Reissues — June 26, 2019 at 7:52 am

R.E.M., Sonic Youth, The Damned, Oingo Boingo, Squeeze may have lost tapes in UMG fire

The list of artists who are believed to have lost tapes in the devastating 2008 fire that destroyed a Universal Music Group warehouse at Universal Studios in Los Angeles includes R.E.M., Sonic Youth, The Damned, The Police, Squeeze, The Dream Syndicate, Oingo Boingo, Suzanne Vega, Adam Ant, Joe Jackson and more, according to a new report from the New York Times.

Two weeks ago, journalist Jody Rosen laid out the largely untold story of the 2008 UMG fire in a damning piece in the New York Times Magazine, detailing the destruction of more than 100,000 master tapes and “an estimated 500K song titles” from the likes of Chuck Berry, Billie Holiday and John Coltrane.

That initial story included a partial list of artists whose tapes were believed to have been lost, including more modern acts such as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana. On Tuesday, though, Rosen published a follow-up story that included a list of 829 artists whose tapes UMG believed were lost in the fire — and detailed how many of those artists were kept in the dark about it.

That list also includes The Beat Farmers, The Fixx, Gene Loves Jezebel, Iggy Pop, Stan Ridgway, The Call, Belinda Carlisle, Terri Nunn, The Tubes, Wang Chung and many more.

As the Times notes, it’s not clear what particular recordings might have been lost by those artists, nor can it be determined “exactly how many of the destroyed masters were primary-source originals.” And some artists on the list may not have lost any tapes, despite UMG’s suspicion they had. Neil Young, for example, appears on the new list, but has posted on his archival website that he did not lose any masters in the fire.

The destruction of master tapes means the original, best-quality source of a recording is lost to history, and it would mean artists will not be able to remaster and re-release albums based on the best source material. Some artists, such as ?uestlove of The Roots, have acknowledged this is why certain albums of their haven’t been reissued. Krist Novoselic has said he believes the masters of Nirvana’s Nevermind are gone.

Following publication of the original story, R.E.M. issued the following statement: “We are trying to get good information to find out what happened and the effect on the band’s music, if any.”

For more, see the full list of artists that UMG believes lost tapes in the fire, and if you haven’t yet, please read the original story, “The Day the Music Burned.”



  1. This is a truly sad story.

  2. Hardly the worst of it, but I’d always looked forward to someone eventually releasing Oingo Boingo and non-REM, IRS catalog remasters all of which–even before the fire–had seemingly disappeared into the ether.

  3. So depressing.

  4. An absolute disgrace. Even more so the attempted coverup.

  5. As everybody else mentions, Oingo Boingo. College wouldn’t have been the same without them. But the list is devastating. It’s a who’s who of a half century of music, some of my favorite artists of all time listed. And it took 11 years to find this out? Disgusting.

  6. At least we’re spared a super deluxe edition of Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water.

  7. HalloweenJack

    Yeah, it sucks for outtakes, remasters etc. but it could be worse.
    These could have been lives lost in a fire and not tapes.
    We’ll always have previous releases of the music to enjoy.
    A good lesson to teach musicians to maintain the rights of their masters.

  8. Adam Ant likely lost his unreleased album Persuasion.

    Adam tried in 2010 to get Persuasion back from Universal, to no avail. That would have been two years after it was incinerated.

    And adding insult to injury, that was the third time he tried to buy it back. The first two times, the tapes existed.

    (Also lost would have been Adam’s album Manners & Physique, though I suspect copies of the Manners sessions were likely sent to the UK during the production of Antbox in 2000, and most of the good Manners outtakes made it out on cd singles anyway.)

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