December 4, 2009


19-song compilation features Sweet Pea Atkinson, Sir Harry Bowens, Wayne Kramer, Booker T. Jones, Iggy Pop, Al Kooper, Doug Fieger, Marcus Miller and more

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Was (Not Was), dubbed “the funkier art-funk band” by The New York Times, have spanned three decades with their mutant mix of jazz, rock, R&B and funk. On February 23, 2010, Micro Werks will release Pick of the Litter (1980-2010), a 19-song disc that opens with the ZE/Antilles 12” single “Wheel Me Out” and closes with a trio of tracks from later years which featured Mel Tormé, Leonard Cohen, Kim Basinger and Ozzy Osbourne. The compilation contains the band’s hits and cult hits, among them “Knocked Down, Made Small,” “Tell Me That I’m Dreaming,” “Walk the Dinosaur,” “Spy in the House of Love” and “I Feel Better Than James Brown.”

Spearheaded by producer/bassist Don Was (Fagenson) and lyricist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist David Was (Weiss), the collective was rooted in the Motor City of Motown, the MC5, the Stooges and George Clinton. According to Brian J. Bowe, the Michigan writer who annotated the Pick of the Litter (1980-2010) collection, “the Motor City was burning, baby, and these two had creativity to burn.”

“Don and I started recording in the Pleistocene Era, with Fred Flintstone producing, which in those days meant the guy who pushed the vulture's beak down on the hardened wooly mammoth pucky,” says David Was. “Fidelity was crap, but at least we were able to record our earliest rantings for posterity.”

Was (Not Was) released their first record — a 12” dance record for ZE Records — in 1980. (The band’s name was inspired by Fagenson’s son Anthony, who was known to contradict nearly exclamation with a “Not!”.) The first album was the eponymous Was (Not Was), a hybrid of rock, disco, beat poetry, political-social commentary and jazz, featuring vocalists “Sweet Pea” Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens and guest players Doug Fieger (the Knack), Wayne Kramer (MC5) and jazz trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. 1983’s Born to Laugh at Tornadoes enlisted guests Ozzy Osbourne, Detroit homie Mitch Ryder and Mel Tormé. The group’s biggest hits emerged from 1988’s What Up Dog?, which featured the singles “Walk the Dinosaur” and “Spy in the House of Love.” For the next few years, the Was Brothers worked separately as producers, film scorers and music supervisors.

Are You Okay? followed in 1990 with a hit cover of the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Guests included Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, the Roches and Syd Straw. The band went on hold for more individual projects, reuniting in 2004 for a club tour, and in 2008 for their first studio album in 16 years, Boo! Guests this time included Kris Kristofferson, Wayne Kramer, Marcus Miller and Booker T. Jones.

In 2010, Was (Not Was) will present a long overdue “best of” with Pick of the Litter (1980-2010).

David Was continues: “And now the kindly gentlemen at Micro Werks have decided to pluck a few handfuls of our humble oeuvre and hoodwink a gullible world into repurchasing that which their forbears shoplifted during the Great Manic Depression, a crime for which they got a slap on the wrist and a prescription for Blowzac.

“Those were the good old days. Relive them now with the magnesium sound of Was (Not Was), which Eddie Money once called ‘Was (To Was),’ a name which I frankly prefer, and which describes the small world Don and I always lived in. If it made us smile, laugh or cringe, we thought we were on to something. All aboard the last train to Wasville!”

Track List:
1. “Wheel Me Out” (1980)
2. “Out Come the Freaks” (7” Version) (1981)
3. “Tell Me What I’m Dreaming” (1981)
4. “The Sky’s Ablaze” (1981)
5. “Should I Wait”) – Sweet Pea Atkinson (1982)
6. “Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball)” (1983)
7. “Walk the Dinosaur” (1988)
8. “Spy in the House of Love” (7” version) (1988)
9. “Dad I’m in Jail” (1988)
10. “Somewhere in America There’s a Street Named After My Dad” (1988)
11. “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (Promo Edit Single) (1990)
12. “I Feel Better Than James Brown” (1990)
13. “I Blew Up the United States” (1990)
14. “Semi-Interesting Week” (2008)
15. “From the Head to the Heart” (2008)
16. “Hello Operator . . . I Mean Dad . . .I Can’t Even Remember Who I Am” (Rehearsal Version) (1989)
17. “Shake Your Head” (Steve “Silk” Hurley Remix) featuring Kim Basinger and Ozzy Osbourne (1992)
18. “Elvis’ Rolls Royce” featuring Leonard Cohen (1990)
19. “Zaz Turned Blue” featuring Mel Tormé (1983)

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