Bhaskar Menon: Former Capitol Colleagues Remember EMI Music Chief

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Bhaskar Menon, former EMI Music Worldwide chief at the John Palladino memorial at Capitol Studios on June 6, 2015. | Photo: Peter B. Sherman/Getty Images.

Bhaskar Menon, EMI Music Worldwide founding chairman and CEO and one of the record industry’s most respected leaders, died at his home in Beverly Hills on Thursday, March 4. He was 86.

In a 34-year span with EMI, Menon played a key role in the careers of The Beatles, Davie Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Tina Turner, and perhaps most notably, Pink Floyd, whose “Dark Side of the Moon” album was faltering in the United States until Menon intervened, and his effort changed music history.

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Members of Pink Floyd with Capitol Records head Bhaskar Menon (center) and promotion exec Stu Yahm at a reception in honor of the band’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album and U.S. tour, at The Four Seasons, New York City, March 17, 1973. “When I saw them play ‘DSotM,’ I had the feeling it was like watching one of the great Verdi operas for the first time,” Menon said. | Photo: Unknown; courtesy Bhaskar Menon.
“Determined to achieve excellence, Bhaskar Menon built EMI into a music powerhouse and one of our most iconic, global institutions. Music and the world have lost a special one. Our hearts go out to his loved ones,” said Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, which now owns EMI, in a statement Friday.
Menon is survived by Sumitra, his wife of 49 years, sons Siddhartha and Vishnu, and his sister, Vasantha Menon.

Read Billboard’s obituary by Chris Eggertsen.

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Bhaskar Menon, former head of EMI Music Worldwide. | Photo: Courtesy Capitol Records.

“Bhaskar was the epitome of class, intellect, grace, and charm,” said Michelle Peacock, a former Capitol promotion executive, in a March 6 Facebook post. “It was an honor to work with him and a privilege to know him.”

“Sadly another giant of the music industry Bhaskar Menon departs,’ wrote Bruce Garfield, former head of Press & Artist Development who went on to be an A&R VP at Capitol, in a post earlier the same day.

“He took a chance by hiring me as a kid to join him at Capitol/EMI,” Garfield said. “When I hesitated he said: ‘My dear Bruce Garfield, we do not want you to become us, rather we want us to become you.’ I will remember and cherish those words as long as I live. Thank you, Bhaskar, for taking the chance and for all the years of sage mentorship.”

Mr. Menon was just what Capitol needed in the early-to-mid-1970s. His class overtook the crass at the EMI-owned company based in the round building on Vine Street in Hollywood.

Reporting to Garfield, and Creative Services VP Dan Davis, this writer was the editorial manager in the Press & Artist Relations department during 1977-78, Mr. Menon’s last year on the top executive floor. From there he went global for EMI, guiding the enterprise to become a world leader in music.

Mr. Menon was a successful leader not only because he loved music and was a sharp businessman, but also because he respected and valued everyone he worked with, no matter their position.

That is rare in any business, especially the notoriously hierarchal record industry.

As just one example, he would occasionally stop by the switchboard room on the Capitol Tower’s second floor, and say hello to the switchboard and telex operators.

“He was very nice to us,” said Nadine A. Martini-Peeples, a switchboard operator in the mid-to-late 1970s before moving upstairs to Corporate Accounting. “I always liked him because of that.” (She would also later meet this writer on the second floor in 1978; we married in 1981.)

My very occasional visits to Mr. Menon’s office usually had to do with EMI corporate press releases to be disseminated by Capitol in the States. Around lunchtime, the scent of curry usually wafted from his executive kitchen, where a personal chef prepared authentic Indian cuisine for him. My encounters with him were brief and businesslike but he was always very cordial.

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More Capitol colleagues shared their thoughts and condolences for Mr. Menon’s family on social media upon the news of his passing.

“This is heartbreaking news — he was a true gentleman and a legend,” said Richard Landis, a Capitol staff producer in the late ’70s and ’80s. 

“I remember in the earliest part of my tenure at Capitol, I was sent to London to hear the UK product,” Landis said. “It was around the time that EMI, in conjunction with MCI, was developing a digital multitrack recorder. I got a Telex instructing me to fly with Mr. Menon, who was in London that week, to Miami, where MCI was based. I was nervous beyond description.

“When I was with Mr. Menon, I asked him to tell me how he got into the music business. It was the smartest thing I could have done, as the conversation was fascinating. In his earliest days, he recorded, with a Nagra, at remote locations in India, and worked his way to the zenith of the industry. I’ll never forget that experience. RIP, Bhaskar Menon……literally, one of a kind.”

“So sorry to hear this news. He was a gentleman and a genius. Working with him was a great privilege,” said former national promotion chief Steve Meyer.

“After 14 years, I left Capitol Records in May of 1983 to become VP of Promotion at a newly reformed MCA Records. I hated leaving Capitol, and had Don Zimmerman been acting president, I would’ve stayed.

“At MCA I had the good fortune to work with Olivia Newton-John, and her manager, Roger Davies, who also managed Tina Turner. When ‘Private Dancer’ went platinum, Roger invited me to Capitol’s party for Tina at L’Express on Ventura Blvd. I told him I felt weird going since I had left Capitol, but Roger insisted and sat me with Olivia and Bob Seger.

Don Zimmerman, Tina Turner, Bhaskar Menon, and Bob Seger.

“After a while, Bhaskar came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, ‘It’s good to see you, Mr. Meyer. I see you are having great success at MCA.’

“We talked for a bit, and here I digress for a bit to continue what else transpired in conversation.

“Mr. Menon frequently had lunches for the management team on the E floor, and Tim, the chef, would usually prepare a curry. The curry was always extremely spicy and my boss (Bruce Wendell) and I always had to drink excessive amounts of soda after lunch to cool off. To combat the effects, Bruce secretly pow-wowed with Tim, and from that point on, Bruce and I had great curry that was not spicy. The other managers wondered how we could eat it all!

“Now, back to the Tina party. After several minutes of talking with Bhaskar, I told him I missed working with my friends at Capitol.

“‘I hope one of the reasons you left was not because of the spicy curry at my lunches!’ he said. ‘I heard you and Mr. Wendell substituted something more to your liking.’

“‘You knew?’ I asked him.

“‘But of course! I miss nothing!’ he replied.

“And he never did. What an exceptional human being. It is said in so many places that people who come into our lives and affect us so deeply, are for lack of a better term ‘angels.’ Mr. Menon was one of them.”

“One of the smartest individuals I have ever met,” said John Piro, building engineer. “I remember the first time I met him. I had been working in the Tower for about a month. It was a Saturday and I was working on the 7th floor. Had to get a tool from downstairs. The elevator opened and Mr. Menon was in there. He said, ‘Hi, John!’ and then asked about several projects in the building. Scared the shit out of me. I thought I must have done something very wrong for the chairman to know who I was. He just knew everything that went on in that building.”

Linda and Paul McCartney and Bhaskar Menon.

“When I worked in London running Capitol/EMI America in 1985 he came over to chew Ken East’s ass,” Heinz Henn said. “Before he did that he came to our offices at Gloucester Place, individually greeted my guys by name, and then handed me a gift box for my daughter Sarah.

“I took it home and when we opened it, it was a pink bear toy with a Tiffany’s bracelet saying, ‘Happy Fourth Birthday.’ He had nailed it on THE DAY. He was an amazing human being and BOSS.”

“Yes, Mr. Menon was a very special man,” Karen Goodman said. “He would every once in a blue moon host a luncheon for a department. I remember being an assistant in the International Dept. when Mr. Menon hosted ours.

“It was the entire department sitting with him at his long office/boardroom/table with a fancy lunch, and he asked each and every one of us who we were and what we did. My recollection was he was respected at every level in the company and he was not a BS-er. He spoke frankly and that was quite refreshing.”

“Very sad to hear,” said Bruce Ravid, an A&R exec. “Bhaskar was an elegant man who exuded class, appreciation, and had a beautiful way with words.”

“So very sad to hear this,” said KC Murphy Thompson. “I remember he spoke at our last large Capitol reunion gathering (Universal Hotel), and brought us all to tears with his eloquent remembrance of all things Capitol, and everything and everyone who made the music great. He made us all feel included, invaluable, and proud. I was so moved.”

“I am so sorry to learn of Bhaskar’s passing!” said Brian Panella, a Capitol alum who later represented the group Tavares. “He was a mentor and good friend to me and he will be greatly missed. I send my deep condolences to Sumi and the Menon family.”

“At a conference, I once told him he had a big ole butt – quoting a lyric from a song we were working (“Da Butt” by E.U. from the 1988 “School Daze” soundtrack on EMI),” said Jon Baker, Capitol’s promo manager in Cincinnati in the late ’80s.

“He told me I was very observant, then he got me a drink.

“Truth be told, that conversation was in the bathroom,” Baker confessed. “He was standing next to me and said, ‘This is a “gran pissoir,”’ and I laughed and started talking. That broke a man rule!”

“When I was a sales guy in DC Bhaskar, Don and others would come to DC for the NARM Congressional Dinner,” Paul Bishow said. “A few of us from the branch would get together with them for drinks. Bhaskar, with what seemed like photographic recall, would pick up the conversation from the prior year like we had been just talking earlier that evening. It was uncanny. He was a consummate gentleman.”

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Bhaskar Menon, former EMI Music Worldwide chief, is pictured at far left at the John Palladino memorial at Capitol Studios on June 6, 2015. He’s speaking to former Press & Artist Relations manager Stephen K. Peeples. | Photo: Peter B. Sherman/Getty Images.

Menon Keynotes Palladino Memorial at Capitol Studios, June 2015

On June 6, 2015, Mr. Menon delivered an eloquent remembrance at the memorial for legendary Capitol producer/engineer John Palladino in Capitol’s Studio A, on the Tower’s ground floor, with more than 100 of Palladino’s former Capitol colleagues in attendance. Former colleagues Rupert Perry, Dan Davis, Tracy Steele, Judi Kerr, and this writer coordinated the event.

Palladino had produced, recorded, engineered, and/or edited tracks by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Bugs Bunny, from The Beatles and The Band to Quicksilver Messenger Service and Steve Miller.

Palladino was revered as a mentor by many, including producer-engineers Al Schmitt, David Cole, Charlie Paakkari, and Steve Genewick, all in attendance, and enjoyed the respect of label executives all the way up to Mr. Menon. 

“Yes, I remember you! While we were on the 12th floor working with the business, you were in the Press Department, telling the truth about the Capitol and the artists and music,” Mr. Menon said to me, much to my surprise, recalling our few encounters after more than 30 years.

If you’re a former Capitol colleague of Mr. Menon’s and would like to contribute to this appreciation, send your comments to skp (at) stephenkpeeples.com.

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Bhaskar Menon, former EMI Music Worldwide chief (left) converses with former Capitol A&R VP Rupert Perry and former Press & Artist Relations Editorial Manager Stephen K. Peeples at the John Palladino memorial at Capitol Studios on June 6, 2015. Perry went on to head the EMI America label, then EMI Records UK, EMI Records Europe, and, in 1999, EMI Music’s Senior Worldwide Vice President. | Photo: Peter B. Sherman/Getty Images.

PART 1: Tracy Steele Welcome; Rupert Perry Part 1; Bhaskar Menon Part 1

[Rupert Perry introduces Bhaskar Menon at 8:17, where the transcript begins.]

Perry: Before I say a few words, we are lucky enough to have—I suppose the best description is a surprise and late guest to this gathering, and it is my privilege and my honor to introduce this man to you: His name is Bhaskar Menon.

A few words about Bhaskar, if I may. For those of you who don’t know Bhaskar, he joined EMI in 1956 as a, I suppose—well, I have to be careful how I describe it—he joined EMI in 1956 and he went on to run companies for EMI in India and other parts of the world. In the early ‘70s, he found himself sent here to run Capitol, Capitol Industries as it was in those days, and he became the chairman and the chief executive of Capitol Industries and ran Capitol very very successfully for many many years.

In the early ‘80s, he then was given the whole of EMI’s recorded business and its music publishing business to run worldwide and he ran that and brought all of that together very successfully until he left the organization in about the late ‘80s, 1987. So, that is who you’re going to hear from next. He is a big hero to all of us who worked in Capitol and in the world of EMI, so, Bhaskar, the stage is yours.

Menon: There’s one superstar he did not sign (pointing to framed photo of John Palladino to his right). I know. He was too modest.

John Palladino, Capitol producer/engineer and A&R executive, at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood.

Morning, ladies and gentlemen. I feel really truly greatly privileged to be able to pay my tribute and to express my deep personal sorrow at the loss of our friend and colleague of many years, John Palladino.

And I particularly am delighted to be able to welcome here this morning—I presume they are all here—John’s family, who honor us by their presence, and to share with them the inconsolable grief at his loss that each of us who knew this great human being continues still to feel.

I first met John Palladino in 1966, many years before I came to work here for Capitol. I was involved at EMI at the time, amongst many other things, on producing recordings of the Indian classical artist Pandit Ravi Shankar in our Abbey Road Studios in London, and in our recording facilities in India and elsewhere in the world. In the summer of that year of 1966, we recorded at Abbey Road a unique, musical recital by a prominent Western classical violinist: Yehudi Menuhin. (Notices the music) Are you playing the actual track, or…? (Audience laughter)

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Bhaskar Menon, former EMI Music Worldwide chief at the John Palladino memorial at Capitol Studios on June 6, 2015. | Photo: Peter B. Sherman/Getty Images.

And so this was a recording of Yehudi Menuhin playing a duet performance together with Ravi Shankar on the sitar of three Indian classical ragas, as they are called, which had been specifically written and arranged by Shankar for the June 1966 Bach musical festival in England, to the very prominent part of the musical scene in that country. And where their live performance of this iconic work, which was entitled “West Meets East,” enjoyed an outstanding and almost mesmeric audience response.

Very soon thereafter, I arrived at Capitol Tower with Ravi Shankar and the final mixtapes of the “West Meets East” recording. To see my friend Alan Livingston, who was Capitol’s chairman at that time, who was leading a world-renowned team of in-house A&R producers to revitalize the label’s global stature in U.S. pop repertoire.

Alan, after some discussion, recognized that “West Meets East” was a seriously classical work musically and was never intended by its distinguished creators to be a natural fusion album of a genre that was occasionally crossing over to pop in that area at that time.

He agreed that we should discuss all aspects of the musical content of the album with an exceptionally talented, creative, and able member of Capitol’s mainstream A&R team, together with the Angel Records specialist, whom of course we knew extremely well.

And thus (Livingston) nominated John Palladino, along with Brown Meggs and Patty Larsen from Angel, to spend the day with Shankar and me, hoping that we would—in these very premises—and hoping that we would reach some clear guidance by the end of the day as to where and how Angel would take this strange and unusual album to the marketplace and to the media.

Thus it was that I first met John Palladino, who was instantly charming, and seemed interested, if a little intrigued initially, at the sonic contents of the “West Meets East” recording.

And Shankar and I spent an entire working day together with him, and then Angel’s marketing force, Brown and Patty, in these various Capitol studios, observing with growing admiration and amazement during the course of the day as Palladino continued his regular mainstream Capitol pop work, in addition to also devoting at the same time keenest attention and interest to our comparatively musically obscure tapes from London.

Neither Pandit Ravi Shankar nor I ever forgot or really ever fully really recovered from the incredible experience of that long day, when we had met and observed at work a genius who was not only gifted with the proverbial golden ears to record over so many many of Capitol’s own outstanding superstars.

But this was a man who was also blessed with a golden mind and golden musical judgment and with golden hands and golden fingers, which could at the same time as he was listening carefully and making comments softly about Menuhin and Shankar to us and our “West Meets East” recording. He seemed able competently to electronically recreate with utmost facility and even qualitative enhancement the works of some of the world’s most brilliant pop followers, artists, and writers at that time.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, as did all of you know, is what John Palladino did as he showered stars from the heavens upon Capitol Records. During the brilliant years that he worked at the label, he brought immensely enhanced enjoyment to millions of listeners of the recordings of most of our…

PART 2: Bhaskar Menon Part 2; Rupert Perry Part 2; Ken Perry Part 1

…stars, whether it was Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole, The Beatles, The Band, Peggy Lee,  Paul McCartney, the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Helen Reddy, Steve Miller, to name just a few. Just a few who come to mind.

John Palladino, as most of you here will know, was active in the studio, continuing that magic work that he was doing for the company with quiet, modest, and gracious excellence until he retired in 1982 to enjoy his well-deserved rest with his adoring family.

The distinguished work that John Palladino undertook at Capitol constitutes the extraordinary wealth of the legacy which he has left for successive generations of Capitol’s people to safeguard, to protect, to respect, to nourish with light.

The material strength of that legacy of course lies in the priceless masters which represent the highest achievements of the Palladino era. But above all else, the most priceless of the many gifts which John left for all of us, whose lives were touched by the exquisite nature of this great man, was truly that he was without peer in his gifts and kindness and love and in his inimitable personal generosity, his modesty and in his abiding humility.

The late Pandit Ravi Shankar and I never, ever forgot John Palladino’s deep sensitivity and interest in music, from wherever it came and his sincere admiration and sympathy for all those who made music and practiced it with dedicated skill.

And as a former retired chairman of Capitol Records, a company which John Palladino loved and was proud of, I and all of you here owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for setting such a high personal standard, so many high standards of creative professionalism and integrity in the legacy of this great label. And I thank you all very, very much for giving me this opportunity of speaking with you. (Applause ends it at 3:28).

See Parts 3, 4, and 5 of the John Palladino Tribute here.

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Bhaskar Menon, former EMI Music Worldwide chief (left) and former Capitol Records Press & Artist Relations Editorial Manager Stephen K. Peeples at the John Palladino memorial, Capitol Studios, June 6, 2015. | Photo: Peter B. Sherman/Getty Images.

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Grammy nominee Stephen K. Peeples was raised by career newspaper journalists and music-lovers in Miami and Los Angeles. His Grammy nomination was for co-producing the “Monterey International Pop Festival” box set with Geoff Gans and exec producer Lou Adler (Rhino/MIPF, 1992). • Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for Westwood One from 1988-1990, and writer/producer of hundreds of WW1 programs in the preceding five years. • His first music industry gig was as an Associate Editor (Radio, West Coast Country) at Cash Box magazine in Hollywood in 1975. He went on to be a Media Relations-PR executive for Capitol Records (1977-1980), Elektra/Asylum Records (1980-1983), and Rhino Entertainment (1992-1998). • Moving online, he was Rhino’s first web editor (1996-1998), then elevated to content editor of Warner Music Group websites (1998-2001). • Based in the Santa Clarita Valley just north of L.A., Peeples was the award-winning Online Editor for The Signal newspaper’s website from 2007-2011, and wrote-hosted-co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated “House Blend” local music TV show from 2010-2015 (archived online and still airing in reruns). • The Santa Clarita journalist is now a News Editor at SCVTV’s SCVNews.com, SVP/New Media for Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. and developing a biography of notorious Texas Artlaw Boyd Elder. • For more info and original stories, visit https://stephenkpeeples.com/For exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, subscribe to Peeples’ YouTube channel.


Article: Bhaskar Menon: Former Capitol Colleagues Remember EMI Music Chief
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Category: News and Reviews

Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com