Y&T frontman Dave Meniketti has responded to reports that his band was among the Universal Music Group (UMG) artists who had their master recordings destroyed a fire more than a decade ago.
Earlier this month, a report by The New York Times revealed for the first time that recordings by many of music's biggest artists were destroyed in a fire that swept through the Hollywood lot of Universal Studios on June 1, 2008. Among the recordings lost — many of which may have been on original master tapes — were songs from NIRVANA, SOUNDGARDEN, NINE INCH NAILS, GUNS N' ROSES, BECK, NO DOUBT, AEROSMITH, R.E.M. and more. Also lost were almost all of Buddy Holly's masters, plus classic and/or early recordings from Etta James, Billie Holiday, Louie Armstrong, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Al Green, Ray Charles, Elton John, B.B. King, THE FOUR TOPS, Snoop Dogg, Chuck Berry, Tom Petty, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Cat Stevens, GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS, Eric Clapton, THE EAGLES, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, THE POLICE, Sting, Steve Earle, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent, and countless more.
This past Tuesday, The New York Times released a list of more than 700 artists affected by the Universal fire. Those artists were tracked in a confidential list maintained by Universal Music Group, and subsequently leaked.
Earlier today, Meniketti took to Facebook to share a link to The New York Times' latest article and included the following message:
"Just found out a few minutes ago that Y&T was named as one of many artists who had their master recordings destroyed in the Universal Music fire that happened 11 years ago and just came to everyone's attention recently.
"We checked with someone at Universal yesterday and she claimed our masters were not burned in the fire. However we'll absolutely need further clarification and proof of this, as that now appears to be a false claim.
"They received a large insurance payment for the damages and kept it from the public awareness for 11 years! Devastating to so many artists on that list. I know that Universal had been in the process of backing up some of these masters digitally, but there's no way they did so for every one of these artists.
"Universal Music has ALL of our masters from London Records, A&M and Geffen. Everything we recorded from 1975 through 1990, including 2" multi-tracks, 1/4" and 1/2" analog masters of every release, rough mixes of everything we put to tape, out-takes, unreleased songs ideas, original album artwork, videos, etc.
"If this holds up to be true, it's a sad day for all associated with these classic YESTERDAY & TODAY/Y&T recordings."
It was reported a week ago that SOUNDGARDEN and HOLE are among the artists who have filed a class action lawsuit against Universal over the fire. The lawsuit seeks to recover half of any settlement proceeds and insurance payments received by UMG and half of any remaining loss of value not compensated by such settlement proceeds and insurance payments. The suit claims that Universal took in settlement proceeds and insurance claims valued at $150 million.
At the time of the fire, the coverage focused on the damage to Universal's film, TV and theme park properties, with representatives stating that most of the music kept in the vault on the lot had been moved to "our other facilities" or "digitized." The New York Times revealed, however, that more than 118,000 "assets" were destroyed, containing half a million individual recordings. Many were from famed labels such as Decca, Chess, Impulse, MCA, Geffen, ABC, A&M and Interscope.
Randy Aronson, the senior director of vault operations at the time, told The New York Times that the company priced the actual combined total of lost tape and "loss of artistry" at $150 million. The New York Times itself referred to the fire as "the biggest disaster in the history of the music business," citing internal reports, legal documents and the recollection of Aronson and others who were there.
Universal has disputed The New York Times story, saying it contains "numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets." The company also cited its recent history of releasing high-quality reissues of many of the albums claimed to have been destroyed, adding, "Music preservation is of the highest priority for us and we are proud of our track record."