Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Bhaskar Menon, who turned Capitol Records around, dies at 86

In 1970, Capital Records’ business was struggling. The Beatles, the company’s top acts, were flawed. Hits were rare among its remaining rosters. The company lost $ 8 million that year.

It needed a savior, and it found one in Bhaskar Menon, an Indian-origin, Oxford-educated executive at EMI, the British conglomerate who was the majority owner of the Capitol. He became the label’s new head in 1971 and quickly swung his finances in 1973 with Pink Floyd’s album “The Dark Side of the Moon” with a very impressive song. He later ran EMI’s massive worldwide music operations.

Mr. Menon, who was also the first Asian man to run a major Western record label, died on March 4 at his home in Beaver Hills, California. He was 86 years old.

The death was confirmed by his wife Sumitra Menon.

“Bhaskar Menon has built EMI into a music powerhouse and one of our most prestigious global institutions, which owns Capital Label and EMI’s recorded business,” said Lucian Grinz, chief executive of Universal Music Group. After the death of Mr. Menon.

Vijaya Bhaskar Menon was born on 29 May 1934 in Trivandrum, South India (now Thiruvananthapuram) into a prominent family. His father, KRK Menon, was Finance Secretary under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru; First one rupee notes issued after India’s independence from Britain Bore his signature. Mr. Menon’s mother, Saraswati, knew many of India’s leading classical composers personally.

Mr. Menon studied at the Doon School and St. Stephen’s College in India before obtaining a master’s degree from Christ Church, Oxford. His tutor at Oxford recommended him to EMI President Joseph Lockwood, and Mr. Menon began work there in 1956.

A proud British institution, EMI controlled a wide musical empire with divisions throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. At the same time, Mr. Menon assisted the producer George martin, Who later became the main allies of the Beatles.

In 1957, Mr. Menon joined the Gramophone Company of India, an EMI subsidiary; He became managing director in 1965 and chairman in 1969. Later in 1969, he was named managing director of EMI International.

Capital, a Los Angeles label that was home to Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Peggy Lee, was troubled by declining business and declining sales, and EMI installed Mr. Menon as its chairman and chief executive. He slowed the Capitol’s artist roster, tightened budgets and pushed for more aggressive promotion of the label’s artists.

In 1972, Mr. Menon found out that the Capitol was in danger of losing the next album by Pink Floyd, which blamed the company for poor sales of their previous albums in the United States. Mr. Menon flew to the south of France, where Pink Floyd was performing, and after an overnight negotiation session, they agreed to an agreement. Mr. Menon praised the terms on the cocktail napkin and brought it back to the Capitol’s legal department in Los Angeles, said EMI and Rupert Perry, a longtime executive at the Capitol.

“The Dark Side of the Moon,” released with a huge promotional campaign by the Capitol, one of the biggest blockbusters in music history; It remained on Billboard’s album chart for 741 consecutive weeks and sold more than 15 million copies in the United States alone.

Under the leadership of Mr. Menon, the Capitol achieved success in the 1970s with Bob Seger, Helen Reddy, Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, the Grand Funk Railroad and others.

In 1978, EMI placed its music divisions under integrated management as EMI Music Worldwide and named Mr. Menon the chairman and chief executive. He held that position until he retired from the music industry in 1990. From 2005 to 2016, he served on the board of directors of NDTV, a news television channel in India. In 2011, an ailing EMI was sold to Sony, which bought its music publishing business and Universal Music.

In some ways, Mr. Menon was an outsider in the Southern California music scene.

“I was a very unusual and unlikely person who was sent here under those circumstances to take overall executive command of the Capitol,” Mr. Menon was quoted as saying in the “History of the Music Biz: The Mike Sigman Interview” 2016. Collection published by the industry magazine Hits.

Mr. Menon’s wife recalled in a phone interview that when they married, in 1972, Mr. Menon told her, “There are only two Indians in LA: Ravi Shankar and me.” He told the stories of two men of India – old friends – to vain the exclusive west side of the city for good Indian food.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Menon is survived by two sons, Siddharth and Vishnu, and a sister, Vasant Menon.

Although Mr. Menon was primarily known as the manager of the business side of the label he ran, he had the respect of many musicians. In the 2003 documentary “Pink Floyd: The Making of the Moon Side of the Moon,” the band’s drummer Nick Nikon recalled Mr. Menon’s efforts to promote the band’s successful album, calling them “absolutely awful”.

“He decided he was going to do the job, and to sell this record to the American company,” Mr. Mason said. “And he did.”

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