GUNS N’ ROSES, EAGLES Masters Among 100,000 Destroyed In Fire

GUNS N’ ROSES, EAGLES Masters Among 100,000 Destroyed In Fire

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A 2008 fire on the Universal Studios backlot has done far more damage than originally divulged.

In statements made public for the first time, more than 100,000 master recordings owned by Universal Music Group were lost in the blaze, including works by Elton John, the Eagles, the Police, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana and Tom Petty.

The new information comes courtesy of The New York Times Magazine, which cites internal company documents and interviews with UMG employees among their sources. One document, used in a 2009 company meeting, declares that “lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage.”

UMG is the world’s largest recording company, boasting a catalog that spans the history of recorded music. Over the course of the company’s existence, it has acquired a long list of labels, including Capitol, Decca, Chess, Interscope, Island, Def Jam and more.

When word of a fire on the Universal backlot originally broke in 2008, very little was said regarding damage to the archival warehouse. The structure was referred to as a “video vault,” while much of the focus was placed on the famous studio sound stages and filming facades that were scorched by the flames.

A 2008 Deadline report suggesting the fire had burned irreplaceable master tapes was rebuffed by UMG. Soon afterward, a Universal spokesperson denied claims that master tapes had been destroyed, telling Billboard that UMG “had no loss.” Now, it appears, those comments were inaccurate.

In a confidential report, issued in 2009, UMG estimated that “500K song titles” were lost. In a conversation with The New York Times Magazine, Randy Aronson, UMG’s former director of vault operations, admitted his employer tried to downplay the loss for fear of backlash from the public.

“The company knew that there would be shock and outrage if people found out the real story,” Aronson stated. “They did an outstanding job of keeping it quiet. It’s a secret I’m ashamed to have been a part of.”

While details on exactly which recordings were lost has not been revealed, master tapes from the following artists are believed to be among those destroyed:

Elton John
Eric Clapton
The Eagles
Aerosmith
Steely Dan
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
The Police
Guns N’ Roses
Nine Inch Nails
Nirvana
Soundgarden
Tupac Shakur
Beck
Louis Armstrong
Duke Ellington
Al Jolson
Bing Crosby
Ella Fitzgerald
Judy Garland
Billie Holiday
Chuck Berry
Aretha Franklin
John Coltrane
Count Basie
Ray Charles,
Sammy Davis Jr.
Les Paul
Fats Domino
Loretta Lynn
B.B. King
Quincy Jones
Burt Bacharach
Joan Baez
Neil Diamond
Sonny and Cher
The Mamas and the Papas
Joni Mitchell
Cat Stevens
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Jimmy Buffett
Don Henley
Iggy Pop
Barry White
Patti LaBelle
Yoko Ono
Sting
R.E.M.
Janet Jackson
Queen Latifah
Mary J. Blige
Sonic Youth
No Doubt
Snoop Dogg
Hole
Sheryl Crow
Eminem

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