The wallflower who ran a great label

The wallflower who ran a great label


norman lebrecht

March 25, 2007

The Times obituary of Ray Minshull, who died last month aged 72, was as bland, and as kind and as colourless as he could possibly have wished. There was not even a passport photograph at the edge of the page to break his social anonymity.
Minshull was a big man in classical recording. He was head of the classical division of Decca from 1967, and of the whole company from 1981, right through to his retirement in 1994 – after which the demolition began.
As successor to the visionary and charismatic John Culshaw, Minshull cultivated an impersonality that was almost pathological in its self-effacement. You could spend ten minutes talking animatedly to a potted plant and get more back from it by way of wit and information than from Ray Minshull at a major record launch. The best that could be said of him was that he saved Decca from the Visigoths; the worst, that he delivered it to them utterly defenceless.
Minshull’s facelessness was, of course, a front for other things. You can read more about them here, or here, or even hier.
It seems perfectly fitting that his determinedly dull obit should prop up page 77 of the Times on Saturday beneath a glowing appreciation of Laurence Picken, a Cambridge ‘bachelor don of the old school’ (let’s not even go there), whose chief discoveries were in the fields of ‘invertebrate excretory systems and 8th century Chinese music’. To come a distant second to a man who studied worm piss and Tang dances seems a finely tuned and possibly ironic tribute to this mumbling dinosaurus of the lamented record biz. Requiescat in pace.