It happens so quickly yet slowly in what appears to be surreal time. We were warned so I should have been cautious but living through it many times I did not expect what happened to happen to the extent it did. The hurricane known as IRENE, August 21, 2011 arrived as predicted and took its toll as the streets were flooded, the sewer is backed up, and then the electricity went out. We evacuated to my son’s inland home, safe, away from the rising tides. With the electricity going out in the area my sump pump would be inoperable, therefore my basement would flood but how high, I did not know. We arrived back home after the storm subsided to 18 inches deep of water.
Prior to the storm and having been in this scenario a few times before, we, my lovely bride and I moved as many items of personal value as far from the basement as we could. However, we never expected 18 inches and rising. Now, we quickly moved everything else to higher ground as best we could. Fortunately, our heating unit, hot water heater, washer and dryer were all on double cinder blocks but the water was getting close to the mechanisms which keep those items going.
Then, it happened, the horrendous sound of metal twisting. The three metal shelves started to bend under the weight of the water which was over the bottom shelves of my extensive record collection. The bottom housed mostly supplies in cardboard boxes, a few trays of “mixed” tapes, nothing of any collectable value. We grabbed what we could from the upper shelves and hoped for the best. Unfortunately ,the water got the best of the cardboard and a few hundred blank record inner sleeves. The shelving crashed to the ground. Thousands of vinyl records, 45’s, 33’s, picture sleeves, all hit the water. Magazines, newspaper clippings, archives, lesson plans, family photos all in the water. The water was still 18 inches high and without electricity the pumps were still not working. Nothing was covered by insurance.
I’ve been collecting records for as long as I can remember. I had “Sugar Shack” by JIMMY GILMORE, an album by JOEY DEE and The STARLITERS. I had THE RIVINGTONS “ Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow,
hundreds of pictures sleeve including many of THE BEATLES first issues. All were lost. What I saved was minimal but significant. I quickly hand-picked before the crash whatever I could save never thinking that the shelves would collapse. After the water subsided and the pumps were pumping, the mildew and mold destroyed almost everything else in my basement. It took weeks to bag and remove what we could. At my expense I hired a company to remove the mold from the walls, floor and ceiling.
Losing my records is minimal in life’s scope of things, no one was hurt, no one died. Over the next few years I gave up collecting vinyl concentrating on CDs. Many of the vinyl records that I had previously purchased were now re-issued on the CD format. I thought that to be a plus. However, I was seriously mistaken. Nothing, Nothing replaces the sound of Vinyl. I’m a snob, I’m proud of it, so I went back to collecting just Vinyl.
What does this effort to do with “the day the music died, again”. Well, simple put its historical as on June 1, 2008, three years before IRENE hit Long Island, a blow torch is used to adhere asphalt shingles to a façade in the Universal Studios back lot. The worker never checked to see if the area cooled off as he headed out for the night. A three alarm fire ensues. It is later, many years later admitted that the fire destroyed up to 175,000 master tapes belonging to the UMG group. UMG was renting warehouses in the Universal Studios Backlot. It was stated, “in no case was the destroyed material the only copy of a work,” a claim attributed to Universal Studios officials. However, in the March 2009 “Vault Loss Meeting,” the company described the damage in apocalyptic terms. “The West Coast Vault perished, in its entirety, Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage.”
Losing “The Master Tapes” is sinful. “A master is the truest capture of a piece of recorded music,” said Adam Block, the former president of Legacy Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment’s catalog arm. “Sonically, masters can be stunning in their capturing of an event in time. Every copy thereafter is a sonic step away.”
Non- original tapes, transfers, n-th generation copies, or worse, even cheap vinyl reissues is what the consumer is left with.Think about what is missing: jazz, blues, country, pop of the pre-rock-’n’-roll period, light classical and even spoken-word selections. This was a huge archive containing multiple copies of audio and video recordings, documents ranging from legal papers to liner notes, and packaging materials and artwork, unreleased recordings such as outtakes and alternative versions, all lost. DECCA masters from the 1930-1950’s, including those of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and some IMPULSE RECORDS masters of JOHN COLTRANE. Whew…and I thought I just lost my records to a hurricane and they could be replaced.
to be continued…