PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
News

Was (Not Was) refound each other — and their groove

Dan DeLuca
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

You'd be hard-pressed to unearth a more unlikely band of `80s hitmakers than Was (Not Was), the Detroit funk-soul-bebop-rock band masterminded by fake brothers Don and David Was and fronted by powerhouse R&B vocalists Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens, who had both "Walk the Dinosaur" and "Spy in The House Of Love" land in the top 20 from their 1988 album "What Up, Dog?"

"We were founded around the idea of putting something different over a dance groove," says Don Was (real name: Fagenson) about the band founded with his elementary school buddy David (real name: Weiss), whose first album in 18 years is the better-than-anyone-could-have-expected "Boo!"

"Life would have been a lot easier if we had been comfortable singing `Let's boogie tonight!'" says Don Was, 55, whose career as producer to the stars in the 1990s included overseeing records by the Rolling Stones, Brian Wilson, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Garth Brooks.

"But we were just too self-conscious to let that be our statement," says the bass player and songwriter, talking on the phone from New York. "We were trying to stretch the boundaries of what people could dance to. Our first single, `Wheel Me Out' (in 1981) had Marcus Belgrave, who played with Charles Mingus, on a trumpet solo and Wayne Kramer from the MC5 playing screaming guitar, over these bohemian beat poet lyrics David wrote."

Was (Not Was) went on hiatus after 1990's "Are You Okay?," when Don and David stopped getting along. "Ultimately, the principals in any band will turn on each other," says Was, who refereed plenty of Mick Jagger-Keith Richards squabbles while working with the Stones.

They first got back together in 2003 to play live shows and find out if "that X factor still existed," Was says. Along with new songs such as the noir recitation "Green Pills in the Dresser" featuring Kris Kristofferson and spooky life-lesson "Big Black Hole," "Boo!" contains tunes that date back as far as the 1991 "Mr. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." That collaboration between the Wases and Bob Dylan was originally written for Paula Abdul, who thought the song was "too barbed," Was recalls. The line about "Judy Collins blasting, Bloody Marys on the windowsill" is Dylan's.

Was says he prefers the band's new music because "for all the theorizing we did early on, the problem I have with those didactic records is you can hear the seams," says the producer, who helmed "Last Days at the Lodge," the forthcoming album by Amos Lee, whom he calls "such a soulful guy."

"You can hear where we put those contrasting elements together. And I felt that with this album, there is actually, now, after all this time, a sound to Was (Not Was) that you can recognize. There's no theory behind this album. It's `Here's the songs, here's how they go.' And that's how they came out."

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.