Universal Studios Fire Losses Included Thousands of Historic Recordings

Universal Studios Fire Losses Included Thousands of Historic Recordings

A 2008 fire at Universal Studios Hollywood destroyed master tapes and other recordings by a staggering list of artists, according to a new report from the New York Times.

One of the affected artists, R.E.M., tweeted, "REMHQ is receiving inquiries from many people concerned about the New York Times article on the Universal Music fire 11 years ago". The recordings were some of the items in a vault that was consumed by the flames that day, along with several movie sets and a King Kong exhibit. Documents show that there was no exact inventory of what certain tapes contained, but in addition to the masters of classic songs, most would also have had session recordings and other never-released-and, thus, never digitized or remastered-material.

According to the report, the fire burned original recordings of work by artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N' Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent, The Roots and more. The Times report has revealed that around 500,000 songs were lost in the devastation.

But in reality, some of the most important and significant musical treasures of the past 80 years were reduced to ash.

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Up in smoke were much of Buddy Holly's original recordings, John Coltrane's masters from the Impulse Records collection, and some of Chuck Berry's Chess Records tapes, as well as the masters of Aretha Franklin's first recordings.

NYT continues, "The fire also claimed numerous hit singles, likely including Bill Haley and His Comets" "Rock Around the Clock, ' Etta James's "At Last" and the Kingsmen's 'Louie Louie'".

"For everyone asking why Do You Want More & Illadelph Halflife wont get reissue treatment", he explained, sharing a link to the New York Times piece.

In response, Universal Music Group questioned the accuracy of the Times' reporting, without specifically pointing out what in the story it considered erroneous. Universal Music Group had initially denied these reports, and has released a statement disputing the magnitude of the incident. Although the fire itself was public knowledge, the loss of Universal Music Group's recordings was kept secret, with even the artists affected unaware of the extent of the damage.