variety.com/2019/music/news/universal-music-disputes-severity-2008-vault-fire-new-york-times-1203239661/

    NYT article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/magazine/universal-fire-master-recordings.html

    Massive cover-up? Negligence? Probably both.
     
  2. atcolomb

    atcolomb Screenwriter

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    Surprised there was a vault fire to begin with. You would think there would be the best fire prevention system set up to prevent or minimalize the fire.
     
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  3. LouA

    LouA Screenwriter

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    Just amazing that so little care was taken to safeguard our musical heritage.
     
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  4. MielR

    MielR Advanced Member

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    Shocking, isn't it?! You think there would have at least been a sprinkler system. It's scary how incompetent those are who are supposed to be the guardians of such important pieces of human culture.

    It reminds me of the stories of how 20th Century Fox threw movie reels (sometimes the only known copies) of old silents onto bonfires to make space on their shelves (and recover some of the silver from the nitrate prints in the process).
     
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  5. Message #5 of 15 Jun 12, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
    MielR

    MielR Advanced Member

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  6. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    30 Rock
    had Jack Welch Donaghy make a joke to this effect around the time it happened.

    If only that had been all it was.
     
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  7. Message #7 of 15 Jun 12, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
    MielR

    MielR Advanced Member

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    If only.

    I remember at the time, TV news reports of the damage to the Back To The Future courthouse set, but then later, reports started to trickle in about lost film reels and videotape masters for various TV shows.

    But the music loss is just mind boggling. The entire catalogue masters for some artists were lost, and what's even more amazing is that the artists themselves were not even notified. I'm sure that is due in large part to wanting to cover their rear ends, but also because their inventory system was nearly non-existent, so if they look for a master of a particular album and can't find it (like in the case of The Beastie Boys and Steely Dan)...well, maybe it was misplaced...or maybe it went up in flames.

    Here's a list of some of the known labels/artists/titles affected:

    LABELS:

    MCA
    ABC
    A&M
    Geffen
    Interscope
    Impulse
    Chess (nearly everything)
    Decca
    Peacock
    Probe
    AVI Records (entire catalog)

    ARTISTS:

    Buddy Holly (entire catalog)
    Moms Mabley (Chess)
    John Coltrane (Impulse Records)
    Chuck Berry (Chess)
    Aretha Franklin (Chess appearances)
    Muddy Waters (Chess)
    Howlin’ Wolf (Chess)
    Willie Dixon (Chess)
    Bo Diddley (Chess)
    Etta James (Chess)
    John Lee Hooker (Chess)
    Buddy Guy (Chess)
    Little Walter (Chess)
    Duke Ellington (Impulse)
    Count Basie (Impulse)
    Coleman Hawkins (Impulse)
    Dizzy Gillespie (Impulse)
    Max Roach (Impulse)
    Art Blakey (Impulse)
    Sonny Rollins (Impulse)
    Charles Mingus (Impulse)
    Ornette Coleman (Impulse)
    Alice Coltrane (Impulse)
    Sun Ra (Impulse)
    Albert Ayler (Impulse)
    Pharoah Sanders (Impulse)


    TITLES & MISC.:


    Steely Dan (album multi-tracks, outtakes, unreleased material)
    Bill Haley and His Comets - “Rock Around the Clock”
    Etta James - “At Last”
    Kingsmen - “Louie Louie.”
    Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats - “Rocket 88”
    Bo Diddley - “Bo Diddley/I’m A Man”
    The Impressions - “People Get Ready”
    Don Bennett - “The Prince Teddy Album”

    SINGLES & ENTIRE ALBUMS:


    Billie Holiday (Decca)
    Louis Armstrong (Decca)
    Duke Ellington (Decca)
    Al Jolson (Decca)
    Bing Crosby (Decca)
    Ella Fitzgerald (Decca)
    Judy Garland (Decca)
    Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five (Decca)
    Patsy Cline (Decca)
    Liberace
    Ray Charles
    B.B. King
    The Four Tops
    Joan Baez
    Neil Diamond
    Sonny and Cher
    Joni Mitchell
    Cat Stevens
    Gladys Knight and the Pips
    Al Green
    Elton John
    Eric Clapton
    Jimmy Buffett
    The Eagles
    Aerosmith
    Rufus and Chaka Khan
    Barry White
    Patti LaBelle
    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
    The Police
    Sting
    Steve Earle
    R.E.M.
    Janet Jackson
    Guns N’ Roses
    Mary J. Blige
    No Doubt
    Nine Inch Nails
    Snoop Dogg
    Nirvana (including unreleased material)
    Beck
    Sheryl Crow
    Tupac Shakur
    Eminem
    50 Cent
    The Roots
    Benny Goodman
    Cab Calloway
    The Andrews Sisters
    The Ink Spots
    The Mills Brothers
    Lionel Hampton
    Ray Charles
    Sister Rosetta Tharpe
    Clara Ward
    Sammy Davis Jr.
    Les Paul
    Fats Domino
    Big Mama Thornton
    Burl Ives
    The Weavers
    Kitty Wells
    Ernest Tubb
    Lefty Frizzell
    Loretta Lynn
    George Jones
    Merle Haggard
    Bobby (Blue) Bland
    Ike Turner
    Quincy Jones
    Burt Bacharach
    The Mamas and the Papas
    Captain Beefheart
    The Flying Burrito Brothers
    Lynyrd Skynyrd
    Don Henley
    Iggy Pop
    Yoko Ono
    Sting
    George Strait
    Eric B. and Rakim
    New Edition
    Bobby Brown
    Queen Latifah
    Sonic Youth
    Soundgarden
    Hole
     
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  8. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    This is criminal negligence on a grand scale. I wish we could send someone to jail over it.
     
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  9. Message #9 of 15 Jun 13, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
    MielR

    MielR Advanced Member

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    Me too.

    I'm just wondering if there's going to be some kind of lawsuit filed by the artists whose catalogues were
    affected?

    My dad recorded an album for MGM in the 1950s, and I found out several years ago that UMG had acquired the rights to that album (and also some singles) during of their many merger-acquisitions. I was hoping that maybe one day I could buy the rights and the masters from them (just for sentimental reasons, not for any anticipated monetary gain)...but who knows if the masters even exist anymore? They may have burned up in that fire, or they may have even been thrown in the trash years ago. Either way, with UMG's shoddy record-keeping, they probably wouldn't even know.

    I understand it's now down to 3 companies that basically own our musical heritage: UMG, Sony and Warner. Let's hope the latter two are doing a better job of protecting it.
     
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  10. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Doubtful, as I think the labels own the masters so I don't think the artists can sue for any loss. If all the labels are under the Universal Music Group umbrella, I don't think anyone would have standing to sue as it would be Universal's own property that was lost.
     
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  11. Message #11 of 15 Jun 13, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
    MielR

    MielR Advanced Member

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    True, but perhaps they could sue for loss of future compensation. When/if the next "super-duper mega-ultra high-rez" consumer format comes out, and these artists' catalogues can't be re-mastered to meet that standard, they might possibly have a case.

    With dead artists like Billie Holiday, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, etc., I guess UMG would be safe unless there's an estate rep or relative that would have interest in suing.
     
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  12. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Imagine any unreleased recordings lost, because they would not have existed in any other form but those masters.

    The negligence is staggering, but really surprising.
     
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  13. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    You'd think that by 2008, every major studio/recording company would have had a standard operational procedure for this sort of thing.

    Unless they duplicated any of this digitally and stored it on the East Coast, it's gone.
     
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  14. Message #14 of 15 Jun 14, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
    MielR

    MielR Advanced Member

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    The fact that these recordings were stored in anything less than fireproof vaults with a backup sprinkler system, is mind-boggling. An archivist/curator should have been actively compiling and keeping a detailed inventory (and NOT in an on-site 3-ring binder), and why the hell did they allow the roofer to use a blowtorch?! These tapes should have been treated like the dead-sea scrolls, and if UMG didn't want to do it, they should have at least had the decency to let somebody else take over.

    On some level I'm surprised by the lack of care of some of our greatest musical treasures...but on another level, I'm not. The major movie studios have a long history of not only negligence, but willful destruction, and why should their music branches be any different? Corporate greed, ignorance, skewed priorities...they all play in.

    I love the "preservation is our highest priority" quote! It would be hilarious if it weren't so damn sad.
     
  15. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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    The studios should fall on their knees and give thanks for the existence of CDs and the ease of extracting music from them. There may be a lot of stuff that was lost in the fire in terms of unreleased material, or in terms of the chance to do future remastering.

    However, released CDs are essentially a massive, world-wide, distributed backup that could be used to recover from some of this negligence. For instance, there was a Muddy Waters / Chess CD box set that might contain some songs from lost master recordings. The studio would only need to borrow one of the copies of that box set to have a chance to recover those songs. Granted, they'd all be mixed down to two tracks, but that might be better than losing them entirely.
     

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