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Tracking down 'lost' Argo masters

GUEST,Michael Eldridge 10 Apr 14 - 03:06 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Apr 14 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,Michael Eldridge 10 Apr 14 - 04:49 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Apr 14 - 02:45 AM
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Subject: Tracking down 'lost' Argo masters
From: GUEST,Michael Eldridge
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 03:06 PM

Dear All:

I'm wondering if anyone here has experience tracking down lost--or at least elusive--master tapes from obscure commercial recordings of the 60s and 70s.

Specifically, I'm trying to figure out what happened to the masters of several spoken-word LPs made for Argo (UK) in 1969-1973 by the poet Edward Kamau Brathwaite, as I'd like to explore the possibility of reissuing them. Brathwaite himself shares my interest, though he's well into his 80s, which makes the question somewhat urgent.

A member of the ARSC list suggested that while Argo's early-classical material wound up with Decca and then Universal, some (most?) of its spoken-word catalogue went to EMI in the 80s--but that certain recordings were effectively abandoned and returned to their creators.

Sadly, after months of fruitless inquiries at both Universal and EMI/Warner (London branches) and, most recently, at the EMI Archives, I can't find anyone who can give me any good information. Assuming I can get anyone at all to return my calls or e-mails, I typically get a twenty-something flunky in Catalog or Legal who (I'm imagining) does a cursory database search, sees nothing, and tells me that they can "find no record" of the items I'm seeking, or that it "does not appear" that they hold the rights to those items.

Only once did I manage to get through to someone who identified himself as an archivist; he promised to check with his colleagues at Universal's archive in Germany, but hasn't returned any of several follow-up e-mails over the course of the last six months.

Does anyone have tips for penetrating the impenetrable corporate walls--and, once inside, finding whoever is left, after umpteen mergers and acquisitions, with both the institutional memory and the creativity to know where to look for answers? At this point, I'd be relieved just to hear "sorry, both masters and safeties were lost or destroyed in 1982" and/or "yes, our rights to those recordings expired in 2001 and passed to X," as long as the message were definitive and unqualified. But I'd hate to resort to "remastering" from scratchy old LPs, then have the original masters surface. Or worse yet, carry on, on the assumption that rights to the recordings have reverted to Brathwaite, then have Universal's lawyers jump out of the bushes and take me to the cleaners for copyright violation...

Many thanks,

Michael Eldridge
Professor, Department of English
Advisor, International Studies Program
(emphasis in Global Cultural Studies)
Founders Hall 168
Humboldt State University
Arcata CA 95521
707.826.5906 (ph) | 707.826.5939 (fx)

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Subject: RE: Tracking down 'lost' Argo masters
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 03:23 PM

I wish you every success Michael, and would be interested to learn if you ever managed to get anywhere with your quest.
I have a number of albums from their international and their poetry output and have been searching for years for three MacColl, Seeger albums I know were recorded but never issued - in vain
Someone announced he had compiled all of International and British folk music albums on this forum some time go
He had a website - he might be able to help - I'm sure a search would trace him
best wishes
Jim Carroll

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Subject: RE: Tracking down 'lost' Argo masters
From: GUEST,Michael Eldridge
Date: 10 Apr 14 - 04:49 PM

Thanks, Jim.

I suspect the website you're thinking of is the excellent "folkcatalogue" blog:


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Subject: RE: Tracking down 'lost' Argo masters
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Apr 14 - 02:45 AM

That's the one Michael - though it's grown up somewhat since I last revisited it.
Sent a shiver down the spine to reel through some of those wonderful albums from their International output
Argo did some groundbreaking work - I recently did some cleaning up of their 14 album poetry series 'Poetry and Song' - they really don't make them like that any more (they don't speak English like that any more, unfortunately).
Good days.
One of the curiosities we do have is a record of Arthur Miller reading excerpts from 'Death of a Salesman' and 'The Crucible' - I'm always amazed at how badly such an excellent playwright can read his own works.
Sorry; digressing.   
I assume that the site is of no use to your search.
A friend recently contacted me regarding the missing MacColl albums I mentioned.
If he has any luck, I'll put up any information he manages to find on the Argo archive.
Good luck.
Jim Carroll

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