Master recordings of Elton John material were listed among the items lost or damaged when a Universal Music Group archive building burned down in 2008, the label confirmed.

UMG was accused last year of underplaying the serious effects of the blaze, as several artists claimed they were never told that their recordings were involved.

It’s believed that some of the lost tapes contained music that was never released and can now never be recovered, while the loss of master tapes of released music means there may never be an opportunity to re-release it in upgraded quality.

In documents seen by Rolling Stone, UMG listed 19 artists whose catalogs were affected. In the case of John, the label said, “UMG is still working with the artist to determined the extent of such impact.” Also listed were a Peter Frampton “original master recording,” a Slayer “flat original master recording” and “certain original master recordings” by Nirvana, Y&T and Beck that were covered with “safety copies,” which are unlikely to retain the quality of the originals. Bryan Adams, Michael McDonald and R.E.M. were among others whose recordings were either lost or damaged.

Howard King, a lawyer acting for the class-action suit brought by a number of musicians involved, said in a statement that “Universal claimed 17,000 artists were affected by the fire when they were suing for damages. Now that they face a lawsuit by their artists, they claim a mere 19 artists were affected. This discrepancy is inexplicable.” UMG previously defended the longer list by noting that it “identified myriad potentially lost assets” that included material that wasn’t as valuable as lost masters.

Some artists previously reported that they were told of lost material as a result of the fire. In June 2019, label boss Sir Lucian Grainge told his staff to work hard on a resolution, noting that “the loss of even a single piece of archived material is heartbreaking. We owe our artists transparency. We owe them answers.”


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