Unheard material from Nirvana, R.E.M and many more lost in 2008 Universal Studios fire

“Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage"

A fire at Universal Studios Hollywood over a decade ago destroyed material from some of the biggest acts in music, it has been revealed.

The blaze raged through the film lot for almost 24 hours on June 1 2008, destroying sets including one from Back To The Future. As the fire continued, it hit the huge Building 6197 warehouse, which was home to Universal Music Group’s master recordings.

With initial reports focusing on damaged film footage, it’s remained unclear as to what music recordings were lost. Now, documents obtained by The New York Times have revealed that “some of UMG’s most prized material” was destroyed.


The publication sees the label claim 118,230 “assets destroyed”, along with the loss of “an estimated 500K song titles”. Unheard tracks from the likes of Nirvana, R.E.M, Soundgarden, Beck, Janet Jackson, Eminem, Nine Inch Nails and many more were wiped out in the blaze. Check out the full list below.

“Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage,” reads one part of a document featured in NYT‘s article. Editor Nitsuh Abebe‏ also took to Twitter to elaborate on the revelation, posting: “The loss of legendary recordings is stunning, but I also keep fixating on the stuff we would have been hearing and talking about more recently. 1980s stuff from R.E.M. Unheard Steely Dan or Nirvana or Janet Jackson. Interscope acts. The 00s reissues that won’t have much to reissue.” 

The New York Times‘ article lists the following acts to have been amongst the material lost:

Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Clara Ward, Sammy Davis Jr., Les Paul, Fats Domino, Big Mama Thornton, Burl Ives, the Weavers, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bobby (Blue) Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N’ Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots.

The publication goes on to explain that masters of largely forgotten acts were also destroyed, meaning that “tens of thousands” of records ranging from gospel, blues, jazz, country, soul, disco, pop, easy listening, classical, comedy and spoken-word now only exist as written entries in discographies.

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