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ARSCLIST  September 2008

ARSCLIST September 2008

Subject:

Re: Sad news about Dick Sudhalter and Decca archive

From:

Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 20 Sep 2008 12:39:07 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (235 lines)

Tom Fine wrote:
> Hi Michael:
>
> I am not satisfied by a couple of message boards and the words of one 
> mastering engineer. 

I agree.  I've been very perturbed that we have been given so little 
information. 

> 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. 
He couldn't lay himself open to lawsuits if they might have moved out 
some truckfulls a few weeks before the fire after the last time he was 
there. 

> 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.

I noted that, and the quotes I used indicated the effect the loss of 
those release prints has on one aspect of the industry, although the 
films themselves exist in forms other than 35mm positive projection prints.

>
> 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.
>

This is what I have also been calling for over on the 78-L.  There are a 
number of reasons why I think the answers have been so slow.  There is a 
basic lack of expertise within the company.  The people inside the 
company who knew what was actually or potentially there are either dead 
or retired.  Like most companies they are populated with lawyers and 
bean counters, not entertainment experts, historians, researchers, and 
those who appreciate these assets for other than what profit they can 
produce.  Most producers and researchers that seem to have used the 
stuff seem to be from outside the company.   There might also be legal 
liability problems.  They have insurance and tax situations to think 
about.  They want to get paid for their loss so they have to prove the 
loss.  On the other hand, these were assets that they don't want to 
publicly admit they lost.  It is an embarassment as well as a possible 
drag on their reputation and stock value.  There is an additional irony 
here.  These are the type of things that almost every company has 
PURPOSEFULLY destroyed over the years.  If the company now claims an 
asset loss and needs reimbursement for lost assets as well as lost 
reputation and value, then why does this not become a factor whenever 
any company purposefully destroys any of their archive assets? 


The hints that are coming out lead to the possibility that the things 
that had the greatest potential for mass sales are what have been 
duplicated and/or moved.  What was left is what WE are interested in.  
The stuff that is already out there is what they might have saved. 

> 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.
>
See?  That's just what I said!
> 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.
>

Of course some of the "missing" assets occasionally turn up reissued!  
No bank vault is truly burglar-proof.  Even the Mona Lisa had been 
stolen (this sounds like a song cue.  Nat?)

> 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.
>

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!!   Once again, this is what Tim 
Brooks and Sam Brylawski, among others, have been working towards.  Look 
at Tim's ARSC Copyright Committee info page. 

> 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.
>
It's a long way to Tipparary on a long and winding road. 

> 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
>
Actually this was a tree shaking effort itself, the third we have had 
over on the 78-L.  We had some prior reports from our people who had 
been in the facility about what had been there, but they had no way of 
knowing what was there on the day of the fire.  I'd link to that but 
that's not on this computer.  Maybe some other dual members can link to 
the earlier 78-L postings.  One of the posters in Both Sides Now had a 
good point that we might not be able to find the extent of the loss 
until they ask for things while working on a project and are told that 
it no longer exists.  And even then it might turn out that what does 
"exist" is only in a digital copy form but the original has been lost.  
Knowing the mentality of some of these companies it might be the digital 
and safety copies that had been moved to Iron Mt. and/or Germany, 
leaving behind the originals as fuel for the fire. 

Why won't they tell us?????

Mike (not in a fireproof vault myself)  Biel  [log in to unmask]

> ----- 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 facts.
>>>
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>
>> http://www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/bsnpubs/vpost?id=2968320
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/update-universal-fire-burns-music-history/ 
>>
>>
>> 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]
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>
>>
>
>

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