[11 Mar 2021]
Jacaranda Records was saddened to hear of the death of Bhaskar Menon – a living legend in the music industry and the unsung hero of some of the world’s most iconic artists and albums – earlier this month.
Born in India and educated at Oxford, Menon blazed a wide trail through the industry, forging an epic reputation as the first South Asian to bestride the upper reaches of the global music business.
Yet while great successes like becoming the founding Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of EMI Music Worldwide, an IFPI Medal of Honour and even a prestigious appointment as Chevalier De L’Ordre Des Arts et Des Lettres in France will be ranked high in his list of achievements, it is his contribution to 20th Century music that should be remembered first and foremost.
Menon was instrumental in introducing Pink Floyd to American audiences, tirelessly promoting The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973 when no other label or organisation had any faith in it. He threw the full weight of Capitol Records behind the release, and is largely credited with being the single driving force behind turning the album into the fourth best-selling title in history.
As Floyd drummer Nick Mason said: “The story in America was a disaster. 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 it. And he did.”
One of the last of a dying breed of industry legends, Menon impacted on nearly every major name in 20th Century music, taking a direct role in artists including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Queen, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Steve Miller, Bob Seger, Anne Murray, Glen Campbell, Iron Maiden, Kenny Rogers, Duran Duran, Maria Callas and Ravi Shankar, to name but a few.
Passing away at his Beverly Hills home aged 86, he may be gone, but will long be remembered.
Jacaranda Records’ Capomaestro Ray Mia said: “I was standing around the parking lot of Capitol Records a few years back, it was late, and everyone who thought they were anyone was there – it was the Capitol Records 75th party and I remember chatting with Disclosure without realising who they were. I caught sight of a dapper elderly man and his wife standing in a corner, no one noticing them or paying them any real attention. I was transfixed. I knew who they were, I knew who he was….
“The inimical and imperious Paula Salvatore who was Capitol Studios Manager came up to me and said “you know who he is right?” Paula knew and is known by absolutely everyone… “Of course I f@cking know who that is…” Paula then whispers to me “wanna meet him?” I went wide eyed: “Too f$cking right I want to meet him…” – the man, the myth, the legend….Bhaskar Menon. Paula walks right up to him and they hug and kiss (remember those days?) and she turns to me and gives me a solid intro – some crap about what stupid shit I was up to… and there he is…
“We talk, and we talk, and we carry on talking… we speak for what felt like several hours, no one bothering us, no one interrupting to feign acquaintance… one South Asian to another. Bhaskar was the man that literally changed music forever. He was class personified, there are many loudmouths and prima donnas in the business – and there are even people to this day that pretend to know about music, or the business… so many pretenders… but only a handful of execs that can truly be cited as changing and defining not only music, but popular culture and the face of ‘Western Music’ particularly in the US. Bhaskar was one of those guys.
“He would tell me of how he never liked taking meetings before his tennis games in the morning, he told me how everyone, and I mean EVERYONE stood against him and his decision to back Pink Floyd and Dark Side of The Moon, how they told him he would be fired in the morning if he carried on with pushing the release, how pretty much all the know-it-alls said it was a shit album and would and could never sell… who had ever heard of a ‘concept album?’
“And through it all, he stuck to his principles, he knew the business, he knew music, he knew it would work – and oh-my-word… was he right on every level. The rest is more than history… it changed everything (let alone my world entirely – growing up in Liverpool in the 70s/80s as we all tried to get off The Beatles addiction…) What Bhaskar told me was to ignore everyone, because most of the people in the business knew little about anything… and it was more important for you to keep your integrity and not get consumed in all the nonsense.
“I was in awe of the guy… I only met him the one time, but he taught me more in that conversation than anyone in the Music or TV or Film industry has ever taught me. He rose to the very top of the business at a time when most people thought India was a cool backwater that Beatles went to… Bhaskar not only got to the top – come on, Chairman and CEO of EMI? But he was, well – he was like me… he was South Asian… and not only that, he was Mr. Cool… and he pretty much made Pink Floyd what they were, a band that had such an immense impact on me personally – and so many, many, many others (endlessly watching Wizard of Oz with the sound off – listening to Dark Side on vinyl dead loud and being very, very “intoxicated”… it really does synch up entirely!!).
“I only had the chance to speak to him once, but that’s all I needed… Total Legend… the man will be surely missed, it felt like for a short moment it was “Us and Them” in that parking lot while everyone else partied… the man that did more to put the building and The Label in its 75th Year on the map… here’s to you Bhaskar and hoping you can chill out at “The Great Gig in The Sky”