By Hans Ebert
It was Norman Cheng with whom I worked with at the Regional Office of EMI who asked me to join him for lunch with an old friend. The old friend was Bhaskar Menon, the legendary music executive who was friends with everyone who mattered in music, and the first Asian to run a major music company.
Being proud Asians in our own ways and having worked damn hard to get to where we were, Bhaskar Menon, who was now doing work for UNESCO, was someone very very special to Norman and myself. He was aspirational and inspirational. He wasn’t a vapid hashtag. He was the real deal.
I remember that first lunch vividly- where it was, what was ordered and being riveted to everything Bhaskar had to say and all the stories behind the stories. These were life lessons and which we were given for free.
When Chairman and co-Chairman Alain Levy and David Munns were famously ambushed, locked out of their offices in Wright’s Lane, and private equity big boy Guy Hands and his Terra Firma group aka The Terrarists suddenly walked in and took over EMI, most of us were wondering “What’s Next?”.
As confusion reigned, for me, it was always Bhaskar Menon who offered counsel and a calming influence with his emails.
He wrote beautifully- that wonderful old school way of being able to turn an email into a story- and provided insights into what might have happened at EMI, and what could be happening. He knew the players involved and their chess moves though the board was a complicated one.
I was writing a blog at the time about music and the music business. It was Bhaskar who would forward everything written about The Days And Nights Of The Long Knives Of The Terrarists to his extremely long roller deck.
These posts reached former senior executives at EMI who communicated with me about their thoughts. All this provided clarity for the way forward.
Whenever he was in Hong Kong, Bhaskar and I would make a point to meet up, always for the Indian curry buffet lunch at the Conrad hotel. It was here that the great man would hold court.
It was such a privilege to listen to him talk so casually and with such great humour, candour and knowledge about finding studio time for the Beatles, the genius that was producer George Martin, how The Concert For Bangladesh happened, and his very close relationships with George Harrison, John Lennon, their families, Roger Waters and Freddy Mercury.
We talked about the possibilities of bringing a performance of “Dark Side Of The Moon”, the Pink Floyd masterpiece he was so instrumental in having recorded and released, to the desert. The idea was to have this show take place under the stars with Pink Floyd augmented by traditional musicians from the Middle East.
Our conversations would take various twists and turns like this before he would say, “Now tell me, how are you, and how’s the beautiful one?”
“The beautiful one” was the Danish girl he had met with me a couple of times and thought we would live happily ever after. We didn’t, but life is full of interesting detours.
The important thing is that a few hours in the company of Bhaskar Menon put an extra spring in my step. There was the feeling that anything and everything was possible and life was going to be more than fine.
Hearing that he had been quite ill, his recent passing wasn’t a surprise. It was time and he had led a full life during those times when the music world needed him.
What Bhaskar Menon leaves behind is an incredible legacy. He knew and worked with most of the greatest recording artists in the world.
I have so many great memories that will live with me forever of a very special man who took the time to make someone understand how music works when applied to life lessons…and how there’s never an end chord.
I am a lucky man for knowing Bhaskar Menon.
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