Leslie Brooks Saves Discarded Reel to Reel Master Tapes

Ten thousand master tapes and/or master tape copies stored for decades above a new Jersey auto dealership are slated for destruction. Tape collector/archivist Leslie Brooks manages to save but a few hundred. The rest are buried in a N.J. landfill somewhere, perhaps with Jimmy Hoffa?

At T.H.E. Show Newport 2016 in the darTZeel Analogplanet.com editor Michael Fremer met and then interviewed avid reel-to-reel tape collector/archivist Lesley Brooks who has literally saved from destruction thousands of master and copy tapes. His tape tales will leave you astonished, perhaps a bit depressed and definitely angry.

midfiguy's picture

It would be wonderful if at least some of these tapes could find their way out to the marketplace.

soundman45's picture

I hope he invested in a descent convection oven. By the sound of the way they were stored I can't believe they are playable right out of the box.

AZ's picture

Not every tape needs baking. :)

Montpier's picture

Resonance presumably somehow got permission from Getz estate to put out their recent releases. And Jonathan Horwich was playing some fantastic r-to-r recordings at Magico's Axpona room. (Is he also at THE? It was wonderful to hear some some really great jazz instead of the schlock that is usually played at the shows. Speaking of which, sorry but IMO the popularity of Jazz at The Pawnshop is just sad. Will someone please throw out that master!)

Lazer's picture

We have lost so much musical history because of people ignorantly throwing away priceless tapes. It makes me so angry. How can we be so ignorant ?

BillK's picture

Don't forget a good amount of the early days of television is lost simply because TV networks here and abroad reused the expensive videotapes; that's the reason many early episodes of Doctor Who are gone forever.

Then again Disney used to give animation cels away as free gifts in the early days of Disneylland; things only become valuable with time and at the time no one knows what will be valuable "someday."

I'm sure you heard many studios discarded their analog master tapes when converting to digital as the digital copy was "perfect forever" like a computer file.

Bob Levin's picture

I'd also nominate the guys who went scuba diving for Paramount stampers. They came up empty-handed, though, so Mr Brooks wins.
Even if the tapes have to be digitized, saving our cultural heritage is what's important.

AZ's picture

Why DSD? Of course, there's probably no way to get a copy from the actual master, but some old analog copies still exist. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmV9iX-Q754

Jim Tavegia's picture

There is nothing in the world like talking to someone who is beyond passionate about something, and it can be anything, but when it is also about something that you share and enthusiasm for it makes for a great interview. We can only hope that he gets linked up with some folks who have the resources and desire to re-issue some of this music so we all can enjoy it and I hope that in addition to some vinyl that some 2496 of 24192 download can be sold at the same time. I think that Mr. Brooks is onto something and with your help it can happen.

Thanks for sharing this incredible story. When I retire from teaching middle school math I would love to find a job to do some transfers of old tapes to 24192 and would love every minute of it. History worth preserving.

MrRom92's picture

Nice to put a face to the name. I've purchased a bit from Leslie in the past. He seems very passionate about continuing the state of the art in analog and I believe he even recently opened up an analog recording supplies web-shop. Great personality, not to mention, a really incredible collection.

singhcr's picture

Thank you, Mr. Brooks, for taking the time and energy to preserve our musical history. I have found that few people care about preservation anymore- I am working to preserve my favorite childhood Disney TV cartoons and the studios have consistently ignored my pleas, and even the fan sites think I am nuts for insisting on new HD releases from the 35mm negatives that maintained the original color timing and film grain. It's achingly personal for me, and I felt very alone in my quest and doubly so at 32, as few my age seem to care about A/V quality anymore. I was down.

Then I saw this video and I was so touched by your passion. You are an inspiration to me to keep fighting the good fight even when nobody else will. Again, thank you very much and I hope that arrangements can be made to get some of your precious tapes out to the public. I, for one, would be happy to buy a LP, R2R, or high quality digital release.

azmoon's picture

..There is this guy who has had a major impact in the vinyl resurgence. Maybe he could produce or arrange someone to produce some of these into LPs?? If not Miket Records, maybe MF Records? Hmmmmm....that may not be PC these days (MF!). But whatever the name - how about it Mikey?!

vinylrules's picture

Great guy! He lives in my neck of the woods. . I've been there and it is awe inspiring!

JC1957's picture

at the thought of some 9,500 RTR tapes filling up a landfill. Very sad.

anomaly7's picture

Great dialog on an amazing collection of tapes- and the ones that got away - to the dump!!!

sumisumi's picture

As a librarian it hurts to hear stories of so much historical music being lost because of the cost of storage space. I am sure that the Bell Sound tapes could have found a permanent home at the Library of Congress, if they had only been contacted with the pertinent information. The same goes for any large collection of historically significant music, especially from such original sources.

J70s's picture

And we don't even know what has been lost forever - sorry for focusing on the half-empty glass here.