Bhaskar Menon, Exec Who Helped Make Pink Floyd’s Name, Dead at 86

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Bhaskar Menon, the esteemed record label boss whom Pink Floyd credited with helping make their name, has died at age 86.

Starting out with EMI in 1956 – just as the rock revolution began – he went on to rise to the rank of chairman and then onward to become the president of the parent corporation, including Capitol Records in the U.S., until he started his own business in 1995. During his years with the international conglomerate, he took a personal interest in the careers of many of its artists, including the Beatles, David Bowie, Queen, Iron Maiden and many others.

One of Menon’s most notable achievements was helping break Pink Floyd in the States. He believed in their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon so much that he put the full force of Capitol’s marketing team behind it, placing the firm’s vice president, Al Coury, in charge of the project. Menon persuaded the single-averse band to release 7″ versions of “Us and Them” and “Time” to U.S. radio, leading to the album becoming the fourth best-selling title in history, with several thousand copies a week still retailing to this day.

“The story in America was a disaster,” Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason said in the documentary film The Making of the Dark Side of the Moon in 2003.”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.”

In 1987, when EMI Music International received permission to release the Beatles catalog on CD for the first time, Menon made certain the corporation got it right. “We felt that it would be inappropriate to put out a treasury of such proportions as the Beatles catalog until we had access to sufficient manufacturing capacity,” he said at the time. He added that the first four titles would arrive in their original ‘60s configurations. “In very close discussions with George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, we determined that there was no question that we must preserve the original mixes – that the releases really must be in mono, because stereo was not the intent of the performers.”

From his earliest managerial positions, Menon had been critical of what he saw as corporations ruining brands by expanding them beyond the market’s ability to retain a clear idea of the original identities. “Keep it simple, keep it clear, get plenty of free publicity from the innovation and don’t be tempted to stretch the brand beyond its capacity,” he summarized in 1999. His message for his staff was equally stark: “Uncompromising excellence in what you do goes without saying. We expect more than that.”

Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal, which inherited Capitol/EMI, confirmed that Menon died at his Beverly Hills home on March 4. He is survived by his wife, two sons and a sister. “Determined to achieve excellence, Bhaskar Menon built EMI into a music powerhouse and one of our most iconic, global institutions,” Grainge noted. “Music and the world have lost a special one. Our hearts go out to his loved ones.”

 

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