The Day the Music Burned

The fire swept across the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood on Sunday, June 1, 2008\

It wasn’t until June 11, 2019 that the world and a great many artistic discovered what was lost.

This is so indicative of American disregard for its legacy, on every level. Me First does carry a cost. Guess those executive bonuses would have taken a hit to build a proper and protected warehouse - fuk the Precautionary Principle anyway. Wave that flag.


The Day the Music Burned It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business — and almost nobody knew. This is the story of the 2008 Universal fire.

The fire made news around the world, and the destruction of the video vault featured prominently in the coverage. But nearly all news outlets characterized the vault fire as a close call, in which worst cases were averted. The New York Times reported that “a vault full of video and television images” had burned up, but added that “in no case was the destroyed material the only copy of a work,” a claim attributed to Universal Studios officials. Subsequent articles focused on the fire’s impact on film festivals, which relied on prints from Universal’s library. But journalists moved on from the story, and there has never been a full accounting of film and video losses in the fire. …

UMG’s accounting of its losses, detailed in a March 2009 document marked “CONFIDENTIAL,” put the number of “assets destroyed” at 118,230. Randy Aronson considers that estimate low: The real number, he surmises, was “in the 175,000 range.” If you extrapolate from either figure, tallying songs on album and singles masters, the number of destroyed recordings stretches into the hundreds of thousands. In another confidential report, issued later in 2009, UMG asserted that “an estimated 500K song titles” were lost.




Among the incinerated Decca masters were recordings by titanic figures in American music: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland. The tape masters for Billie Holiday’s Decca catalog were most likely lost in total. The Decca masters also included recordings by such greats as Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five and Patsy Cline.

The fire most likely claimed most of Chuck Berry’s Chess masters and multitrack masters, … including most of the Chess output of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, Etta James, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Little Walter, Aretha Franklin, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, who made dozens of albums for Chess and its sublabels.

Virtually all of Buddy Holly’s masters were lost in the fire. Most of John Coltrane’s Impulse masters were lost, as were masters for treasured Impulse releases by Ellington, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and other jazz greats. Also apparently destroyed were the masters for dozens of canonical hit singles, including Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock,” Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats’ “Rocket 88,” Bo Diddley’s “Bo Diddley/I’m A Man,” Etta James’s “At Last,” the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” and the Impressions’ “People Get Ready.”

The list of destroyed single and album masters takes in titles by dozens of legendary artists, a genre-spanning who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music. It includes recordings by Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Clara Ward, Sammy Davis Jr., Les Paul, Fats Domino, Big Mama Thornton, Burl Ives, the Weavers, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bobby (Blue) Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N’ Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots.

Then there are masters for largely forgotten artists that were stored in the vault: tens of thousands of gospel, blues, jazz, country, soul, disco, pop, easy listening, classical, comedy and spoken-word records that may now exist only as written entries in discographies.

A shame for the musicians as their future royalties must be jeopardized. On the plus side some wrinkly old rock stars might not be able to rip off their fans anymore by constantly reissuing their old shit every decade as remasters. That goes for Universal as well. Ultimately it sounds like careless contractors are the main culprit rather than “greedy executives”.

At any rate it’s pretty meaningless to society – as it should be.

I’m curious, what sort of stuff do you find “meaningful” for society?


Oh and don’t blame nothing on them poor execs ? Really? Except for setting priorities and projects and allocating funds.

CC-v.3 said,

I’m curious, what sort of stuff do you find “meaningful” for society?

Michel Petrucciani played some meaningful jazz. R.I.P. Michel.

and for an encore

I really like this Dutch singer. She has a unique but very endearing retro sound. She is very well liked in Holland.

Go Caro Emerald!


Anyone familiar with Jean Luc Ponty, jazz violinist?

Have a listen to this musical tour de force.

While I’m at it, this is another astounding musical performance by two extraordinary guitarists Bireli Lagrene and Vic Juris playing the all time classic “Spain”. It’ll leave you breathless!

And last but not least this all-time jewel in the crown of great jazz. The Modern Jazz Quartet ode to Django Reinhardt.

John Lewis’ piano solo is a little masterpiece of understatement with maximum effect.

This little masterpiece of romantic jubilation shall always be one of my favorites.

A taste of modern Mongolian throat singing.

Listen to the overtones he creates with his vocal cords.

So may it secretly begin…Pat Metheny. The most compelling guitar sound in jazz

And a wonderful Louisiana shuffle by Paul Simon. A wonderful hypnotic rhythm and delightful lyrics. “Afterlife”

Bill Evans ! One of the all timegreat jazz pianists; “I’ve got you under my skin” (with Jim Hall)


This music is timeless Lizz Wright, Toots Thielemans

And an actual version of “The Afterlife” with Paul Simon.

Here’s a duet that I somehow missed until a few weeks ago. Not sure why this video was never suggested by YouTube - I’ve made enough searches for each of these guys individually that you’d have thought a video with both of them would pop up as a suggestion before now.

Enjoy (not that you couldn’t if you tried.)

Regardless of ones own particular tastes, this is a terrible catastrophe. I am ashamed to say that I was unaware, a lot of things passed me by in 2008 but that is no excuse. Thank you for the information.

Wow, I hadn’t noticed how this thread blossomed, that’s an evening worth of music to catch up on.

Also since I’m not particularly adventurous when it comes to music, I’m not familiar with a number of those artists and look forward to going through and hitting play and sitting back to enjoy.

This is one of my favorite guitar players. Pat Metheny has the most romantic sound .