Archive for the ‘Jon Baker’ Category

Queen Latifah & De La Soul

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Listen: Mamma Gave Birth To The Soul Children / Queen Latifah & De La Soul

I was fortunate enough to meet Jon Baker, owner of Gee Street Records, through the Island UK office. Actually, Julian Palmer from 4th & Broadway in London had signed Stereo MC’s to a singles deal, and Jon, the ever ambitious yet courteous entrepreneur, bugged me incessantly to come over and see a rehearsal, guaranteeing their greatness.

I recall Jon having a picture perfect office setup, basically heaving with records and always jumping. I loved Gee Street. They had released some US hip hop and house independently prior to ultimately signing the deal with Island. On a previous trip, this guy fed my 7″ addiction with serious handfuls of each release. Generous wasn’t near a strong enough term. And his pressings were beauties, thick vinyl, top notch UK picture covers. Jon Baker always did these things classy.

Well last night, ‘Mamma Gave Birth To The Soul Children’ got stuck on repeat as I moved some big boxes around the house, a lucky break. It recalled the time he and Ziggy drove Corinne and I around Chelsea, blasting late night London pirate stations. Some of the stuff played would still rock up any world, and in the mix, on comes Jon’s Queen Latifah / De La Soul record. Kid in a candy shop, it couldn’t have been a better moment for him.

Back to that Stereo MC’s rehearsal. They were red hot, yeah, undeniable. Mission accomplished. We scheduled ‘Elevate My Mind’ as a US Island single immediately. It eventually climbed into the BILLBOARD Top 40, paving the way for a proper Stereo MC’s career run and a full Gee Street/Island label deal.

Stereo MC’s

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Stereo MC's Connected Picture Sleeve

Listen: Stereo MCs / Connected StereoMCsConnected.mp3

Has there been a better funk/rock single since this? Probably not. I’ll never forget hearing it for the first time. It was at an Island A&R retreat in New Orleans during Jazz Fest in ’92. Jon Baker, who ran Gee Street, brought it straight in from the studio. Everyone’s mouth dropped.

Jon had invited me two years prior to see the band practice/showcase at a space in south London, just near Waterloo Bridge. They’d put one single out in the UK, and were about to be dropped. The rehearsal was spectacular. Just the three piece, with their live drummer Owen. It was slamming as they say.

Island did a deal for Jon’s Gee Street label, but it took a minute. After some dicking around, Jon was getting fed up and had planned to sign with Virgin, but came into my office for one last shot. He played me a new single by his other act, PM Dawn. Their ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’ was a no brainer. Later that day, I went round the Gramercy Park Hotel to hook up with Jon, and meet the P. M. Dawn guys. I kept them there until around 2AM, insuring they’d miss their dinner with Virgin which was supposedly happening. I must ask Jon if that dinner date was really true. Whatever, Jon and I schemed to get Island’s committal quickly. I suggested Jon demand a substantial check within twenty four hours, and that if the label didn’t conclude the deal within one week he could keep the money. Island agreed to it the next day, once Chris heard ‘Set Adrift’. Bingo, two acts signed in one swoop, not to mention getting Jon Baker as part of the deal.

So we proceeded to deliver Stereo MC’s their first hit, in The States instead of England no less, with ‘Elevate My Mind’. Howard Thompson played Happy Mondays the single, and got Stereo MC’s the opening slot on their upcoming red hot US tour. A perfect storm.

Even better, ‘Connected’ was to follow.