A Personal History of the British Records Business 27 – Ken East Pt.4




We have reached 1969 and I asked Ken about other EMI executives around the world

Geoffrey Bridge (see Pt.3) went back to Hayes. They found him a job at Hayes because they were nice people and for Geoff’s own welfare. He was Managing Director of Pye while Louis (Benjamin) was Chairman. He didn’t last there because I don’t think he shook himself completely loose from all the stuff he had been through. He had left his wife, got involved with some other dame and then went back to his wife and they lived happily ever after. Then he went to the BPI as Director General. Fred Marks ran Philips for a while – I’d known him from Festival in Australia. Then there was Steve Gottlieb who was in charge of the department in Singapore that had records in it, the wholesale distributor. His main products were Gordon’s gin, condoms and records! Geoff spotted Steve and as he wanted to change the management in Denmark he offered Steve the job of running EMI there. I was dealing with him as an export customer out of Sydney and I used to go up there, making an appearance in Hong Kong and Singapore.  Philip Brodie was EMI’s man in Hong Kong. Steve and I struck up an affinity, being new boys at Hayes, then he was quickly booted off to Copenhagen and then he then came back and went to run Philips.

You asked about the tenure of the EMI Records job. John Burnett, who was the Chairman of EMI Records in Australia, was 70 and too old for the job – and after 72 you can’t remain a director in Australia  – and EMI felt it was time he moved on and they wanted a replacement. Bill Stanford was then joint Managing Director of the Group with John Read, and Lockwood was non-executive Chairman. Read was Managing Director UK and Bill Managing Director Overseas and because Australia was part of his territory he asked me if I’d like to take the job, which of course I did, but for the wrong reasons. This is a company I started in as a record salesman and I’m going back to run the Group – they were still into heavy production of radio, television, record players, had a big military electronics establishment in South Australia, but no retail. It was an emotional reason. Although I was enjoying what I was doing  in London, the thought of going back to live in Australia was a big plus. So I said ‘Yes Bill, I’d love to do that.’ ‘Who do we get to replace you?’ ‘John Fruin.’ ‘OK.’ This all had to be kept quiet until a successor could be established. It was Christmas. I think I conned Bill as, having said yes I said ‘I’d like to make sure the (Australian) Company is as I remember it – how about giving me a couple of tickets to Sydney.’ Which he did. No one in Sydney knew of this, but before we went we had the Christmas party at EMI Records. I left from that directly to go to the airport for Sydney. At that party John Fruin slipped a note into my hand which I read later. It was a lovely note. It said how much he had enjoyed working with me and pledging a loyalty. I thought ‘isn’t that great because when I get back John will be offered the job.’ The day I got back at the beginning of January, Vera Phillips said ‘Mr Fruin wants to see you urgently.’ I had in mind this nice note he’d written. I said ‘what’s up John?’ He used to call me boss and he said ‘well boss, I don’t know how to tell you this but I want to leave.’ I said ‘What! You wrote me a love letter the other day. Why do you want to leave?’ He said – ‘well, it’s an opportunity I can’t really pass up – it’s to run Polydor Records.’ And I wasn’t at liberty to tell him he would have got my job because Lockwood and the board hadn’t agreed it. So he went, and what might have changed in history but for things like that?


John Fruin (right) with Henry Hadaway

John went to Polydor and did a damn good job – he did some naughty things too but that’s history. When he decided to quit we had to start again because it had all been rubber stamped. People said ‘it’s just as well – he’s unstable.’ They had to justify his departure in their minds. Phil Brodie had been in Spain – a lovely man but you’ve got to be a bit of a bastard and he was too nice. He’d supervised EMI’s activities in the Far East; he’d run the Spanish company quite well and he’d had this international job. He had the experience but he was too much of a gentleman to deal with the rock’n’roll side of the business and it didn’t work out. But Phil moving into EMI Records left an International vacancy into which Bhaskar (Menon) came from India. He was running India and was a bright star in EMI’s world, and he came into that International job when (Stanley) Gortikov went bad in North America – they had that huge multi-million dollar loss through bad management. Stan’s a lovely man but he got carried away. Bhaskar was the first person available; it was an emergency job – out Gortikov, in someone – and Bill Stanford grabbed Bhaskar and shot him off to California, no nonsense. Then (Peter) Andre came into that job. I imagine, had I not gone to Australia and still been at EMI Records I’d have been shot off to California. Everything happens for the best and I’m not complaining.


Bhaskar Menon

Was there an active plan to send people with potential around the world?

That is true. That is why Bhaskar was brought to London I suppose. But Bhaskar was the right one – there was no one else. They couldn’t pull me from Australia because I’d only arrived there is the last three months and you can’t make a change as a public company in Australia.

It took you nine years before you came back to London with EMI

After I’d been a year in Australia, and enjoying life very much. As Managing Director of a public company I used to come back to London to report to the main board what was going on each year. EMI owned about 60% of the company and 40% was in public hands, which was great for me because if I was told to do something by John Read, for example, (by that time Bill had been moved away because of the failure in North America) if I didn’t think it was right I’d say ‘I want it in writing’, and they never gave it to me in writing because of the outside shareholders.

Like, for example Gerry Oord (Previously MD EMI Holland who in 1971 was MD of EMI Records UK) wanted to sign Rick Springfield, a little boy discovered by an Australian and he was a hype. I’d been in England and had just got back to Sydney when I got a call from Len Wood – would I go and meet him back at Capitol (Los Angeles) Literally I arrived in Sydney one day and was back on a plane to Capitol the next day? (Rick) owned a record company in Australia, had had one hit and he’d do a deal with Gerry for the world outside North America if EMI would buy his Australian record company. Bhaskar had all the (sales) sheets – Rick was with Capitol in North America, the sales were genuine and he did have some success with his first album. So I hustled back to Sydney, sent some accountants down to Melbourne where his company was, and they said ‘it’s nothing.’ $4million he wanted for it. Nothing there – it’s a shell with no sign of future activity. So I said to John Reed ‘I’m sorry, I can’t buy the company – why don’t you buy it? Why doesn’t Gerry Oord buy it if he wants it?’ No, you can’t do that. I said to John the only way I’ll buy it is if you give me written instructions. Anyway, we didn’t buy it; Rick Springfield’s career…….


It seems that last sentence petered out…..so I will too!

Next time we arrive at Ken’s move to Decca and on to Motown. Never a dull moment!

Text ©David Hughes 2016. Photos courtesy Google search and merely used for illustrative purposes to break up the text !

About dhvinyl

Lifelong obsession with music, 33 years in the music business, 43 years immersed in selling old records, 20 years very happily retired!
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