Tommy Boy Music's 20th Anniversary
Refusing to be phased by this setback, Tom released his first 12inch single - "Havin' Fun" by Cotton Candy, produced by Ted Osaze -
a dance record that featured a short rap by Afrika Bambaataa with Soul Sonic Force. "When I started Tommy Boy," says Silverman, "I started it so there would actually be a place in case somebody like Ted would come in and bring a tape, try to get a record released." Running Disco News (now updated to a new identity as Dance Music Report) and the new record company, Tommy Boy Records, out of his own apartment, Silverman found the non-stop work connecting him with a lot of music people also looking for their first break.
Arthur Baker was one of them. A Boston DJ who had grown up listening to rock and Philadelphia soul, Baker had produced a few dance tracks, borrowed money and already experienced his first music business rip-off. When Silverman played him the In The Red demo he had recorded with Bambaataa, Baker's response was, "Let's do it!" Their first collaboration was a version of Gwen McCrae's "Funky Sensation", retitled "Jazzy Sensation", one side by Afrika Bambaataa & the Jazzy 5, the other side by Kryptic Krew featuring Tina B, with a remix by one of the hottest club DJs of the time, Shep Pettibone. "It was done in the same studio where we did 'Planet Rock', Intergalactic," says Tom. "We paid $25 an hour and it included a Fairlight and a Roland 808. No-one had used anything like that on an urban record yet."
Falling heavily into debt despite the cheap studio rates, working 100 hours a week for $50 a week, running two new companies for typesetting and disco publicity alongside Dance Music Report and Tommy Boy, Silverman started to believe the venture capitalist who had advised him to forget the whole thing. Holed up at his parent's house and suffering from pneumonia he was on the brink of returning to graduate school. Then "Jazzy Sensation" took off in New York, selling 35,000 copies and repaying his debts.
With the future looking healthier, he advertised in the Village Voice classifieds for a Guy/Gal Friday. The most promising response came from a 25 year old woman named Monica Lynch, now the president of Tommy Boy. "My background," says Monica, "was, well, I went to a lot of discos and I worked as a go-go dancer and a waitress and I had been in a punk rock band in Chicago. Done all those goofy, fun things. I went for the interview, then I got called back for a second interview. Then on the third interview he asked me if I wanted to drive out to the pressing plant in Queens, Long Island City, to pick up some records. I helped load the records into the car and demonstrated that I wasn't afraid of doing some physical labour. That's really when I got the job."
Monica began at Tommy Boy in December 1981, a month after "Jazzy Sensation". Working out of Tom's two-bedroom apartment in the Yorkville section of New York, she wrote a column for Dance Music Report, as well as handling the manufacturing, billing and money collection for both businesses. "Everything was coming out in generic 12inch sleeves at that time," she recalls. "I'd been there for like three, four months. It was April, well March of that year when the promotional copies came out, but when 'Planet Rock' came out it exploded. One of the clearest memories I have about that was driving round with Tom once on a Friday night and bringing test pressings of 'Planet Rock' to Mr. Magic at WHBI, over on Riverside Drive here on Manhattan. That was an amazing spring because that record just exploded. I was so new but it was amazing to walk around Manhattan and that record was coming out of every window, every car. That was really the record that put us on the map."
"Planet Rock" not only put Tommy Boy on the map; this was the record that changed the sound of hip-hop. "When we came out with electro-funk - 'Planet Rock'," Afrika Bambaataa remembers, "I was looking at all the other rap records. Everyone was talking the same thing, talking about theyself, talking about how bad he is, how many girls they could get. I said, we need something differ