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Arthur Baker (1955 - )

Related: music production - electro music - American music

Worked with: Afrika Bambaataa - New Order

Photo of Arthur Baker


Arthur Baker (Born April 22, 1955, Boston, Massachussets, USA) is a record producer and DJ best known for his work with hip-hop artists like Afrika Bambaataa, and the British group New Order.

Baker's career began as a club DJ in Boston in the early 70s, where he was known for playing crowd-pleasing soul and Philly soul. Nonetheless, he had little patience for DJ'ing, saying in an interview: "[If] I didn't get a good reaction on a record, I'd just rip it off, break it up and throw it on the dancefloor."

In 1981, Baker moved to New York, where he continued to DJ whilst pursuing a career as a producer. His first succesful single was "Happy Days", which he released under the name North End on Emergency Records in 1981.

He went on to work for hip-hop label Tommy Boy Records, where he produced Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force's "Planet Rock" single, which was a hit in the summer of 1982. The record combined elements from two Kraftwerk recordings, "Trans Europe Express" and "Numbers", which were imitated by studio musicians, rather than sampled.

Following this success, and others, Baker came to the attention of Manchester pop group New Order, who asked him to remix their singles "Confusion". The 12" single was a crossover hit on the US dance charts, and established a relationship between Baker and the band which has continued for more than twenty years. This also set a precedent for dance remixes of rock recordings which have now become commonplace.

Narrowly missing out on signing the Beastie Boys to his Streetwise label, Baker did manage to sign New Edition, who had a huge success with their Jackson 5-style single "Candy Girl".

In the 1990s, following a break from production for some years, Baker moved to London, and established a chain of successful bars - The Elbow Rooms - across the city. He continues to work as a DJ and producer. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Baker_%28musician%29 [Mar 2005]

The Early Years

Baker began in music as a club DJ in Boston, Massachussets laying down R&B and soul for the clubgoers. He moved into production for Emergency records shortly thereafter.
Baker's early origins lie in hip hop. Together with Shep Pettibone he was behind Afrika Bambaata & The Jazzy Five's groundbreaking 'Jazzy Sensation' release, which was actually a remake of Gwen McCrae's 'Funky Sensation', a Kenton Nix production. Afterwards, he would partner Bambaata in the devastating 'Planet Rock' release, before starting Streetwise records.

Planet Rock

Urban spaceman Afrika Bambaataa and producer Arthur Baker, plus musician John Robie, were the trio behind a musical revolution called "Planet Rock", Bambaataa's 1982 single with Soul Sonic Force. Following the impact of "Planet Rock", UK groups made Electro-boogie pilgrimages to Baker's studio in Manhattan: Freeze's "IOU" rocketed jazz funk into the infosphere but more significantly, New Order's "Blue Monday" launched indie dancing and sold massively on 12". Also breaking and robot dancing, the acrobatic and simulated machine dances that drew many adolescents into the alien zone of black science fiction. Bleep music was one consequence of this. Hardly adequate to describe and encompass the protozoic chaos of New York Nu Groove, Detroit Techno, Chicago House, [...]. Next came techno. -- David Toop for Wire magazine

Sped-up Blues

I remember Arthur Baker being astonished, because I'm not a clubgoer and I liked the first house records that he played for me. And I liked them because I understood the ostinato piano figures as being basically a sped-up version of Chicago blues, which they are. -- Dave Marsh

2 Many DJs

"In London, we play with Trevor Jackson or Arthur Baker, in Berlin with Peaches, in New York with the DFA people." --David Dewaele, March 2003, Deng magazine. [...]

Selected Early Recordings


  1. DJ Kicks - Playgroup [1 CD, Amazon US]
    Playgroup producer Trevor Jackson has compiled the latest in the critically acclaimed DJ Kicks series.
    "I never went to the Roxy or Danceteria, but I went to the British equivalent of those clubs," producer Trevor Jackson has said, discussing his Playgroup project. Essentially, it's an English kid's grown-up homage to his teenage fantasy of early-'80s New York dance culture, a vision—filtered entirely through records and the music press, but not inaccurate—of downtown Manhattan as a polyrhythmically perverse utopia of sexual/racial border-crossing, rootless cosmopolitanism, and all-night parties tinged with noir sleaze. -- Simon Reynolds
    The next installment will hit the streets through Studio K7! on July 1, and features tracks from Maurice Fulton, Random Factor, Metro Area and Ralphi Rosario.
    Previous DJ Kicks releases have been compiled by luminaries such as Nightmares On Wax, Truby Trio, Stereo MCs, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Carl Craig and Stacey Pullen.
    Maurice Fulton presents Boof - We Ana Rago - You're God (I:Cube Remix) Material - Ciquri (Discomix) Harlequin Fours - Set It Off Impedance - Tainted Love Random Factor - Broken Mirror Cultural Vibe - Ma Foom Bey (Love Chant Version) Metro Area - Caught Up Tiny Trendies - The Sky Is Not Crying Smith 'N Hack - To Our Disco Friends Zongamin - Tunnel Music Charles Schillings - No Communication, No Love (Salt City Orchestra Mix) Nigo - March Of General (Chicken Lips Conquest Dub) Jay Walk - Buggin' Becky (Fully Bearded Mix) KC Flightt - Let's Get Jazzy (Dopy Dub Mix) Human League - Do Or Die (Dub) Parallax Corporation - Anti Social Tendencies Ralphi Rosario - Get Up Get Out Bobby O - Still Hott 4 U Dexter - I Don't Care Wanda Dee - Gonna Make You Sweat (Acapella) The Rapture - House of Jealous Lovers Flying Lizards - Money B
    Very enjoyable, harks back to early eighties electro music, mixing it up with newer shit, while sustaining the same vibe. 4/5 [...]
  2. Looking for the Perfect Beat: 1980-1985 - Afrika Bambaataa [1 CD, Amazon US]
    1. Zulu Nation Throwdown 2. Zulu Nation Throwdown 3. Jazzy Sensation [Bronx Version] 4. Planet Rock 5. Looking for the Perfect Beat 6. Renegades of Funk 7. Frantic Situation [Vocal Version] 8. Unity, Pt. 1 (The Third Coming) 9. Who Do You Think You're Funkin' With? [Hip Hop Mix] 10. What Time Is It? (Live) [Live] 11. Funk You! 12. [Untitled Hidden Track] [...]
  3. Street Jams: Electric Funk, Vol. 1 [Amazon US]
    1. Skanless Electric Funk Mega-Mix - Juice 2. Planet Rock - Afrika Bambaataa/The Soul Sonic Force 3. Electric Kingdom - Twilight 22 4. Play At Your Own Risk - Planet Patrol 5. Mirda Rock - Reggie Griffin/Technofunk 6. Who Are You Stealin' From - Guru 7. Al-Naafiysh (The Soul) - Hashim 8. Clear - Cybotron 9. Release Yourself - Aleem 10. Rockit - Herbie Hancock 11. Megamix II: Why Is It Fresh? - D.ST. 12. Jam On Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song) - Newcleus 13. Crazy Cuts - Grandmixer D.ST. [...]


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