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Book Planet Patrol
Considered by many as the founders of Electro Funk, Planet Patrol was originally a vocal quintet from Boston, Ma., called "The Energetics." Their conversion to Electro was conceived by musical architects John Robie and Arthur Baker who performed and produced the group's music.
The Energetics were a pop soul group that included Joey Lites, Melvin B. Franklin (not to be confused with Melvin Franklin of the Temptations), Herbert Jackson, Tony Borders and Calvin Sheppard. In 1974 they released their first single "You Make Me Nothing" b/w "Rainy Days and Mornings" on Cobra Records. They went on to release another single titled "Me and My Girl" b/w "If At First" through Top Top Records in 1975. After they were taken under the wing of Brian and Eddie Holland, they recorded an album titled Come Down To Earth (1979-Atlantic). It produced two singles, "Living By The Strength Of Your Love" and "Come Down To Earth" where the group’s performance cemented their status as a regional act while establishing a strong segment of British and Japanese fans of Obsuro soul. After their stint at Atlantic, they moved to New York and struggled to maintain their career. Roscoe Mills (who had taken over for Calvin Sheppard) and Borders left the group. Rodney Butler and Michael Anthony Jones replaced them.
Their story seemed likely to end there until one day in 1982, a fellow Bostonian expatriate living in New York contacted them. That person was Arthur Baker, one of the principal architects of a new sound in hip hop that used a Roland TR 808 and PCM (digital delay unit) to provide the backing tracks instead of samples. With John Robie playing keyboards and Baker producing, the duo teamed up with Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force to inject Teutonic funkiness into hip hop with the seminal hit "Planet Rock." The Energetics, reborn as the more suitably sci-fi PLANET PATROL, recorded "Play At Your Own Risk" the same night at Intergalactic Studios. Though both songs virtually defined Electro-Funk, the production on each track were similar, the effects were quite dissimilar. Where Soul Sonic Force bounced raps off each other, Planet Patrol, with their roots in the 70's R&B scene, provided stridently soulful vocals.
"Play At Your Own Risk" was a smash hit, reaching #21 on the Billboard Charts. Though "Planet Rock" tends to receive all the critical praise, "Play At Your Own Risk" in the long run was probably the more influential of the two, being the blueprint and directly inspiring the beginning of the Freestyle explosion movement the following year! Adding to its legend, "Play At Your Own Risk" is considered by many as the anthem for street dancers worldwide consisting of b-boys, poppers, robot style and hip-hop dancers as well as generations of DJ's and other artists worldwide.
The full-length PLANET PATROL album (1983 Tommy Boy Records) was cranked out in a single week at Vanguard Recording. Baker and Robie had already completed the music. The singers contributed to the lyrics which provided an emotional expression in their vocals than other Electro acts at the time. Nearly every song on the album was released as a single, including the John Robie and Arthur Baker co-written "Danger Zone," "Cheap Thrills" (#30 on Billboard), a cover of Gary Glitter's "I Didn't Know I Love You (till I Saw You Rock n Roll)" and a cover of Todd Rundgren's "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference." Only one track, "Don't Tell Me," wasn't a single - it was a B-side track.
After the release of the album, Robie and Baker continued producing other projects, occasionally collaborating but more often not. Without their involvement the members of Planet Patrol drifted apart. One member, Joseph Lites, passed away due to a diabetic seizure. Another, Melvin B. Franklin, worked a series of blue collar jobs including a thirteen year stint as a doorman at the Westin Hotel. After two years working as a skycap at Boston's Logan Airport, he was shot to death by an unknown assailant on October 15th, 1996. Herb Jackson was pronounced dead after ingesting a large quantity of acid and cocaine in Miami, FL. By God’s grace he was revived! As many who have survived a brush with death, Jackson found God and became an ordained minister. As many fewer do, he revisited his old band Planet Patrol and united with original member Rodney Butler. The group is currently recording several new tracks for their own Space Age Records label while in negotiations with Tommy Boy Records founder & CEO Tom Silverman. Stay tuned, keep your ears to the airwaves and your eyes in cyber space for the return of PLANET PATROL!