Was (Not Was)

Was (Not Was) is a pop band from Detroit, Michigan ( USA), which was an international success during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Band History

Was (Not Was) was founded in 1979 in Detroit by childhood friends Don Was (aka Don Fagenson ) and David What (aka David Weiss ). Both were also the creative minds of the band, with Don Was was generally responsible for composition, arrangements and production, while David wrote What the often bizarre, influenced by jazz and beatnik poetry texts. Characteristic of the band was - in addition to the humorous lyrics - an eclectic style mix of funk, New Wave, Rock, Jazz, Pop and Disco. Especially in the early years of Was (Not Was) was therefore often compared with New York bands of the No Wave and Mutant Disco scene, such as material, Defunkt, James Chance and the Contortions or Kid Creole & The Coconuts. Nominal members were - besides the spurious What brothers - even the singer "Sir" Harry Bowens, "Sweet Pea " Atkinson and (from 1983) Donald Ray Mitchell, guitarist Randy Jacobs and saxophonist David McMurray. On their albums, the band has also regularly supported by a large circle of (often prominent ) guest musicians.

In the early 1980s the band from New York cult label Ze Records was signed and released the debut album, Was (Not Was). Musical guests were, inter alia, Wayne Kramer ( MC5 ), Doug Fieger ( The Knack ) and trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. The album received positive reviews in the U.S. and Europe. Three singles were released and reached forward positions of the U.S. dance charts, including the Song Out Come The Freaks, who became something of an anthem of the band and appeared in modified versions on other albums.

Appeared in 1982 with Do not Walk Away, a soul- influenced solo album of the singer Sweet Pea Atkinson, at the Was (Not Was) acted as backing band.

The official second studio album Born To Laugh At Tornadoes was (1983). Here could be heard as guest stars, inter alia, Mitch Ryder, Ozzy Osbourne and Mel Tormé. In the credits is also ( the then unknown ) Madonna called, which is not to be heard on the album: she had sung a chorus voice for the interpreted Osbourne song Shake Your Head ( Let's Go To Bed ). This version was, however, for legal reasons, never officially released and found in 2008 on the Internet their way to the public.

The album also received positive reviews, such as in the Rolling Stone magazine, but was commercially a flop. After all, the band with the single ( Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks reached the Top 50 on the British charts for the first time. The third album What Up, Dog? remained - despite high-profile guest stars like Frank Sinatra, Jr., Mark Isham and Marcus Miller - initially with little success. Only with the third single release Walk The Dinosaur 's breakthrough: The song climbed first in the UK at number 10 on the charts and two years later - after MTV had taken the associated video in heavy rotation - at No. 7 in the U.S.. Another single, Spy In The House Of Love reached in the UK and the U.S. Top 20 and was in the American dance charts even charted at number 1. The album also contained a new version of Out Come The Freaks, which was also released as a single, and again reached the Top 50 in the UK.

In 1990 the band recorded the album Are You Okay? , this time with guest musicians such as Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, The Roches, and Syd Straw. The first single Papa Was a Rollin 'Stone reached # 12 in the UK, in the U.S. the album but remained largely unnoticed.

In 1992, Was (Not Was) in the opening act of the Dire Straits on tour. In 1992, a best-of album Hello Dad ... I'm In Jail. Being single also appeared a re-recording of the song Shake Your Head, on the next Ozzy Osbourne Kim Basinger is also heard. With this song, the band reached their highest placing in the charts (# 4 in the UK), but he was also the last major success. From this single a remix of DJ Steve " Silk" Hurley, which is based on the produced with Madonna version of 1983 exists. From this remix a few thousand copies were pressed and shipped without existed a release of Madonna's record company. When that was denied, the remix version had to be withdrawn: they regarded today as sought-after rarity and appears occasionally in Internet auctions.

After the dissolution

1992, disbanded Was (Not Was). Even in recent years the band Don Was and David had what started to build their own musical careers. Don Was is now one of the most sought-after music producers in America, produced, inter alia, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Elton John, and received a Grammy in 1995 as producer of the year. He was also musical director and advisor to many cinema and TV films. In 1994 he received a BAFTA Award for the music for the film Backbeat. What is David (as David White ), mainly as a composer and musical consultant for television productions (among X-Files ) active and working as a music critic and journalist for the public broadcaster NPR.

Published in 1997 Don was the album Forever Is A Long Long Time under the name Orquestra What. On the recordings to the plate - a collection of songs Country singer Hank Williams in jazz and soul arrangements - even some musicians of Was (Not Was) were involved, moreover, again a large number of guest musicians like Kris Kristofferson and Herbie Hancock. For album also was a produced by Francis Ford Coppola short film.

2004 Don and David came back for the first time what some concerts together. In 2008, the fifth Was (Not Was) released studio album Boo, again with numerous guest stars ( among others Kris Kristofferson, Wayne Kramer and Booker T. Jones), however, this was not commercially successful.


The name of Was (Not Was) allegedly goes back to a childhood habit of Don Was ' son Tony, who commented on each term with its opposite. Tony Fagenson itself is today a successful musician and plays drums in the band, inter alia, Eve 6



  • Out Come the Freaks - 1984
  • Robot Girl - 1986
  • Spy in the House of Love - 1987, 1988
  • Walk the Dinosaur - 1987
  • The Boy 's Gone Crazy - 1987
  • Out Come the Freaks ( Again) - 1988
  • Anything Can Happen - 1988
  • Papa Was a Rollin 'Stone - 1990
  • How the Heart Behaves - 1990
  • I Feel Better than James Brown - 1990
  • Listen Like Thieves - 1992
  • Shake Your Head - 1992
  • Somewhere in America ( There's a Street Named After My Dad) - 1992

LPs / CDs

  • Was (Not Was) - 1981
  • The Woodwork Squeaks - 1984
  • What Up, Dog? - 1988
  • Are You Okay? - 1990
  • Hello Dad ... I'm in Jail - 1992
  • The Collection - 2004
  • Boo! - 2008