NYT remembers EMI and Capitol Records boss Bhaskar Menon

·3-min read

New York, Mar 19 (PTI) Music industry legend Bhaskar Menon, who died in California earlier this month, not just turned things around for Capitol Records in the 1970s but also played a critical role in Pink Floyd’s epic album “The Dark Side of the Moon”.

Doffing its hat to the Kerala born and Doon School educated Menon, the New York Times recalls that one of his major contributions to the fledgling record label was to save it from losing Pink Floyd that blamed the company for the poor sales of its previous albums in the US.

Menon is widely credited with delivering success for the company with the 1973 hit Pink Floyd album “The Dark Side of the Moon”, the newspaper said in its homage.

Menon, who died at the age of 86 in Beverly Hills, California, on March 4, was associated with some of the biggest names in the music business in his four-decade career. These included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Tina Turner and Freddie Mercury.

He was born in 1934 in Thiruvananthapuram. He attended The Doon School, Dehradun, and Christ Church, Oxford, after which he joined EMI, the British conglomerate that was Capitol’s majority owner.

He initially worked with the label’s Indian subsidiary Gramophone Company of India and during the time assisted producer George Martin, who later became The Beatles' chief collaborator, quickly rising through the ranks to become managing director in 1965 and chairman in 1969.

According to the NYT report, when business was struggling in 1970 and Capitol Records lost USD 8 million, it found a 'saviour' in Menon. He assumed the role of the label’s new chief in 1971 and 'quickly turned its finances around'. As its president and chief executive, Menon slashed 'Capitol’s artiste roster, tightened budgets and pushed for more aggressive promotion of the label's artistes'.

Recapping the Pink Floyd incident, the report said, 'Menon flew to the South of France, where Pink Floyd was performing and, after an all-night negotiating session, they agreed on a deal.' Rupert Perry, a longtime executive at EMI and Capitol, told the publication that Menon commemorated the terms on a cocktail napkin and brought it back to Capitol’s legal department in Los Angeles.

In the band's 2003 documentary 'The Making of the Dark Side of the Moon', drummer Nick Mason credited Menon for playing a pivotal role in the album's overwhelming success.

'The story in America was a disaster, in that we really hadn’t sold records. And so they brought in a man called Bhaskar Menon who was absolutely terrific.

'He decided he was going to make this work, and make the American company sell the album. And he did,' Mason said.

With Menon at its helm, the company continued to witness success with Bob Seger, Helen Reddy, Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, Grand Funk Railroad and others in the 1970s, the report said.

In 1978, EMI put its music divisions under unified management as EMI Music Worldwide and named Menon its chairman and chief executive. He remained in that position until retiring from the music industry in 1990. From 2005 to 2016, he served on the board of directors of news channel NDTV.

In 2011, an ailing EMI was sold to Sony, which bought its music publishing business, and Universal Music.

Menon’s wife Sumitra said in a phone interview with NYT that when they got married in 1972, he told her, 'There are only two Indians in LA: Ravi Shankar and me.' In 1971, the executive had collaborated with Shankar and George Harrison of The Beatles to organise the Concert for Bangladesh, which was the first significant benefits concert for humanitarian causes.

Menon is survived by Sumitra and their two sons -- Siddhartha and Vishnu.

In a statement after his death, Lucian Grainge, the chief executive of Universal Music Group, paid a tribute to Menon and his effort in saving EMI from financial ruin.

'Determined to achieve excellence, Bhaskar Menon built EMI into a music powerhouse and one of our most iconic global institutions,' Grainge said. PTI YAS RB MIN MIN