Made in India by Biddu
As a child, Biddu dreamt of going west and making it big as a composer. At the age of sixteen, he formed a band and started playing in a cafe in Bangalore, his home town, At eighteen, he was part of a popular act at Trinca's, a nightclub in Calcutta devoted to food, wine and music, At nineteen, he had college students in Bombay dancing to his music.
In his early twenties, he left the country and ended up hitchhiking across the Middle East before arriving in London with only the clothes on his back and his trusty guitar. What followed were years of hardship and struggle but also great music and gathering fame. From the nine million selling "Kung Fu Fighting" to the iconic youth anthem of "Made in India" and the numerous hits in between. Biddu's music made him a household name in India and elsewhere.
In this first public account of all that came his way: the people, the events, the music tours and companies Biddu writes with a gripping sense of humor about his remarkable journey with its fairy tale ending. Charming, witty, and entirely likable, Biddu is a man you are going to enjoy getting to know.
I know had it all: a head full of hair, a lovely blonde girlfriend and a number one record. The only thing missing from this equation was money. Since leaving my job at the restaurant the previous month, I was living on my meagre savings. It’s uncanny how money slips away when you most need it and soon, I was down to my last five pounds. The rent was due every week and since I ate on a daily basis, there were food bills to pay plus other expenses that cropped up like unwelcome relatives. Luckily, this hit record would save me the embarrassment of penury. I had been through this cycle before and finally I could feel myself breaking free from the tentacles of indigence.
I was down to my last two pounds with my back against the wall, if not going through it, when I decided to go and see the record company about an advance on the record. I caught a bus to Oxford Street and wormed my way through the crowds of shoppers till I got to the office. I managed to see Roland Rennie, the gentleman who originally asked me to produce the record. He told me I would have to go see the managing director, Jeffrey Black, who was the head honcho at Polydor Records at that time, regarding monies and royalties. So I went across to Mr Black’s office and requested his secretary for a quick meeting. Ten minutes later, I was in Jeffrey Black’s expansive office.
He sat behind his desk and did not get up to greet me.
‘Yes?’ he said, looking up. Apart from a George Michael-like growth on his face, he looked a regular sort of guy. ‘How can I help?’
I told him I had produced the Tiger’s record, which had gone to number one in Japan, and showed him my copy of Billboard.
‘I’ve seen it,’ he said, not bothering to look at the magazine.
I also had with me a copy of the record, which credited my name as ‘producer’ on both the sleeve and disc.
‘I would like an advance of £100 against future royalties,’ I said in my best cut-glass accent.
‘All right,’ Jeffrey Black said, leaning back in his chair. ‘Can I see a copy of your contract?’
‘Contract,’ I exclaimed. A feeling of déjà vu set in, reminding me about the time when I was asked for a P45.
‘Yes, your producer’s agreement with us,’ he replied. ‘Have you got it?’
‘I’m afraid no one offered me a contract,’ I stuttered, meekly. ‘I don’t have one.’
‘If you don’t have a contract, I’m afraid I cannot give you an advance.’
There was a prolonged silence while my heart sank and then journeyed up to my throat.
‘Can I have fifty pounds?’ I gulped. It was all I could think of. ‘Listen, if you don’t have a contract, I cannot advance you any money. It’s as simple as that. I need proof. I’m sorry.’
It may have been simple, but this simpleton had not the brains, or even a replica of it, to ask for a contract when he made the record. Since none was offered at the time, the idea of a written agreement had not occurred to me.
I thrust the disc in front of him.
‘Here’s my name on it,’ I argued. ‘That’s proof isn’t it?’
He shook his head. ‘Listen, without a contract I cannot authorize a payment.’
‘Can I have ten pounds, please?’ I said, not wishing to sound desperate.
‘I cannot,’ he replied stubbornly.
‘Can I have five?’ A clear sign I was desperate but frankly I didn’t care if he knew. Of the two pounds I had when I’d left home, I’d already spent 50p on a Mars bar and the bus ticket. If there’s a word that’s more befitting than desperate, I was it.
He finally picked up the phone on his desk and spoke to his secretary outside. A spray of relief spread across my face. Maybe there is a God after all, I thought to myself.
‘Daphne,’ he said ‘change that booking for dinner from 8.30 to 9 p.m.’ He put the phone down and told me one last time he could not give me any money.
About the Author
Biddu was born in India, where he started his career playing in a pop band whose influences lay in the classic repertoire of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Following his early success, he decided to hear West and move into the international music arena. He struck gold, signing the unknown Carl Douglas and producing "Kung Fu Fighting?" which went on to become a hit all over the world. He also wrote and produced hits for Tina Charles and soul legend Jimmy James.
Around this time, Biddu became involved in Indian music: he composed the cult "Aap Jaise Koi" for the film Qurbani which set a new landmark for sales in India He followed this up with a pop album, Disco Deewane, with Nazia Hassan, which became the largest selling pop album in Asian history, and was the first Indian album to hit the charts in fourteen countries. In 1995, Biddu wrote and produced the three-million-selling album Made in India with the singer Alisha Chinai. To date, Biddu has sold over thirty-eight million records worldwide.