Nirvana and Eminem music 'lost in fire'

Brenda Watkins
June 15, 2019

In an internal confidential report, Universal Music Group estimated the loss at about 500,000 song titles.

The fire started after overnight maintenance workers used blow torches to fix the roof of a building on one of Universal Studios' many movie sets.

A huge fire on the backlot of Universal Studios burns in the Hollywood Hills on June 1, 2008, in Universal City, California.

Having started their careers in the nineties, classic hits such as Eminem's "My Name Is" and Tupac's "Changes" may well have been destroyed in the fire, although Universal are yet to release a list of the recordings destroyed.

The 2008 Universal Studios fire that wiped out the Back to the Future courthouse square and a mechanical King Kong also destroyed thousands of original recording masters from some of the most influential artists of the 20th century. The New York Times report details how Universal Media Group downplayed the event to avoid artist backlash and public embarrassment, claiming that the video vault contained only copies of old work. All numbers aside, it all amounts to a "profound" loss of "a sweeping cross-section of popular music history", the Times Magazine writes.

In a statement on Tuesday, UMG acknowledged the fire had been "deeply unfortunate" but disputed the New York Times' reporting.

The Decca label included irreplaceable music by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby, and Ella Fitzgerald.

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Following the article's publication, REM said they were "trying to get good information to find out what happened and the effect on the band's music, if any".

Of the artists that lost masters in the fire are Aretha Franklin, whose first recorded appearances are gone forever, Buddy Holly, who lost almost his entire catalog, and Etta James, who lost her hit single "At Last".

The fire has been revealed to be one of the biggest blows to contemporary music archiving.

More modern masters were also lost as well, by everyone from Eric Clapton and Elton John, to the Eagles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Janet Jackson, Nirvana and Tupac Shakur.

"The story contains numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets", Universal said in a statement".

"Music preservation is of the highest priority for us and we are proud of our track record", UMG stated.

Krist Novoselic, a founding member of the 1990s grunge band Nirvana, responded to a fan on Twitter asking whether the Times article meant that the masters for the group's landmark Nevermind album were gone.

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