I am not satisfied by a couple of message boards and the words of one mastering engineer. On that
first board you linked, some asked Marty if he knew for a fact that "all the early Decca and Coral
master tapes were destroyed." A clear yes or no answer wasn't forthcoming. The music and movie
businesses are famous for rumors and myths. I remember how much media lament there was about
"priceless" movies lost but then it turns out that a lot (but not all) of what burned up were
release prints of old movies, with negatives and other components still safe somewhere else.
Perhaps someone on this list has the juice to track down one of the top Universal Music people out
there and ask them point-blank -- what of your property was burned up in that fire? I will shake a
couple of trees but I may not get any answers.
One for-instance of what sounds fishy in these posts is Chess. Universal recently (in this decade)
remastered (for the 3rd time in some cases) large chunks of the Chess catalog. That makes me thing
that those tapes were not buried in a deep archive along with Bing Crosby B-sides from the 40's, but
anything is possible.
As for the comments about Iron Mountain, that facility is unlikely to catch fire but there are some
well known stories of tapes gone missing there. I am not saying it's the fault of Iron Mountain
given the slipshod inventory control of some record labels.
All of this screams for some sort of copyright reform. The big companies are commercial ventures and
thus cannot give much funding or care to things they deem of no commercial value. There should be a
mechanism where those things can be distributed into the PD, whether or not there is a ridicu-length
copyright on them, perhaps in exchange for some sort of asset-writeoff tax break.
It's also strange that some old Universal Music stuff from MCA would be at that Hollywood location
and some of it is already in Germany. There was a concerted effort, at least a few years ago, to
consolidate much of the company's archive in Germany.
Anyway, I'm not seeing enough confirmation from first-hand sources here to consider it fact that a
bunch of music masters were lost. All of us interested in this should keep shaking the trees until
the facts come out. I'm surprised Billboard and other music-press outlets haven't done this already.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 10:05 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Sad news about Dick Sudhalter and Decca archive
> Tom Fine wrote:
>> Followup on this -- Michael, do you mean the California fire? If so, are you talking about
>> AMERICAN Decca or BRITISH Decca?
> American, of course.
>> Why would British Decca materials be stored at Universal in California?
> Why indeed! That's why it didn't even dawn on me to make a distinction!
>> I can understand American Decca because it was owned by MCA.
> And then became Universal Music, which now is separate from the rest of Universal but had not yet
> removed most of the archive.
>> Also, Universal Music flacks were swearing up and down that no music stuff was lost in that fire
>> in the days and weeks following the fire.
> Yeah, "flacks" is the operative word. There seems to be a mixture of indifference to and
> ignorance of the past and things that are not of obvious and immediate commercial value. The
> operative word being "commercial". Mix in embarrassment and worries about stock value. Pay no
> attention to the rubble behind the curtain.
>> What is your "confirmation" you speak of below? Not wanting a flame-o-thon, just asking for
>> -- Tom Fine
> The "Marty" is Marty Wekser, identified as "a well-known mastering engineer who frequently works
> on compilations covering the 50s and 60s for labels such as Varese and Collector's Choice."
> A story from the original time of the fire with initial reaction is here.
> At that time a rep of Universal -- the film side, not the music side --
> announced that nothing was lost that was not also preserved elsewhere. Of course he knew nothing
> of the music side since that was no longer a part of his company. Now we hear another
> interpretation of this. While the content might not be lost, the form is. For example, going
> back to the film side:
> "Universal Classics sent out an e-mail notice today [June 2, 1008] to film bookers that nearly
> 100% of their 35mm. archive prints stored at the studio were destroyed in the fire. These copies
> were made available to arts organizations and film societies around the world. Will Universal make
> replacement prints for all these titles, or will they be available only in digital formats (if at
> all) in the future? Comment by L.B. --- June 2, 2008."
> This was explained on 78-L today by William A. Brent: "the prints that were destroyed were the
> only screeners - and no one is going to
> putt the negs out of cold mountain storage and make new prints - its just not worth it."
> The films exist, just not in a form that film societies, revival theatres, etc want them in. And
> who cares about performers forgotten by the masses -- and the employees -- and if the unissued
> material was all that important, why the hell didn't it get issued in the first place.
> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 6:05 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Sad news about Dick Sudhalter and Decca archive
>>> Hi Michael:
>>> Could you provide some details about the Universal archive fire? When and where did this happen?
>>> I thought the Decca masters were all consolidated in a climate-controlled and "fire-proof"
>>> archive in Germany, associated with Berliner Studios.
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 3:05 PM
>>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Sad news about Dick Sudhalter and Decca archive
>>>> It is a sad day over at the 78-L and I am not going to cross-post what is over there, but just
>>>> give you heads-up. Richard Sudhalter passed away last night. And there is now confirmation
>>>> that the Universal vault fire consumed the entire Decca masters from the 30s thru the 50s.
>>>> Metal, tape, test pressings, and paper.
>>>> There's no justice in the world.
>>>> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]