Almost of all of Buddy Holly’s masters were lost, as were most of John Coltrane’s masters in the Impulse Records collection. The fire also claimed numerous hit singles, likely including Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock,” Etta James’s “At Last” and the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.”
The list of artists affected spans decades of popular music. It includes recordings by Ray Charles, B.B. King, the Four Tops, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Aerosmith, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Guns N’ Roses, Mary J. Blige, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots.
What are master recordings, and why do they matter?
A master recording is the one-of-a-kind original recording of a piece of music. It’s the source from which other vinyl records, CDs, MP3s and all other recordings are made.
According to the article, documents show that the vault contained masters dating back decades, including multitrack recordings on which individual instruments remained isolated from one another. There were also session masters, including recordings that had never been commercially released. The recordings within the vault came from to some of the most important record labels of all time.
Audiophiles and audio professionals view such recordings with special regard. “A master is the truest capture of a piece of recorded music,” Adam Block, the former president of Legacy Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment’s catalog arm, told the magazine. “Sonically, masters can be stunning in their capturing of an event in time. Every copy thereafter is a sonic step away.”