Sheryl Crow says her master tapes were destroyed in Universal fire

Sheryl Crow says “all her masters” were destroyed when the Universal Studios archive in Los Angeles burnt down in 2008.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of her Glastonbury appearance this weekend, the singer-songwriter said “It absolutely grieves me,” adding, “It feels a little apocalyptic.”

The New York Times ran an article earlier this month which revealed the extent of the damage and Crow only discovered the loss after she saw her name mentioned in the report.

‘Tuesday Night Music Club’ was reissued on blue vinyl last year

Crow’s 1993 debut Tuesday Night Music Club has sold more than eight million copies worldwide and the self-titled follow-up from 1996 and 1998’s The Globe Sessions consolidated this success. Only the first of those three albums has been issued on vinyl (in the USA last year for Black Friday) and as an expanded 2CD+DVD deluxe edition. The source of that vinyl is unknown, and curiously, the latter was issued in 2009 AFTER the fire and contains previously unreleased recordings. This either suggests those tapes were pulled from the archive prior to the catastrophe in June 2008, or that Crow isn’t in possession of all the facts.

Naturally, Sheryl Crow is astounded at this news, calling the way Universal Music have handled the situation as a “cover-up” (they originally denied any loss).

The New York Times have now published a bigger list of artists whose master tapes may have been lost in the fire. These include Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Elton John, No Doubt, Beck, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, and Guns N’ Roses.

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While we’re on the subject of Sheryl Crow… She recorded an album before “Tuesday Night Music Club” with producer Hugh Padgham. It was never released due to the dissatisfaction of Crow and her label at the time, A&M. If those masters are gone in the fire, then so much for hearing the album in better quality. All that’s left are some bootlegs that utilize the cassette masters. It’s even on YouTube!


One of the friends I work with is Monty Byrom. Back in 1984 he was in a band called Billy Satellite. They released one album on Capitol which garnered the hits “Satisfy Me” and “I Wanna Go Back” (the latter became a bigger hit when Eddie Money covered it in 1986), but they had a second album recorded with producer Keith Olsen that was never released due to a shakeup within the label at the time (1985, maybe). Monty had recently revealed to me that he believes the real masters for the second album are gone, and yet the lost album was still released in 2016 on a label called AOR Heaven. Unfortunately, Monty’s cassette tape masters were used for that release and they sound okay but not great. This saddens me, because I don’t think we’ll ever hear that album in better quality again.
Then he fronted New Frontier in 1988, and they released one album on Mika/Polydor. Their only single from that album was “Under Fire,” which Monty wrote with Martin Page and Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin. It’s not known if the masters are lost or gone yet, but I still have the album on CD somewhere. It’s not even on the digital circuits, including Spotify.
Monty was also in a country band in the late-1990’s called Big House. They did two albums for MCA, the self-titled debut and “Travelin’ Kind.” It is also believed that those masters are gone as well, although Monty still has a copy of the first album’s masters somewhere… I think. Just going by memory.

paul wren

OK, quite a complex situation to unpick about what exactly has been lost. But who took the decision to store original and safety copies in the same facility? That is the real outrage here.

Arne Shulstad

While imagining the amount of effort and talent that must have gone into the making of these recordings, I was sickened to hear of their loss. Here are just a few questions that come to mind: 1) Why were all these tapes stored in a facility that would burn so easily? 2) Why were they all stored in one location, instead of spreading smaller quantities over multiple locations? 3) Why was no effort undertaken years or decades before to create backup copies?

Mike Davis

And this is what happens when you let one mega corporation own everything.There used to be laws against that.


I seem to recall Marilyn Manson (Interscope artist, since swallowed by Universal) saying a couple of years ago that he’d been hoping to put together a deluxe edition for the 20th anniversary of Antichrist Superstar in 2016 but had been told the masters had been ‘lost’. At the time, presumably because he’s a paranoid substance-addled dimwit, he was doing his usual trick of blaming any thing except the right thing for the loss – in this case he was claiming Trent Reznor had deliberately lost the masters to spite him and prevent any further resissues or remasterings. Except we now know Universal were telling every artist who wanted to embark on such projects that their masters had been lost, misplaced, damaged by a meteor strike that nobody else noticed….


Can I really be the first to mention Kevin Gilbert and karma?

Leslie Hanagan

So does a new career on daytime tv look likely Paul?

bruce kelso

reguarding the lost masters at universal. in japan there have been expanded reissues of the emi catlalog 63 to 66 of manfred mann, both in mono and stereo of their u.k lps and u.s counter parts with bonus tracks in paper sleeves.they are remastered and have unissued trax. as for the who also in japan their are 2 box sets of my generation and a quick one. both are 2 cd sets with mini replicas of the the 45s and ep sleeves world wide. both mono and stereo mixes are included along unissued mixes and trax. the u.s. only who missing and two missing are in one 2 cd set with non comp b sides and mixes . both have unreleased trax.exclusive to japan. there was just a 2 cd expanded of petes solo lp who came first . the who have in their archive many live shows from 68 onwards. why cant they be out out. why did it take eons for the 68 fillmore east show to come out. the stones could start with a year by year 71 to 76 with expaned versions of fingers, exile(real outakes not the phony ones) goats, rock n roll, black and blue instead of another best of and hastlily assembled live set. but………..

Phil Cohen

The Manfred Mann 1963-Mid 1966 catalog is owned by Warner/Parlophone, as are the catalogs of all n0n-Beatles EMI “British Invasion”artists. Speaking of Manfred Mann, all of his EMI multitracks(excepting one song) were thrown away in a “housecleaning” operation at Abbey Road Studios in the early 1970’s. These tapes included 14 unreleased songs that were never mixed down. Simply put, those 14 songs are…gone!
And The Manfred Mann’s Earth Band 1970-1983 multitracks were destroyed in an arson incident at Manfred Mann’s studio “The Workhouse”. The arsonist had no greivance against Manfred. The intent was to destroy a project being produced at the studio by dance music producers Stock,Aitken & Waterman.
But there is more than a hours worth of unreleased songs from Manfred Mann’s years with the Fontana label, but the owner of the recordings does nothing with them.
On the positive side, Manfred recently released (on his “Creature Music” label) “Radio Days”; four 2-CD sets covering his complete BBC sessions 1964-1973.


I think all of this solves my mystery of why most of Barbara Mandrell’s catalog has never been released on CD. She signed to Dot in the 70’s, which was absorbed by ABC, and later MCA. She had her greatest success on those labels through the mid 80’s. Only five catalog albums {best of, greatest hits, gospel, Christmas, and a duet album with Lee Greenwood) were issued on CD, all in the 90’s. Yet, all 13 of her country albums from this era have never been reissued (an additional 6 on Capitol/EMI were originally on CD, and all of her Columbia catalog has been reissued) I thought it was odd, especially since 2019 is the 50th anniversary of her major label debut and nothing from UMG has been reissued for many years. I’ve purchased multiple copies of all of her LPs over the years as backups; hopefully, there are safety masters in Nashville or elsewhere, and a box set or reissues may still be possible. An earlier post stated ABC discarded their masters, but those albums and cassettes were in print under MCA well into the 90s. It’s a real tragedy if all of these artists have lost their life’s work.

Marshall Gooch

Paul… where you say “…here is a fuller list…”–unfortunately, “fuller” is not a word. But, hey… thanks for SDE and the SDE Shop! Just got my colored vinyl Buzzcocks reissues and they are phenomenal.

Pádraig Collins

There is nothing wrong with Paul’s grammar. Fuller is a word.


No, it’s not a word with the definition in the way he was using it.
Besides its already been changed.



The definition of “comparative form of full” is given in Wiktionary and in any case we all know what it means without its being defined. Picking up the article for using such a word, even if you regard it as a neologism, is pedantic in the truest sense of that word, i.e. bringing an academic approach to bear upon material for which it is inappropriate. Current usage will always run ahead of traditional lexicography.

Kevin Wollenweber

Well, I guess this explains why there was no expanded box set for the Who beyond MY GENERATION. I thought sure that A QUICK ONE (WHILE HE’S AWAY/HAPPY JACK would have been the next set, but this explains why. Such a shame, all the lost possibilities. We can only assume, but let’s hope our assumptions are somewhat wrong in some of these cases. Meanwhile, this sort of news is what the label will use as excuses. Keep on this story, Paul.

Phil Cohen

There was an (elaborately packaged) deluxe limited 2-disc SHM-CD edition of “The Who-A Quick One” released in Japan in 2008. It used everything that the group recorded during that period and debuted an instrumental version of “Batman”. Yes, the multitracks for a few songs on the album are missing, but that was always true, and has nothing to do with any vault fire. Present-day CD’s of the album “A Quick One” feature remixed versions where possible.
The next Who projects will be a boxed set edition of “The Who Sell Out” and a “Rarities” project, but they may be postponed until next year, because The Who are intending to release an album of new songs this year,
Remember: The “My Generation” 4-CD boxed set was released AFTER the Universal City fire, and it contains loads of unreleased versions, and a new stereo remix of the “My Generation” album; a mix dramaticly better than the narrow 2002 remix.

JD Miller

The Who’s master tapes are in Englnad. Universal had the USA maters, not the mater tapes.

Steve F

For the Artists concerned, who’re still with us, and who care about their art, it must be utterly devastating.


I doubt any Nine Inch Nails material was involved, all of their (his, Trent Reznor’s) catalog up to 1999’s ‘The Fragile’ was reissued in a remastered form, starting with debut ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ in 2010.


The point is – what were those remasters mastered from? Apparently it could not have been the Master tapes. This is a large part of this scandal – we’re being sold “remastered” releases, but it seems they have often used something other than the original master tapes.


NIN material could have been spared for any number of reasons – Reznor keeping hold of the masters, their being checked out for other purposes, stored at other facilities, or even, given Reznor’s somewhat random work rate, they may have even have been waiting elsewhere already for the remastering to begin – the fire was 2008 and the Pretty Hate Machine remaster appeared in 2010.

However, the remaster campaign (which I’ve not been keeping up with) only covers releases up to 1999’s The Fragile which leaves With Teeth (2005), Year Zero (2007), the live album (2001), the video collection, and various singles and remix collections entirely unaccounted.

Certainly the Definite Edition of The Fragile was, on release, stated to be ‘Remastered from the original sources in 2016’ – which sounds a very concrete statement.

The most important word is being overlooked in the story ‘artists whose master tapes may have been lost in the fire’ – MAY have been lost. Quite simply Universal are not telling anybody anything – not the artists and not the purchasers. And that’s really not on.


For anyone interested, below is the link to a June, 2019 article published by the New York Times that I found. At the end of the article is the entire list of all recording artists whose tapes were destroyed in the warehouse fire — it’s enough to make you cry. I was shocked to see the Who were included in the list, and may explain why Pete Townshend was never able to find the master tapes to make an SDE of “Who’s Next.”


Phil Cohen

The multitracks for half the songs on “Who’s Next” have been missing since before the dawn of the Compact Disc era.

Phil Cohen

It should be noted, that with the exception of Steely Dan (whose tapes are reportedly safe and stored at another Universal facility), that Universal never posessed any multitracks for the artists of the ABC, Dunhill, Bluesway or Probe labels. The multitracks already no longer existed when MCA bought those labels. The reason: because ABC Records executive Jay Lasker decided that the multitracks were of no further use, and he decided to throw them away, usually immediately after they arrived at the label.

Joe Mac Pherson

Long, long ago, decades past, the first recording artist I know of, to safely own and protect every piece of music she accomplished, was Sandie Shaw. She had the amazing foresight to do this, and it cost her but in the end, she profited very well. I bought her 2004, UK issued box set featuring the A sides, B sides for all of her singles plus 19 featured rarities. The lavishly produced set is called Nothing Comes Easy. Since it wasn’t issued in the US, I bought it as an import. In her exceptionally prepared, highly informative pages accompanying every track, she refers to this as her work, her songs. They truly are. She owns them.
Hopefully, others will follow in her footsteps. But none can do it barefooted, like Ms. Shaw.
You can believe, living in North Hollywood as I do, the Universal Fire was tremendously bad news. It still is, because lost music is lost for all time.

Dave H

Dave Clark of Dave Clark 5 was another 60’s artist who had the foresight of keeping his own recordings and leasing them to a record company for release. Can you imagine if The Beatles or Stones took this approach, how much more money they’d make.

The only downside, apart from the odd compilation, there’s never been a comprehensive re-release campaign for DC5 probably the only 60’s artist not to have all their back catalogue on CD. A pity because some of the folk who would have enjoyed all their albums on CD, are now passing away.

CJ Feeney

The Stones did own many of their 60’s masters. Andrew Loog-Oldham recognised a loophole that the record company would only automatically own the masters if they were recorded in the record company’s studio. He ensured that the Stones recorded in other studios. That is why the Stones could sign big record deals long after their peak, because they brought the rights to their biggest hits to whichever new company they signed to.

Phil Cohen

The Stones only own their recordings from 1971 onwards.

Joe Mac Pherson

Hello Dave,

I’ve been waiting since the last decade for a deluxe box set titled, The Dave Clark 5 In Mono. It doesn’t exist. Ironic, because Mr. Clark should do this while people are around who still care. I’m 64. I turned 10, in 1964. It was a very good year for music, and The Dave Clark 5 were massive in the USA. Truly, their only British competition was The Beatles, followed by The Kinks or The Rolling Stones.
UK bands like The Kinks, Pretty Things, Searchers and Yardbirds are most fortunate, because the masters for their music survive. Before I forget, will I ever see a Manfred Mann In Mono box set get released as well?
Aside from the horrible loss of too much music due to the Universal Studios fire, I wonder, how many rare Silent Films from the 1920’s, are also gone forever? This infuriates me. My passion for Silent Film and International Cinema is probably equal to my endless love affair with Popular and definitely not so popular Music, from 1958 – Now.
I often wonder if any of the bands and recording artists I’ve admired for years or decades, read Paul’s exceptional, insightful posts? I truly believe he has the ability to get some dormant music, back in circulation. Are you reading this, Dave Clark and Manfred Mann? And The Chiffons, who also deserve a box set!!!


If we’re going to berate Dave Clarke for sitting on his hands over Dave Clarke 5 releases, then let’s throw into the mix what really annoys me about him. I believe he bought up all of Ready Steady Go and also Beat Club tv shows from that same golden period of 60’s music and has effectively locked them away!
I’ve never seen as much as a single show of RSG despite its iconic status and Beat Club was a fading memory from a single fabulous re-run on British tv sometime in the 1980’s.
I think it’s a disgrace that RSG isn’t in the public domain for us to enjoy -especially as so much 60’s Top of the Pops was wiped by the BBC. As you say, what is Dave Clarke waiting for – his audience to die of old age!
Fortunately, and thanks I have to say to SDE, I discovered the complete Beat Club series (minus the Stones and Beatles performances sadly) for sale at Amazon Germany AND it was in their 3 for 2 deal last year! I snapped up a box set and it’s jaw droppingly good. Studio performances by Hendrix, Cream, Small Faces, The Who (performing most of Tommy in the studio), Free, fabulous stuff. Now if ONLY Ready Steady Go was available in the same way!
The loss of so many original masters in the Universal fire is a tragedy but equally, the wilful withholding of so much live footage of great bands and singers in the prime is an avoidable travesty. Learn the sad lesson of Universal Dave Clarke, and share your musical treasures.

Phil Cohen

Dave Clark never owned any “Beat Club” material. He DID own the surviving “Ready Steady Go” films, but almost two years ago, he sold them to “BMG Rights Management”…..who does absolutely nothing with them.
By the way, The Beatles never appeared in person on “Beat Club”. They sent promo videos (which have now been issued on DVD & Blu-ray on “1+”). By the way, though The Beatles honed their craft in German clubs in 1962, they couldn’t enter Germany during 1963,1964 & 1965. There were lawsuits from club owners alleging damages to their clubs by The Beatles and their fans, and,more significantly, a paternity lawsuit against Paul McCartney. These issues had been resolved by 1966, and the group then toured Germany.

Phil Cohen

The only phase of Manfred Mann’s career that has not been subject of a boxed set is his second group (Mid-1966 to mid-1969); the group who recorded “The Mighty Quinn” & “The Semi-Detached Suburban Mr.James”. There’s more than an hour of unreleased songs in circulation unofficially, and likely more in Universal’s UK vaults. Universal was willing to release a boxed set for “The Walker Brothers”, who had only 3 major 1960’s hits, but they won’t issue a boxed set of Manfred Mann’s 2nd group, who had far more hits. The multitracks for all of Manfred’s Fontana recordings still exist, plus some great alternate arrangements (“Morning after The Party”, “Each and Every Day”,”Sleepy Hollow” and a psychedelic-style alternate version of “Up The Junction”)

andrew davis

Munching away on my dinner, reading the news on the laptop, bbc news on in the background and hey there’s a familiar voice! Well done with your bbc news appearance, glad they chose you as an expert on this sad tale of the loss of master tapes. Nice publicity for the site too.


I’m away from home at the moment – any links to the news report. I’d be interested to hear it.

Well done on getting on air Paul!


Paul, the website shows this link only plays in the U.K. Would have liked to have seen or heard your news segment, but much deserved congratulations on being chosen by the BBC for good insight and commentary for their UMG warehouse fire story.


The best place for master tapes is with the artist themselves, that way it’s less likely anything will actually happen to them.


Yeah, just ask Eddie Van Halen what happened to the band’s demos and years of great live footage.

Paul Murphy

Yes, rock stars are known for their long-term foresight and probity and prudence in the matter of the safety of property.


Ethically, yes, artists should have possession of their own masters, or at least a safety copy of them. But what of those artists who have then wound up storing those tapes in their garages, or (as in Ian Anderson’s reported case) stacked next to their aquarium where a leak would destroy them? Unfortunately, few recording artists are wealthy enough to provide continuous long-term storage for their tapes in a climate-controlled vault with halon fire extinguishers. The studios can provide such protection…as long as they can be bothered to do so.

In the long run, disaster can strike anywhere, whether it’s the Universal lot or an artist’s home or apartment. The only real solution to archival storage is to make a number of carefully-dubbed second-generation copies, and store them at different locations worldwide.


Maybe as shocking as the amount truly lost is the conplete literal ignorance of the ever-growing number of people who think all the music ever recorded in the world since recording sound was made possible is available on spotify itunes and the likes, or on cd. The amount of music that truly only exists on vinyl (varying degrees of quality) and/or master tapes is unfathomable. This is the actual music that has the risk of being lost forever or will never sound as good as a proper remaster if the master tracks or mixdowns are lost. #akalearnednothingfromlostfilms


The Universal fire is very discomforting news for all music fans. The sadness comes from the knowledge that unreleased tracks from our favourite recording artists may have been destroyed, never to be heard. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but losing these master tapes is kind of like saying Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” has been lost, but not to worry, there are plenty of posters of the masterpiece available at our gift shop!

I’m not sure if Universal was being intentionally dodgy about what was loss in the fire so as to not alarm it’s consumers (AND the recording artists), or because UMG simply had sloppy or missing inventory file records, and aren’t 100% sure what tapes exactly were destroyed :-(


What I find so staggering is the inability of these major companies to learn absolutely anything whatsoever. In the 1937 Fox Film Vault Fire the studio lost the only known copies of 75% of all films they made before 1930; in 1965 the MGM Film Vault Fire lost yet another tranche of film heritage. In both these cases issues around methods of storage and the protection of archived films were raised. Given Universal were storing film and TV alongside music masters it would appear that over the past century they have learnt precisely nothing. It’s not as if there aren’t many film archives (in backward Third World countries like here in the UK!) who could have given them some pointers as to how to store safely fragile film, TV, and music media.

alan hansen

I remember Garth Brooks (decades ago) reporting that all his masters had been “buried” – yeah, uh-huh… right. i’m not drawing conclusions here, only that my memory has been jogged.


Here’s a little clarity for those confused. The term “master” is being used in the story to describe both the multitrack masters, which contain individual tracks for each instrument. This multi is used to create remixes, multichannel mixes, and the mixdown master which is the master used for production. Generally, the final mixdown master is copied numerous times and these are known as “safety” masters. They are often sent to other countries for their own pressing, at least in the pre-digital days.

The original multitracks that were likely lost were for those artists who recorded in the U.S. The mixdown masters lost for U.S. recorded albums were likely the original mixdown tape, and from recent reports even some of the safety copies were stored in the same facility. Anything that had session or unreleased material was likely never copied and shipped to other countries, so assume lost forever.

For most of the reissues for albums that have come out since 2008, they were likely done from safety masters from another location, or in the case of very popular artists, from previously archived digital files. From my own label’s experience, one of my first reissues should have had the master in the U.S. archive, but it couldn’t be found. They managed to find a copy in the German archive. The U.S. master was likely in the fire.

So when they say the songs are lost, it’s more about the previously unissued material that are truly lost. Tons of other songs will live on in previously mastered CD’s, LP’s and digital files. However, as I’ve also found, lesser known artists who were in no way on Universal’s priority list were never digitized prior to the fire. And if a safety copy cannot be located in another archive, all you have left is the original pressing (LP or CD).

For some of the big names mentioned like Elton John or The Police, and many others. Those albums were likely not recorded in the U.S. and the multitracks are likely in another archive. The mixdown masters burned were also likely safety copies for U.S. pressings. So there are a lot of things to consider regarding what was actually lost, or what generation of tape was actually lost. The full extent of losses will likely never be known.


Thank you for adding this clarification (as opposed to a previous commenter who merely said none of us had a clue about anything). It sounds a bit like the various stages of film productions; of interpositives, internegatives, etc. which although not necessarily the original source, proliferate to the extent that some previously thought lost films do still exist in what turn out to be pristine prints.

Thank you again for the clarification. :)

Wayne C

I appreciate what you have said in the above post. very informative. But what if the mixdown master was originally analogue transferred to digital and sent out?, analogue mixdown consequently is destroyed in the fire with only the digital mixdown remaining?. The true sound quality is lost forever in that scenario.

Chris Squires

Nice interview Paul.

I look at those kind of interviews with various politicians or media bods and it’s always interesting to look at the books behind them, always some worthy tome about Nelson Mandela or Winston Churchill or something entirely unreadable and unread by Maya Angelou or Salman Rushdie. No one wants to be interviewed in front of a Barbara Cartland or Jeffrey Archer.

So it was interesting to look behind you and the standout was the beautiful Beatles in Mono and the Bowie boxes. All accessible stuff. For a true BBC worthy “talking head” you should have lined up some Duke Ellington and Coltrane and Mingus.

Nice T-shirt by the way, mine, which arrived last week (thank you) has already been stolen by my daughter…..

Onwards and upwards, you ought to pitch for a 20 minute music slot on the BBC news channel, like “Click” the technology slot or Mark Kermode’s film reviews. This weeks re-issues and box sets…. Saturday mornings and repeated all weekend on iPlayer….. why not? Ride the wave……


i am curious why we are just now talking bout a fire that occured in 2008 all of a sudden
just seems like their would have been a digitally copy of the source material or copies in more than 1 location, thats like putting everything all on 1 single hard drive and never backing things up.


Because UME has been involved in a massive coverup and now the lawyers are wading in and this affair is completely coming to light.

Hugh Hall

The New York Times only published an article revealing the cover-up last week. Until that article was published even artists like Bryan Adams hadn’t realised the truth behind UMG not being able to locate his masters for re-issues he wanted to put out. That’s why it’s suddenly news.

If you read the article you’ll see that UMG have spent 10 years trying to locate replacement copies and have managed about 25% of the lost items. They do not even have an inventory of what is lost so the likelihood it was all backed up digitally is zero.

Keith Ainsworth

I bought the Analogue Productions 2017 SACD Buddy Holly & The Chirping Crickets. This was listed as ‘Remastered from the original analog master tapes’. So as Buddy Holly was on the fire list what was the source for this release?


Nothing is clear about what is going on. The professionals whom are all unprofessional in multiple manners that are shocking and profound don’t know either. Oh, well. It IS fascinating as to why they care now. Where were THEY all of these years? Now THAT is a story to be told. More than likely they did not have good standards as they don’t in most aspects of their lives and are usually oblivious to most aspects of reality in the first place.

Hugh Hall

Are you assuming that because one album was apparently remastered in 2017 that therefore all his recordings were safe?


My man on the inside say that it’s likely no REM studio masters are lost. Since REM always owned their masters have and been bringing them back home, so to speak in order t have full control. A small number of live recording from the IRS era may have been lost. The BHJ master is lost (hence the aud used for the recent ltd RSD release), but I don’t think it went missing as a result of the fire.

At this point REM are looking to verify what, if anything, has been be lost to el fuego.


Pretty horrifying. And preventable. I stopped reading the list because it is horrifying & shows a complete lack of respect for the artists & history. Wondered why Janet Jackson’s Control, Rhythm Nation & Janet have not expanded & reissued because there is a market for them. This explains it. I hope the artists & estate successfully sue them. Prince was right all along about record companies And he was dismissed as crazy.


On spot. There is not question if everything was lost in one fire in one place. Totally immoral.


I was devastated to read the expanded list in the NYT yesterday: Rickie Lee Jones, Suzanne Vega, Maria Mckee & Lone Justice, Buffy Sainte-Marie… all of whom I’ve been craving for remasters/expanded editions for years… Not to mention Joni Mitchell who has released so little demos and rarities over the years. I hope they’ll manage to put their hands on alternative sources and/or that their losses are limited
Maybe this whole thing will motivate some artists to (re)release what they can without waiting for another catastrophe like this

Timm Davison

And this just puts into sharp focus the veracity of any reissues that say ‘cut from the original master tapes’. Do you know how many record labels Universal has acquired over the years? We could simply be buying ‘best-gen’ digital mixdowns sold as ‘masters’ because, it’s not like they’re bound by any transparency laws when they flog new reissues.

Paul Anderson

This explains why there was never any Hole expanded editions (for all Courtney is a polarising figure, Hole still have a fanbase who would buy deluxe Live Through This and Celebrity Skin albums), I’d always assumed Courtney was just not bothered enough.

I’m assuming both pre-master “multitracks” and post-mastering “masters” are being used interchangably in the articles?


Great to see you on the news Paul. An authority on all things music. Keep up the fantastic work.


Re: Sheryl Crow, the small hope I hold onto is that I worked at a recording studio in the mid-90s for a time (actually around a producer who would immediately go onto to work with Sheryl on her post-TNMC albums at Kingsway Studios in New Orleans), and it was common practice to make DATs of everything. So while not ideal, also not terrible if those DAT copies do exist. Studios and producers often held onto lots of tapes and related ephemera, though I’m sure it’ll be an all-hands effort to track down whatever might be out there.

Also, Belinda Carlisle is on the list, and all of her albums received quite the extensive deluxe treatment a few years ago. Beyond two songs (the single edit of “I Feel The Magic” and a soundtrack song, the latter of which was eventually tracked down for her Singles box), I don’t recall hearing about any issues with source tapes.

And as mentioned above, Wang Chung (on the list too) is out with a reissue campaign later this year, and with Vinny Vero on board, I can’t imagine this would be happening without comprehensive source tapes.

All is certainly not well, but all may also not be lost!


If you’re referring to “In My Wildest Dreams”, it turns out, this was just a Youtube rip to fans annoyance.


The YouTube of In My Wildest Dreams you’re referring to was not what was used for the boxed set. There was a shorter edit (2:05) of the song on YouTube that was pulled from the VHS of the Mannequin movie, but that version included a lot of added cartoony sound effects. The version on the boxed set is not this same version. (4:26)


The Wang Chung tapes are safe, they were in New York. So no impact according
to Mr. Vero.

Also, the Fixx, and the Police weren’t affected as badly as seemed as tapes
were elsewhere too.


Mark Craig

“This either suggests those tapes were pulled from the archive prior to the catastrophe in June 2008, or that Crow isn’t in possession of all the facts.”

or that Universal used a CD or digital dupe as a master for the reissue! It’s not as unlikely as it sounds unfortunately.

Rob Puricelli

So many people posting here have absolutely no clue how tape based multi-track studio masters work or are stored…

Chris Squires

maybe some kind enlightening wouldn’t go amiss, always happy to learn something from someone who does know…..


Great! Then tell us! :)


While reading the full article (linked by Paul in his article) the gravity of the situation rose higher and higher as I read further.

This is such a terrible disaster! As a music collector to see those names on that extremely long list is deeply upsetting!

As a massive film fan I read about this a long time ago in connection as to why many films cannot be released on 4K – due to the masters being burned! But it is only in recent weeks I’ve read this disaster also included music!!!

In fact Brian Adams himself paints an even bleaker picture… the library did not just include masters to released and unreleased tracks, the library also included the files to all artwork!

I’m a big Sting / Police fan and as such I was shocked to see their names on the list – which shouldn’t be a surprise as they were on A&M, which is now part of UMC.

Interestingly, someone somewhere must have had the Police masters to enable to release of the recent half-speed box set. So the plot thickens!

Ultimately, as the article stresses many times, Universal are not sharing any detailed information at all.



Apparently the mastertape of Ghost in the Machine is lost:

“This album was cut from a high-resolution digital transfer from the best known ¼ analogue tape in existence.”



… as seen on BBC News! Nice one Paul!


I had just finished reading this on here and about 5 minutes later I saw some bloke called Paul Sinclair talking about this on the BBC News at One ! How spooky was that?


BBC News’ fame beckons!


I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the artists had their own stash of tapes that were not in the fire.
I believe like any good backup administrator, in this day and age with digital media [DATs, etc.], make a backup!
Remember watching how the [older] James Bond movies were painfully scanned and transferred digitally. Some of the original masters were not in great condition. The “final” versions were store on discs and stored in a vault.


I find it hard to believe these recordings are lost forever!

For example, regards Janet Jackson, I would expect Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to hold the master tapes or at least would have dubs of the masters. I would also expect them to have back-ups of all digital files.

Remixes are done by many producers around the world so I would also expect them to have copies of their own work and the multitracks they were supplied with.

Again, using Janet Jackson as an example, I am sure a global call-out to producers will yield back all of the ‘lost’ tracks in master quality.

Sadly I am sure this won’t be the case for every artist, but there is no way the Universal vault included all of the source material used to create the masters.

Also, it is common practice to keep dubs of maters in a different location as a back-up!

Even Sheryl point out why were there no sprinklers in such an important facility!!!!


There must be a master of Control someplace.. I just got the red vinyl reissue a few weeks ago.


It is only because Jeff Barry had kept a completed stereo mixes of all the track of Dusty Springfield’s third album ‘Faithful’–that it still exists because the mastertapes were lost in the Atlantic records vault fire in the 1970s.

He must have forgot about it or didn’t think anyone care because it wasn’t until the 1990s that he revealed he had them because he asked about he sessions.

The Chess masters being lost is very devastating: Sugar Pie DeSanto, Laura Lee, Etta James, The Radiants, Rotary Connection, Mitty Collier, Jackie Ross, and many other “lesser” known artists. Thankfully Ace/Kent has done a great reissue campaign, so hopefully they made a copy of the complete tapes of these geniuses. But truthfully they don’t know because tape archives are not always well organized, so tapes might have been out on lone, or put back in the wrong place, so we don’t know.


One of the bands whose albums I would like to see remastered and expanded is Berlin. Nothing is happening around a Berlin. They are on the list of lost mastered.
Guns n Roses is also on the list but their first album just got released with many unreleased treasures so whatever was lost, it is seemingly not their 1st album.
Janet Jackson is on the list, I wonder what album. Maybe that explains why one of the most successful albums of the 80’s, “Control”, was never remastered and expanded.
Most of these bands are American but there are some English bands on the list like Lightening Seeds.
I see Love Unlimited on the list. They just released remastered Barry White (also on the list) and Love Unlimited Orchestra box sets but not a Love Unlimited box set. Was wondering why. Maybe this explains it? Then again the Pointer Sisters are on this list and all their late 70’s and 80’s albums have been remastered. I guess it doesn’t say much as the question then becomes, remastered from what? I have said here many times that I rather have something ripped from a vinyl source than have nothing at all.
Both Sting and the Police are on the list. Even if Sting wanted to reissue remaster & expanded albums, he may not be able to. If unreleased outtakes, mixes and other songs are burnt, they can’t even reissue from vinyl or cd sources. And on top of that, Sting doesn’t seem the kind of guy who would allow reissues from vinyl.
Wang Chung is on the list but supposedly they are reissuing a bunch of expanded Wang Chung albums later this year. Sourced from what I’m wondering now?


Please understand that just because an l.p. gets a deluxe treatment does not mean that that was in any way all of their recordings! Please spread the word!


Berlin are an interesting one because there was some interest in reissuing their catalogue a few years back that never came to fruition. My guess is that they did lose their masters in the fire.

It looks like a lot of artists who recorded for Geffen in the 80s and 90s suffered losses…the band I’m most worried about is A Drop In the Gray, who released one great album for Geffen in 1984 that has never been reissued. They’re not on the list but they’re too small for anyone to really care about. It would be a shame if their masters were indeed lost.

Wang Chung were UK so I imagine many of their masters may be over there?


Not to mention some B-sides from Sting’s “…Nothing Like the Sun” era. “If You There” was one of them.


R.E.M. reissues have been emerging for the past ten years and lots of new live recordings and rareties have been released in addition to remasters of all their album from “Murmur” to “Automatic For The People”.
Why do they appear in this list ? It seems inconsistent.
What exactly has been lost in the fire ?

David M

They may not have used the original masters for the new versions. Skullduggery is all around us.

CJ Feeney

It would be hard to produce 5.1 mixes without the multitrack tapes, so someone had original masters for “Out of Time” and Automatic…”


Out of Time and AFTP were Warner releases. They would not have been the Universal vault. REM material released on IRS, which is now owned by UME, is what was lost.


R.E.M’s releases contained a lot of demos and they wouldn’t necessarily be held by the label. Even if submitted to A&R, it would likely be a copy that was handed over for listening.


I’ve been thinking a lot about Prince during all of these recent revelations. He fought so hard to get possession of his masters and I do not recall any of his fellow musicians providing much support for him. I think we will finally see a shift in the industry that Prince would appreciate.

In reading the most recent NYT article it seems that UMG was hoping that no one would ask about their masters, and if they did, they hoped a shrug and “I don’t know” would be enough. Crazy when you think about it.

One of my favourite Canadian bands, The Watchmen, posted this morning that all of their masters were lost in the fire. They were on MCA here in Canada. So while the focus is on the big names, some of your lesser-known favourites are impacted as well.


I think there is also a lot of confusion between what survived and perished, multitrack mastertapes and mastermix master tapes. Many unreleased songs have a secret life outside of the vault, so even with the presence of unreleased songs on a reissue, that could very well come from a secondary digital source, safety, studio reference, producers DAT etc. Questlove also disclosed there will be no Roots 90’s reissues as the tapes are gone as well. It is a tragedy, imagine the recent Radiohead leak… that was not even representative of actual studio reels with multiple takes and mixes. What often gets released over and over is the tip of the iceberg. I doubt anyone will ever truly know what has gone missing. But on a business level, with multitracks and matertapes gone, there can never be the depth of reissues…. no new old releases… no sonic upgrade, no 5.1 stereo mix it’s gone. Only colored vinyl to look forward to. Forgotten acts only released on vinyl… unissued 12″mixes… the hundreds of thousands of songs that went up in smoke is simply astonishing.

Wayne C

I agree, it really is terrible to think what may have been in that vault. There are probably thousands of songs that the artists themselves have completely forget even existed , wrote etc. Imagine if a popular artist remembers by chance recording a song years later decides to release it and it was in that storage facility. I read that Brian Adams wanted to re issue “Reckless” for an anniversary and it was also allegedly lost in this fire. Im wondering if Prince actually stored his unreleased work in numerous safe areas or just at home. Also does that mean that the artists themselves don’t own the master tapes of their own material?, would seem to be the case.


The record labels own the masters, unless an exception is made in the artist’s contract. In the U.S. (I believe just this past year), legislation was passed that returns ownership of a master recording to an artist 25 years after its first release. However – I assume – the labels would just continue to store those masters if the artist didn’t actually take possession of them. And that makes this story even more sad, because most of those masters didn’t need to be there.


Well, the Reckless reissue happened anyway because, as it turned out, Bryan had a copy of the album’s unmastered final mix in his vaults.


I’m always a bit puzzled about master tapes and when what is used for which (re)release. Who is the owner of these tapes and who makes the decisions?
Is a master tape one tape containing all instruments at different tracks or does a studio actually tape all instruments separately and mixed down to one afterwards? In de mid-80s, bands like Dire Straits recorded digitally (hence the DDD mentioned on the CD); does it mean there is no master tape at all?


The separate instruments are just tracks ‘stems’. The master is all of the tracks mixed together and mastered onto 2-track stereo reel. They could probably remix from stems, but wouldn’t be the same record as most people hear it.

Mike the Fish

Early digital recording was still to tape of various formats. There wasn’t the hard drive space or hardware processing then. 24/96 multitrack recording was emerging in the late 90s, I think. 16/44.1 was earlier. I remember using a JAZ drive to restore a multitrack session for a song when I was on my degree.

Wayne C

Unforgivable mistakes, if it’s true what I’ve read, how anyone can store the master tapes with the back up copies in the same vicinity is truly incomprehensible to me. All my digital music collection is backed up and stored in different locations just in case I accidentally scrub something. Most people I’m sure do the same. How can a massive company with priceless audio works of art be so naive!!. The Carpenters analogue masters all went in that fire and some Soundgarden and Nirvana. It really is heartbreaking to read, I hope the analogue master of superunknown wasn’t one of those lost. But losing any music (no matter who the artist is big or small or unknown), in such a way is terrible for the artist, the public and future generations.

Geert DW

it’s confusing in that the term ‘masters’ is used for both the original multi-tracks (resulting from the recording sessions) and for the tape that contains the mixes that were used to produce vinyl/CD. Is there any clarity on which of the two are referred to? Both?