The government-controlled radio system could save money on recording tape and storage if they erased the sessions recorded by musicians in its studios. At roughly $9 per one-hour tape, the move could save thousands of dollars a year.
Unfortunately, the short-sighted civil servant who approved the move may have inadvertently given away millions of dollars in future revenues, for the sessions erased included work by just about every prominent British and American musician of the day, including the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix.
Some pop music-loving BBC producers, however, didn't obey the rules. They made their own copies of some of the sessions, squirreled away tapes deep in the BBC storage areas, and generally saved what may be among the richest treasures of popular music ever recorded.
Their thanks? Well, Bernie Andrews and Jeff Griffin, two of those producers, are now embroiled in a legal battle with the BBC, which has managed to locate some of the missing tapes and has started to issue them commercially. The most recent fruit is The Jimi Hendrix Experience: BBC Sessions, just out on Experience Hendrix/ MCA Records.
Andrews and Griffin want to get paid for their producing work. The BBC differs. And although they won't come out and say it directly, the two hinted during a recent press tour to promote the Hendrix package that more gems have survived the tape erasures than the BBC now possesses, music that may surface IF proper compensation is forthcoming.
Griffin says that 13 tracks the BBC recently discovered of early Rolling Stones material is "not all the tracks that are in existence." Where is the stuff? "Well, a lot depends on the BBC's attitude to us as to how much of it exists," says Griffin.
Adds Andrews: "At the moment, there's a lot of tight-lippedness over who's got what. That's how it's going to stay all the time the BBC's attitude to us is like it is."
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