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Bryan Adams among Canadian musicians who lost work in Universal fire

Debris clutters the New York Street facade at the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot, Monday June 2, 2008, in the Universal City section of Los Angeles, a day after a fire destroyed the sets of iconic films. Bryan Adams says the damages of the 2008 Universal Studios Hollywood fire became much clearer to him six years ago when he started plotting a 30th anniversary reissue of his No. 1 album "Reckless." The Kingston, Ont.-born singer says he came up empty handed after he contacted the archival department of Universal Music Group seeking master tapes, artwork and videos for his No. 1 album, which included the massive hits "Summer of '69" and "Heaven." THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ric Francis

TORONTO — Bryan Adams says the original masters of many of his biggest hits were likely destroyed in a 2008 fire at Universal Studios Hollywood, a blaze for which the extent of the damage has only recently come to light.

The Kingston, Ont.-born singer-songwriter is among hundreds of artists whose original master recordings, artwork and photography is believed to have perished in the massive fire that engulfed a part of the Hollywood backlot over a decade ago. The list includes a number of Canadian acts, including Joni Mitchell, Nelly Furtado and Rufus Wainwright.

Many of those musicians only learned recently of the damage through a report in The New York Times, after Universal downplayed the impact for years. Several acts, including Soundgarden and an estate representing Tupac Shakur, have sued.

Universal suggested the Times “overstated” the losses, but the label’s CEO has said he owes the artists “transparency” and “answers” on the damage.

Adams says he only learned of the impact when he started plotting a 30th anniversary reissue of his No. 1 album “Reckless” six years ago. 

He contacted the archival department of Universal Music Group, which stored the master tapes, artwork and videos for his album, which included the massive hits “Summer of ’69” and “Heaven.” But he returned almost empty handed when they couldn’t find copies.

Adams explained by email he eventually located a “safety copy” of the “Reckless” master at his vault in the Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, which led to a remastered edition of “Reckless” in 2014.

But he says he’s uncertain if master copies for his eight other studio albums at A&M, which was later acquired by Universal, still exist. Those projects would include “Cuts Like a Knife” and “Waking Up the Neighbours.”


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David Friend, The Canadian Press