A 2008 fire at Universal Studios wiped out some of the most iconic moments in entertainment history. Along with destroying the To Kill a Mockingbird and Back to the Future Courthouse Square and a mechanical King Kong, hundreds of thousands of master recordings were lost. UMG estimates the number of songs at 500,000.
The New York Times reports that irreplaceable masters from Soundgarden, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin, Buddy Holly, No Doubt, The Roots, and Snoop Dogg were destroyed. The new report based on legal and internal documents completely contradicts their initial statement that no masters were lost in the 2008 UMG fire.
Along with the massive change to the original assessment of what was lost, artists are also revealing that they weren’t informed that the recordings were destroyed. Now, icons such as Questlove, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, Hole, and R.E.M are assessing the damages.
“I think they are gone forever,” Novoselic responded to a fan asking about the Nevermind masters.
A representative for Hole tells Pitchfork they were “not aware until this morning” that the tapes were destroyed. Steely Dan manager Irving Azoff also released a statement on the band, explaining that their tapes had been missing for some time. "We have been aware of ‘missing’ original Steely Dan tapes for a long time now,” he wrote. “We’ve never been given a plausible explanation. Maybe they burned up in the big fire. In any case, it’s certainly a lost treasure.”
Many are noting their disappointment in not being able to work on releases such as reissues and remastering. Regardless of any future plans for the masters, the fire marked a significant loss of music history.