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Original Recordings By Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Guns N’ Roses Lost In Studio Fire

A new report shows that a 2008 fire at Universal Studios destroyed some of music’s greatest master recordings.

In 2008, a massive blaze tore through Universal Studios in Hollywood. The fire burnt up the studio’s King King amusement park ride, and destroyed a video vault containing the only remaining copies of classic films. But now, a new investigation by the New York Times reveals that Universal Music Group also suffered major losses in the fire, including master recordings by some of the most important musicians and songs in history.

The fire, which is believed to have been caused by blowtorches used by construction workers on the roof, started a little after 5am on June 1st, 2008. Eventually, it made its way to Building 6197, a video vault that housed film reels, tapes, and a massive library of original sound recordings spanning decades.

Among the Kerrang!-favorite artists who lost their master recordings in the fire were Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt, and Aerosmith. Also lost in the fire were recordings by R.E.M., Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Barry White, Snoop Dogg, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Eminem, Al Green, the Eagles, and Neil Diamond. Several groundbreaking singles lost in the blaze included Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley And The Comets, At Last by Etta James, and Louie Louie by The Kingsmen.

It goes without saying that this was a massive loss to the music world. Master recordings are the recordings from which all other formats of a musician’s work are based; to lose so many leaves producers with only digital remasters to work from. They also often feature unreleased or demo tracks that artists don’t release until later in their careers.

Meanwhile, this also brings to light an issue audiophiles and music historians have discussed heavily in the past: that of classic music storage. This fire wouldn’t have consumed all of these masters had they not been stored in one place, and had been better protected.

How informed the artists above were of the loss of their masters remains unclear.

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Posted on June 11th 2019, 6:10pm
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