Tommy Boy Music's 20th Anniversary

Co-produced by Silverman, co-engineered by Robin Halpin, the track was another wild anthem for New York's merging tribes.
Even wilder was the remix by Double Dee & Steinski. Entered for a mix contest by two radio engineer/producers, Steve Stein and Douglas Di Franco, their "Payoff Mix" of "Play That Beat Mr. D.J." was greeted with a standing ovation by a judging panel comprised of Silverman, Bambaataa, Soul Sonic Force, Jellybean and Arthur Baker. The inspiration for virtually every scratch 'n' sample record that has followed, "The Payoff Mix" cut in everything from a salesman's power closing techniques to Humphrey Bogart, escapologist Harry Houdini and Fiorello LaGuardia, the ex-mayor of New York.
Though never officially released to this day, due to the problems of clearing so many copyrights, "The Payoff Mix" was pressed on a limited edition promo 12 inch, backed with "Lesson Two (James Brown Mix)". Even the cognoscenti had to ask what some of the samples were. "Friday comes, we get to The Roxy," Steinski recalled in 1985. "Bambaataa's up there playing records. Mr. Biggs comes up to us and it's deafeningly loud in there. 'Say, what is that break where the guy goes HAH HAH HAH HAH?' he shouts. I said, 'Oh, that's Rufus Thomas'. Then he goes up and yanks on Bambaataa's pants leg while he's Djing and yells, 'RUFUS THOMAS!' That was pretty funny."
On the business front, the learning curve was steep. By this time, Silverman had launched the New Music Seminar. Monica Lynch was running from one task to the next, overseeing manufacture and production as well as escorting curiosity seekers like Martin Scorcese up to the Bronx to check out this strange new scene. "Basically I was also the person who fielded all the press enquiries," she says, "deal with a person who wanted Zulu beads and worry about whether Mr. Biggs was gonna bring his Viking crown with him." She also had to extract cheques from distributors who were past-masters at the art of delaying payment.
"We had to get distribution really fast," says Silverman. "It was a tough time in the record business. It was when the indies were getting hit hard because Arista, A&M, Chrysalis and Motown all left the indies a year after I had 'Planet Rock'. Half of the distributors went out of business and didn't pay me. That was really tough because I didn't realise that you could sell people records and then not get paid for them. That really hurt me. I think I lost about $100,000 which was more money than I'd ever seen before."
"Looking For the Perfect Beat" was the vital Soul Sonic Force sequel to "Planet Rock". "Boy, that took eight months to make," says Arthur Baker. "Probably cost 10 to 15000 dollars to make. Just because, when you're doing a follow up to a record as great as 'Planet Rock' you get paranoid, you're never really comfortable with what you have. You get real nervous because you have to live up to what made the last record great. With 'Perfect Beat' it took a long time because I was never satisfied, but critically the feedback we got on that record was even better. Robert Palmer, New York Times, picked it as his single of the year. It sold maybe a fifth of the copies but I think it stood up more because 'Planet Rock' was real simple and 'Looking For the Perfect Beat' was real complex. We knew that rock and roll people would like it and black people would like it."
The music that Baker and Robie were producing was getting harder, but at the same time they were filling up the multitracks with overdubs. "Renegades of Funk", for example, mixed Zulu chants and percussion breakdowns with passing references to Kraftwerk and Trinidadian Soca. With so much happening in the tracks and more money available to pay for studio time, the edits and mixes threatened to last for eternity. Silverman produced his own epic mix of "Renegades of Funk", so long it couldn't be released. As for "Frantic Situation", recorded for Beat Street, Steve Knutson (compiler of Greatest Beats) has grim memories of being dispatched to Baker's Shakedown Sound studio to collect the mixes.



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