Universal Music Apparently Lost Some or All of Guns N’ Roses Master Tapes in a Fire
In 2008, Universal Studios Hollywood suffered a catastrophic fire that destroyed the theme park’s, “King Kong” attraction. At the time, studio officials played down the event saying a video vault was also affected in the fire, but that it wasn’t a big deal.
A report from The New York Times has unveiled how the record label allegedly misled the media and public. The Times stated
The fire started in the early hours of June 1, 2008.
Overnight, maintenance workers had used blowtorches to repair the roof of a building on the set of New England Street, a group of colonial-style buildings used in scenes for movies and television shows. The workers followed protocol and waited for the shingles they worked on to cool, but the fire broke out soon after they left, just before 5 a.m.
The flames eventually reached Building 6197, known as the video vault, which housed videotapes, film reels and, crucially, a library of master sound recordings owned by Universal Music Group.
The report goes on to say that “almost all” of the master recordings were lost in the fire, with an internal Universal Music report stating about 500,000 song titles were forever destroyed.
According to The New York Times some of the artists’ recordings affected by the fire include, but are not limited to, 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, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots. It’s not clear which recordings from those artists were lost and/or damaged.
The master recordings are what all future releases are dubbed off of, whether digital or physical. Source material has now been lost to some of the last century’s greatest artists. It is the purest recording of a song.
According to the report, the scale of the loss was uncovered after looking through a series of litigation and company documents obtained by The New York Times.