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Archive for February 24th, 2010

Reissue Theory: Was (Not Was), “What Up Dog?”

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I’ve got to be the only twentysomething I know that’s this excited over Pick of the Litter 1980-2010, the new compilation by pop-funk band Was (Not Was). Quirky aficionados may know them for left-field, late-’80s hits like “Walk the Dinosaur” and “Spy in the House of Love.” Others may know them as the band that put producers Don Was and David Was on the map (they would, either separately or together, work on such albums as Cosmic Thing by The B-52’s, Nick of Time by Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan’s odd Under the Red Sky). But no matter how you know them, there’s little to deny their place as one of the funniest, funkiest bands that time almost forgot.

The core of Was (Not Was) – David on keyboards, Don on bass and the dual soul vocals of Harry Bowens and Sweet Pea Atkinson – was as smooth, funky and soulful as they come. It was their unconventional songwriting (telling creepy slice-of-life stories in “Out Come the Freaks,” the thinly-veiled masturbation references in “Walk the Dinosaur”) and their amazing penchant to nab big guest stars (Ozzy Osbourne, Mel Tormé, Marshall Crenshaw, Leonard Cohen) that turned them into the cult-rockers they are today. And their pop success, however fleeting, was the icing on the cake.

Part of the Was (Not Was) discography has been reissued before. The band’s 1981 self-titled debut LP was expanded by ZE Records (under a new title, Out Come the Freaks) in 2004 with a host of remixes and non-LP tracks; that same year a 1984 compilation, The Woodwork Squeaks, was drastically reconfigured to fit a bunch of non-LP cuts left off of the Out Come the Freaks reissue (together, they essentially function as a two-disc set). But no deluxe treatment has ever been given to the band’s third record, What Up Dog?, the one that yielded those big hits in the ’80s. So in traditional Reissue Theory style, here’s a track list to make you open the door, get on the floor, and walk the…well, you get the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

February 24, 2010 at 12:57

Posted in Features, Reissues, Was (Not Was)

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