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  1. #1

    Thousands of master tapes lost in Universal fire

    I found this today, although it does not specifically mention Motown, it does mention a lot of other Universal labels.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/m...ecordings.html

    This does not bode well for future reissues or remasters by many of the artists mentioned in the article but apparently this is just the tip of the iceberg...

  2. #2
    I just found out about this and I'm in shock! I hope that we can hear more details about this fire and how it impacts Motown master tapes (even thou it took place in 2008) from Harry or George.
    Last edited by Motown Eddie; 06-11-2019 at 02:01 PM.

  3. #3
    What a fascinating article. What a profound loss, and with so many storage sites around the US, how do they even keep track of what they have. And on top of that, with so many acquisitions of record labels and then selling off parts of the parent company..who knows what music is out there, and what music has been lost.
    It's like Andy, Harry and George who keep finding "new" music, that had been mislabelled or included on someone else's tapes.

  4. #4
    Shocking news! That article is very interesting. There is so much information that a second read is necessary. It's just awful that those master tapes are gone forever. I watch the news every day and had not heard a peep about this disaster.
    Last edited by mr_june; 06-11-2019 at 05:43 PM.

  5. #5
    Motown tapes should be safe in a New Jersey warehouse, although the article does mention a scare they had a few years ago.

  6. #6
    This is sad to hear. I wonder what exactly was lost.

  7. #7
    While I’m glad no Motown recordings were lost, I’m still saddened about what was. Entire artists masterpieces were destroyed.

  8. #8
    With each paragraph, my stomach plummeted. This is an immeasurable, yawning cultural tragedy compounded by corporate apathy. I'm actually depressed now.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by sansradio View Post
    With each paragraph, my stomach plummeted. This is an immeasurable, yawning cultural tragedy compounded by corporate apathy. I'm actually depressed now.
    It also makes me more appreciative of all the hard work Harry, Andy, George, Keith Hughes, and everyone else involved with preserving the Motown catalogs. The music is great, but the details that go along with it is just the icing on the cake. Hopefully going forward, others will try harder to preserve the history.

  10. #10
    The list of destroyed single and album masters takes in titles by dozens of legendary artists, a genre-spanning who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music. It includes recordings by 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, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, 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 and the Roots.

  11. #11
    A picture of the fire:Name:  ec689f6ac5c2486f801eccd287d7c4e1-superJumbo.jpg
Views: 473
Size:  97.1 KB

  12. #12
    I recall that fire, and its a shame that so many master recording tapes were destroyed. That said, with todays technology and sonic capabilities, most of those recordings exist somewhere where they can still be reproduced, remixed, and redistributed for commercial usage and historical perpetuity...technical capabilities that did not exist not too long ago...
    Last edited by StuBass1; 06-12-2019 at 12:18 PM.

  13. #13
    Eminem backed up his stuff just months before the fire.

    Virtually all of the A&M singles masters were destroyed.

    Virtually everything that was on the ABC or ABC/Dunhill, Dot, Decca, and Backbeat labels are gone.

    The entire Chess catalog is gone.

    Nirvana's tapes are gone.

    It is arguable that the Steely Dan tapes are gone, but they put out a statement today saying that they have long known that the tapes were gone, but, according to the guy who ran the vault said that the backups are safe in New Jersey.

    No word yet from Elton John, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, Eagles, Don Henley, the Glenn Frey estate, Donna Summer's estate, Quincy Jones, Richard carpenter, Toni Tennille, Aerosmith, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Bobby Brown, Thelma Houston, and a staggering number of other artists who lost tapes.

    Keep in mind that this fire happened 11 years ago and these tapes have been known to have perished inside the industry, but Universal was very good at sweeping it under the rug until now. So, we have been living with this reality and many of us didn't even know it. As of this morning they were still doing a Sarah Sanders.
    Last edited by soulster; 06-12-2019 at 08:09 PM.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    Eminem backed up his stuff just months before the fire.

    Virtually all of the A&M singles masters were destroyed.

    Virtually everything that was on the ABC or ABC/Dunhill, Dot, Decca, and Backbeat labels are gone.

    The entire Chess catalog is gone.

    Nirvana's tapes are gone.

    It is arguable that the Steely Dan tapes are gone, but they put out a statement today saying that they have long known that the tapes were gone, but, according to the guy who ran the vault said that the backups are safe in New Jersey.

    No word yet from Elton John, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, Eagles, Don Henley, the Glenn Frey estate, Donna Summer's estate, Quincy Jones, Richard carpenter, Toni Tennille, Aerosmith, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Bobby Brown, Thelma Houston, and a staggering number of other artists who lost tapes.

    Keep in mind that this fire happened 11 years ago and these tapes have been known to have perished inside the industry, but Universal was very good at sweeping it under the rug until now. So, we have been living with this reality and many of us didn't even know it. As of this morning they were still doing a Sarah Sanders.
    Uh.....Where have you been young man?

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    Eminem backed up his stuff just months before the fire.

    Virtually all of the A&M singles masters were destroyed.

    Virtually everything that was on the ABC or ABC/Dunhill, Dot, Decca, and Backbeat labels are gone.

    The entire Chess catalog is gone.

    Nirvana's tapes are gone.

    It is arguable that the Steely Dan tapes are gone, but they put out a statement today saying that they have long known that the tapes were gone, but, according to the guy who ran the vault said that the backups are safe in New Jersey.

    No word yet from Elton John, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, Eagles, Don Henley, the Glenn Frey estate, Donna Summer's estate, Quincy Jones, Richard carpenter, Toni Tennille, Aerosmith, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Bobby Brown, Thelma Houston, and a staggering number of other artists who lost tapes.

    Keep in mind that this fire happened 11 years ago and these tapes have been known to have perished inside the industry, but Universal was very good at sweeping it under the rug until now. So, we have been living with this reality and many of us didn't even know it. As of this morning they were still doing a Sarah Sanders.
    Richard Carpenter said that his masters are gone. All of Buddy Holly's masters are also gone. However, all of Holly's stuff has been remastered.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by jboy88 View Post
    Richard Carpenter said that his masters are gone. All of Buddy Holly's masters are also gone. However, all of Holly's stuff has been remastered.
    Richard Carpenter has digital backups of his multitracks, but the 2-track mixdowns are gone.

    The remastered Buddy Holly material doesn't sound that great.

  17. #17

    Typical Record Company Negligence

    I worked there for 13 years. There have ALWAYS been fires on that lot. By that time Universal Studios did NOT own the record division at that time, They still don't. It's the UMG behemoth now. Universal's film division had a " "Geographical Separation" Policy. Master films were in the Universal Studios vaults (wood buildings) on the lot in North Hollywood/Universal City and in the salt mines in Kansas.
    The record company management were highly and typically negligent. A roof fire occurred while workers were tarring it was all it took and spread when they went to lunch! When they came back all hell was breaking loose. The film folks were protected. The record masters were not.

  18. #18
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/music/news...cid=spartandhp

    Questlove confirms that his masters are gone. He stated that the B-F and O-S files took the most damage.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by jboy88 View Post
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/music/news...cid=spartandhp

    Questlove confirms that his masters are gone. He stated that the B-F and O-S files took the most damage.
    My Lord. The amount of litigation stemming from this will be unreal.

  20. #20
    Corporations are dangerous.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by sansradio View Post
    My Lord. The amount of litigation stemming from this will be unreal.
    I suspect legal action 10 years later would be problematic at best...and rarely do statute of limitation laws extend out 10 years... In California, Statute if Limitation laws in Contractual Civil cases range from 1-4 years...

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by StuBass1 View Post
    I suspect legal action 10 years later would be problematic at best...and rarely do statute of limitation laws extend out 10 years... In California, Statute if Limitation laws in Contractual Civil cases range from 1-4 years...
    I see. Well, that just compounds my disgust over how this was handled all the more. I mean, the cynicism of it all! Thanks for the info, stu.

  23. #23
    Yeah it takes some YEARS to get it straighten out and sometimes (or I should say most of the time), it NEVER gets worked out!

  24. #24
    If you ask me, sounds like the ''ol "...it FELL off the back of the truck"!

  25. #25

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by StuBass1 View Post
    I suspect legal action 10 years later would be problematic at best...and rarely do statute of limitation laws extend out 10 years... In California, Statute if Limitation laws in Contractual Civil cases range from 1-4 years...
    That's true, but the clock starts running when the Plaintiff "knew or should have known" about the damages. So if the fact that the masters were destroyed was kept secret until this year, then the clock wouldn't start running until now because none of the Plaintiffs could have known of the damages prior to the information finally leaking out.

  27. #27
    A more comprehensive list of artists believed to have lost masters! If you get depressed easily, I wouldn’t open it.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/25/magazine/universal-music-fire-bands-list-umg.html
    Last edited by jboy88; 06-26-2019 at 10:42 PM.

  28. #28
    On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Florence Ballard among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

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