Boom, boom, acka-lacka-boom-boom"
Was (Not Was) 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 Version of "Papa Was a Rollin' 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".
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: Subverted in the "Walk The Dinosaur" video. The chorus lyrics appear on screen with bouncing ball, but over a different (and instrumental) section of the song.
- Funk and Funk Rock, to the point that George Clinton covered "Walk the Dinosaur".
- I Have No Daughter: "(Return to the Valley Of) Out Come the Freaks"
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": 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.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Walk the Dinosaur" is not really about prehistoric times; it's about nuclear Armageddon.
- Nubile Savage: The video for "Walk the 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".
- Robot Girl: "Robot Girl", obviously.
- Self-Titled Album: Their debut, though its expanded reissue was retitled Out Come the Freaks.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Tends strongly toward the cynical end whenever it's political.
- 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.
- Spy Fiction: "Spy in the House of Love" takes the typical spies-in-love cliches up a notch by portraying the "war of the affections" as a literal war and a courtship turning into Spy Versus Spy.
- Surreal Humor: One of the things they're particularly known for.
- 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".
Everybody kill the dinosaur
Open the door, get on the floor
Everybody kill the dinosaur"