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

In 1970, the Capitol Records business struggled. The Beatles, the company’s leading venture, have been scrapped. Hits were barely below the remaining list. That year, the company lost $ 8 million.

It needed a savior, and he found one in Bhaskar Menon, an Oxford-born, Oxford-trained driver at EMI, the British conglomerate that was the majority owner of Capitol. He became the new head of the label in 1971 and quickly turned his finances around and a huge hit in 1973 with Pink Floyd’s album “The Dark Side of the Moon”. He later managed EMI’s major global music operations.

Menon, who was also the first Asian man to run a large Western record company, died on March 4 at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He was 86.

The death was confirmed by his wife, Sumitra Menon.

Determined to excel, Bhaskar Menon has built EMI into a music powerhouse and one of our most iconic global institutions, “said Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, which owns the Capitol label and EMI’s recording music industry. said a statement. after the death of mr. Menon.

Vijaya Bhaskar Menon was born on May 29, 1934 into a prominent family in Trivandrum, in southern India (now Thiruvananthapuram). His father, KRK Menon, was the finance secretary under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru; the first one-rupee notes issued after India’s independence from Britain carried his signature. Menas’ mother, Saraswathi, knew many of India’s leading classical musicians personally.

Mr. Menon studied at 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 Joseph Lockwood, the chairman of EMI, and mr. Menon began working there in 1956.

A proud British institution, EMI, has a wide musical empire control with divisions in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. While he was there, Mr. Menon helped producer George Martin, who later became the Beatles’ lead contributor.

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

Capitol, the label in Los Angeles that was home to Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee, was making business mistakes and slowing down sales, and EMI told Mr. Menon installed as president and CEO. He cut the artist profile of Capitol, tightened budgets and insisted on a more aggressive promotion of the artists.

In 1972, Mr. Menon that Capitol is in danger of losing Pink Floyd’s next album, blaming the company for the poor sales of its previous albums in the United States. Mr. Menon flew to the south of France, where Pink Floyd performed, and after an entire negotiation session, they agreed on a deal. Mr. Menon commemorated the terms on a cocktail napkin and brought them back to Capitol’s legal department in Los Angeles, said Rupert Perry, a longtime executive at EMI and Capitol.

‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, released by the Capitol with a huge promotional campaign, was one of the greatest blockbusters in music history; it remained on Billboard’s album chart for 741 consecutive weeks, selling more than 15 million copies in the United States alone.

Led by mr. Menon continued the Capitol success in the 1970s with Bob Seger, Helen Reddy, Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, Grand Funk Railroad and others.

In 1978, EMI placed its music divisions under EMI Music Worldwide under uniform management and Mr. Menon was named chairman and CEO. He remained in 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, a sick EMI was sold to Sony, which bought its music publishing industry and Universal Music.

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

“I was a very unusual and unlikely person who would be sent here under these circumstances to take the Capitol general executive order,” Menon was quoted as saying in ‘History of the Music Biz: The Mike Sigman Interviews’, a 2016 collection published by the industry magazine Hits.

Menon’s wife recalled in a telephone conversation that when they married in 1972, Menon told her, “There are only two Indians in LA: Ravi Shankar and I.” She told stories of the two men – old friends from India – who searched in vain for the city’s exclusive west side for good Indian food.

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

Although Mr. Menon was primarily known as a manager of the business side of the labels he operated, he had the respect of many musicians. In the 2003 documentary “Pink Floyd: The Making of the Dark Side of the Moon”, Nick Mason, the band’s drummer, recalls the efforts of Mr. Menon to promote the band’s breakthrough album, calling him “absolutely awesome.”

“He decided he would make it work and let the American company sell this record,” he said. Mason said. “And he has.”

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