How Bryan Adams Learned His ‘Reckless’ Masters Were Destroyed
Earlier this month, it was learned that the number of master recordings lost in a 2008 fire on the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles was far greater than originally reported. For Bryan Adams, reading the news of the damage helped explain why his label was virtually unable to provide him with any material for the 30th anniversary edition of Reckless that he put out in 2014.
Today, the New York Times ran a follow-up to their expose, in which Adams discussed how Universal Music Group were never straight with him about the loss of his masters. “I contacted the archive dept of Universal Music,” he wrote in an e-mail to Jody Rosen, saying that he was looking for "the master mixes/artwork/photos/video/film . . . anything. I called everyone, former A&M employees, directors, producers, photographers, production houses, editors, even assistants of producers at the time."
“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I couldn’t find anything at Universal that had been published to do with my association with A&M Records in the 1980s," he added. "If you were doing an archaeological dig there, you would have concluded that it was almost as if none of it had ever happened. ... There was no mention that there had been a fire in the archive."
In 2014, Adams told us that he was working on the box set and contacted Universal, who acquired A&M when they bought PolyGram in 1998, only to be told that they were lost. "Not only did they lose all of the artwork for this album, they lost all of the master tapes," he said. "So those master tapes don’t exist anymore."
All he was able to get from A&M was a transparency of the album cover in a drawer. Fortunately, Adams had made a copy of the master at the time that he had stored in his home, and used that for the reissue. "Luckily back then, I was kind of thinking, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll put a studio together,’ so I used to keep a vault of tapes from my sessions," he continued. "I must have made a copy of it as a protection copy. What you do is when you make your master, you make a protection copy as well and I kept the protection copy at my house. So I had to go back, and I thought, ‘Did I keep a copy of this?’ Sure enough, I kept this thing and I’ve had this thing in my vault for 30 years."
Last week, a lawsuit was filed by the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur, Soundgarden, Hole and Steve Earle that said that UMG both failed to protect the masters and properly inform the artists that their recordings were lost. They're seeking more than $100 million in damages.
“No one knows for sure yet, specifically what is gone from their estate, their catalog,” Courtney Love told the Times. “But for once in a horrible way people believe me about the state of the music business which I would not wish on my worst enemy. Our culture has been devastated, meanwhile UMG is online with cookie recipes and pop, as if nothing happened. It’s so horrible.”
The Times says that more than 100,000 masters and 500,000 song titles were destroyed in the fire. They printed a list of 829 artists -- representing virtually every genre of music -- that were named in UMG's internal documents, and you can see it here.