Neil’s Uni & MCA Masters May Have Been Lost in the Universal Fire in 2008

A harrowing article from The New York Times Magazine this morning about the 2008 Universal backlot fire. UMG (Universal Music Group) lost their entire vault of 150,000 masters in the fire and never made it public. Apparently some of Neil’s masters were lost — I’m assuming what UMG was storing in 2008 were the Uni and MCA recordings, but the article doesn’t say and I don’t know for sure.

Hundreds of artists’ masters were lost, it’s overwhelming to read the entire list. And apparently they never told the artists what happened. The article quotes Richard Carpenter saying that he only found out the Carpenters masters were lost at the end of 2014, over six years later. It also tells the story that, in 2010, Irving Azoff realized some Steely Dan masters weren’t available and he took UMG to task, and they basically fooled him to hide the fact that the masters had been destroyed.

A long article and a really tough read for music lovers.

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This article has 4 Comments

  1. UNI/MCA Masters

    Didn’t Neil keep the original master recordings and made copies for UNI to release to the public, unless he started doin’ that at when he returned to the Columbia/Sony label? We read that article and it sounded like somebody (alledgelly (?)) started the fire to commit arson. Wouldn’t be great if we all knew what songs Neil recorded way back then the ones that was released.

    I guess we’ll never know, only Neil does.

    Bill and Jeff





  2. Not sure how accurate that article is regarding Neil

    I’ve always been of the understanding that Neil hung on to all his “original material” as Bill and Jeff have suggested.


    How this has happened is an absolute travesty and as such much history would’ve been lost in non released material that was still held by UMG by all these other artists.


    I guess someone must have had an axe to grind with UMG, next question is are they ever to be held to account ?


  3. I think some of you may have misread the article...

    The cause of the 2008 fire was well-known — it was started by roof repairs that were being carried out on one of the false-fronts on the studio tour that involved heating asphalt with blowtorches. Apparently, the repair crew waited an hour to make sure everything was cooled off, but there were still some unnoticed hotspots when they left, and they blew up about forty minutes later.

    What you might be thinking about is the passage in the article about a previous fire in 1990 that was set by a security guard and that came very close to the vault in question.  That fire was what prompted Randy Aronson to urge that Universal move all video and audio recordings from that vault to a safer location; unfortunately, he could only convince the executives to do that with about 1/2 to 2/3 of the audio materials stored there.  Incidentally, the guard in the 1990 case was charged and convicted of arson



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