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Sheryl Crow, Eminem, Nirvana’s Music Tapes Were Destroyed In Fire

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In Sheryl Crow’s words:

It feels a little apocalyptic. It feels like we’re slowly erasing things that matter.

That’s what the American singer had to say when she found out about the drastic 2008 Universal Studios fire that apparently burnt up the master tapes (original recordings) of her hit albums. She discovered the news only recently when her name was mentioned in a New York Times report. The report revealed the real extent of the damage caused so many years ago. Something about how long it took to bring this news to light is unsettling.

Maybe you remember Sheryl Crow from that one One Tree Hill episode she starred in. Or perhaps you’re a fan of her more recent music. But nonetheless, it’s grievous to hear this news. The fire didn’t only destroy her original tapes but also those of other famous music artists like Eminem, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Janet Jackson and Nirvana.

Universal Studios Misreported The Fire

The NY Times reported how the fire – which was started by overnight maintenance work – destroyed thousands of master tapes. These artists suffered a loss of some of their most important works. But what’s more alarming is that it was kept hidden from them! Even though the fire was widely reported at the time, Universal Studios seemingly downplayed the extent of the damage.

As Sheryl Crow told BBC:

“I can’t understand, first and foremost, how you could store anything in a vault that didn’t have sprinklers. And secondly, I can’t understand how you could make safeties [back-up copies] and have them in the same vault. I mean, what’s the point?

She went on:

“And thirdly, I can’t understand how it’s been 11 years. I mean, I don’t understand the cover-up.”

Meanwhile, Universal Studios refuted the New York Times investigation, stating that there were unspecified “factual inaccuracies” in the report. Moreover, their head archivist, Patrick Kraus, said the extent of the losses had been “overstated”. He told Billboard Magazine:

“Many of the masters that were highlighted [in the report] as destroyed, we actually have in our archives.”

Sheryl Crow Is Devastated

However, Sheryl Crow, whose biggest hits include ‘All I Wanna Do’ and ‘If It Makes You Happy’, wasn’t convinced. She confirmed that her tapes had perished, taking with them dozens of alternate takes, demos and unreleased songs. According to her:

“There are many songs on my masters that haven’t come out. My peace of mind in knowing I could come back someday and listen to them and mine those [sessions] for basement tapes and outtakes, are gone.

Furthermore, as she puts it:

“And it’s not just the music, it’s the dialogue between the music, it’s the takes that didn’t make it, it’s the versions we’ll never hear.”

Artists Sue Universal Studios

Meanwhile, as should be expected, a bunch of the musicians whose music was involved in the fire are suing Universal Music for $100m (£78m) over the loss of their master recordings.

The case was filed last week in LA by the rock bands Soundgarden and Hole, singer-songwriter Steve Earle, the estate of Tupac Shakur and a former wife of Tom Petty. They have accused Universal of breaching its contracts with artists by failing to properly protect their tapes.

They are seeking class action status, which means other affected artists like Sheryl Crow will be able to join the case at a later date.

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