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The Electro-Funk of Planet Patrol
Sampling

The Electro-Funk of Planet Patrol

Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force’s “Planet Rock” forever changed the face of hip-hop, and set off an ongoing search for the perfect beat. “Planet Rock” producer Arthur Baker extended that quest, and returned to the 24–track tape machine to use parts that didn’t make the final cut of “Planet Rock” for another track. One that set off an outfit called Planet Patrol.

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As opposed to the vocal vocoder on “Planet Rock” (“That came through a really, really tight delay, almost like a tight electronic phasing,” said Arthur Baker in a 2008 Sound On Sound feature), for the alternate take Baker was working on, he invited an old friend from his hometown of Boston to bring his vocal group called The Energetics to New York for a more human touch to the electro grooves and robo-funk.

The soul/funk quintet by lead singer Herbert J. Jackson, Joseph Lites, Rodney Butler, Michael Anthony Jones, and Melvin B. Franklin (who only released one LP as The Energetics), joined Arthur Baker and “Planet Rock” engineer and keyboardist John Robie for a track what would become “Play At Your Own Risk.” They turned their name into Planet Patrol to reflect the emerging future sound of the Roland TR-808 and E-mu Emulator, kickstarting an electro-funk trip to another planet.

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The original track sheet for 'Planet Rock' and 'Play At Your Own Risk', which were recorded together on the same section of tape (source: Sound On Sound)
The original track sheet for 'Planet Rock' and 'Play At Your Own Risk', which were recorded together on the same section of tape (source: Sound On Sound)

Their collaborative full-length album as Planet Patrol on Tommy Boy Records was recorded in a single week at Vanguard Studios in New York. Most of the tracks on the album were released as singles, including “Danger Zone” (co-written by Robie & Baker), “Cheap Thrills” (#30 on Billboard), and an 808-heavy cover of glam-rock singer Gary Glitter’s “I Didn’t Know I Love You (Till I Saw You Rock n Roll).”

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After the album’s release in 1983, Arthur Baker and John Robie continued to work on a wide variety of projects, including tracks by Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five, New Order & Man Parrish. The group eventually split, but their electro-funk built after a continued search for the perfect beat remains. Now, for the very first time, officially made available for sampling. "Can y'all get funky?"

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