On Tuesday, The New York Times published a shocking report on the 2008 fire at Universal Studios‘ Hollywood backlot which led to the destruction of master recording tapes from some of the biggest artists and labels in American music over the last 100 years.
On Wednesday, the company’s music arm, Universal Music Group, as well as notable artists whose work was reportedly lost in the 2008 blaze, commented on the report—although UMG’s stance seemed to add more drama fuel to this ongoing story.
Various new reports shared on Wednesday saw Universal Music Group downplay extent of the damage, which reportedly included the loss of masters from Decca, Chess, Geffen, and Interscope labels, in addition to works by John Coltrane, Nirvana, Joni Mitchell, Tupac Shakur, Louis Armstrong, Elton John, Eminem, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., Les Paul, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers and many, many more.
“While there are constraints preventing us from publicly addressing some of the details,” UMG said in a statement, “[the incident] never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists’ compensation.” The major label goes on to state that the lengthy report on the fire “Contains numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.” In Trumpian style, Universal Music Group provided zero evidence to support their claim of the NYT report’s inaccuracies.
Artists including Steely Dan, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and even rap superstar Eminem all shared their own responses to the report.
Representatives for Eminem released a statement saying the tape reels containing his master recordings were digitally backed up just months prior to the 2008 blaze. Whew.
However, when Nirvana’s Novoselic was asked by a curious fan on Twitter whether or not the grunge band’s masters to their famous Nevermind and In Utero albums were safe, he simply replied, “I think they are gone forever.”
Management for Steely Dan also added their own response in stating, “We have been aware of ‘missing’ original Steely Dan tapes for a long time now. 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.”
As the old Merry Pranksters saying goes, “Nothing Lasts!”