"Boom, boom, acka-lacka-lacka-boom Was (Not Was)
Boom, boom, acka-lacka-boom-boom"
—The opening to "Walk the Dinosaur"
is an experimental pop-funk ensemble created by Don Was (Don Fagenson) and David Was (David Weiss), formed in 1979 in Detroit
, broken up in 1992, and re-formed in 2004. Don and David Was are, as you might have guessed, not really blood relatives. In the main they're not singers either. While the band has a longstanding front man in "Sweet Pea" Atkinson, they have also passed the lead vocal mic to a series of high profile special guests
Both Don and David Was are to varying extents sought-after record producers
. Don co-produced The B-52s
' Cosmic Thing
with Nile Rodgers
while David produced Songs in the Key of X
, two compilation albums spun off from The X-Files
Tropes (Not Tropes):
- Abusive Parents: "Knocked Down Made Small (Treated Like A Rubber Ball)"
- Amoral Attorney: Bobby Maggot in "Out Come the Freaks".
- Christmas Song: "Christmas in the Motor City," recorded for the 1981 ZE Records compilation A Christmas Record.
- Disappeared Dad: "Somewhere In America There's A Street Named After My Dad", the cover of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone". "11 Miles An Hour" notes that Lee Harvey Oswald had a disappeared dad as well.
- Elvis Has Left the Planet: And in a spoken verse in some versions of "Walk the Dinosaur", he comes back.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: "Walk the Dinosaur".
- Funk and Funk Rock
- I Have No Daughter: "(Return to the Valley Of) Out Come the Freaks"
- It Is Pronounced Tropay: The first "Was" is supposed to be pronounced "Vass", while the second is standard pronunciation.
- List Song: "Shake Your Head (Let's Go To Bed)"
- Loudness War: The greatest hits collection Pick Of The Litter has been criticized for this.
- Nubile Savage: The video for "Walk Tthe Dinosaur" includes four of them dancing to the song.
- One Phone Call: "Dad I'm In Jail"
- Open Heart Dentistry: Literally in "I Feel Better Than James Brown".
- Rearrange the Song: Most obviously "Out Come the Freaks", but others get the treatment too. Their 1992 UK hit "Shake Your Head" was completely reworked from the original 1983 version.
- Ripped from the Headlines: "Maria Navarro"
- Robotgirl: "Robot Girl", obviously.
- Self-Titled Album: Their debut, though its expanded reissue was retitled Out Come The Freaks.
- "Earth to Doris" is heavily inspired by Tom Waits' spoken word tracks.
- The "boom boom acka lacka" chorus from "Walk the Dinosaur" is copied from Sly And The Family Stone's "I Want to Take You Higher".
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Tends strongly toward the cynical end.
- Soprano and Gravel: The 1992 remake of "Shake Your Head" is a duet between Ozzy Osbourne and Kim Basinger.
- Special Guest: On various songs their guest vocalists have included Frank Sinatra, Jr., Mel Tormé, Ozzy Osbourne, Leonard Cohen, The Roches, and Kris Kristofferson.
- Surreal Humor: One of the things they're particularly known for.
- Two-Hit Wonder: In the United States; while today they're best-known for "Walk the Dinosaur", the lead single from What Up, Dog?, "Spy in the House of Love", reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. It even topped the Hot Dance Club Play chart;note "Walk the Dinosaur" only reached #11 on that one.
- Unplugged Version: Their Greatest Hits Album Hello Dad... I'm In Jail includes an acoustic demo of "How The Heart Behaves".
- Who Shot JFK?: "11 Miles An Hour"
"Open the door, get on the floor
Everybody kill the dinosaur
Open the door, get on the floor
Everybody kill the dinosaur"