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.
Disc 1: Original CD Release* (US: Chrysalis F2-21664/UK: Fontana 834 291 2, 1988)
- Somewhere in America There’s a Street Named After My Dad
- Spy in the House of Love
- Out Come the Freaks
- Earth to Doris
- Love Can Be Bad Luck
- The Boy’s Gone Crazy
- 11 MPH (Abe Zapp Ruder Version)
- What Up Dog?
- Anything Can Happen
- Robot Girl
- Wedding Vows in Vegas (with Frank Sinatra, Jr.)
- Anytime Lisa
- Walk the Dinosaur
- I Can’t Turn You Loose
- Shadow & Jimmy
- Hello Dad I’m in Jail
* The original LP cut Tracks 5, 11 and 13 and reordered the remaining tracks.
Disc 2: Remixes and Rarities
- Robot Girl (L.A. Mix) (U.K. 12″ A-side – Fontana WAS 112, 1986)
- Spy in the House of Love (Jeffrey B. Young and Dangerous Mix) (U.K. 12″ A-side – Fontana WAS 212, 1987)
- The Death of Mr. Ping Pong (U.K. B-side to “Anything Can Happen” 7″ single – Fontana WAS 5, 1988)
- Walk the Dinosaur (The N.Y. Dangerous Version) (12″ A-side – Chrysalis 4V9-43332-1, 1987)
- The Boy’s Gone Crazy (Single Mix) (12″ A-side – Chrysalis V-23411, 1989)
- One White Crow (U.K. B-side to “Anything Can Happen” 12″ single – Fontana WAS 512, 1988)
- (Stuck Inside of Detroit with) Out Come the Freaks (Again) (U.K. 7″ A-side – Fontana WAS 4, 1988)
- Anything Can Happen (Acid Mansion Mix) (from New Steak Trends Japanese compilation – Fontana PPD-1057, 1989)
- Baby Mine (from Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films compilation – A&M A38957, 1988)
- Spy in the House of Love (Streetsahead Mix) (U.K. 12″ B-side – Fontana WASX 2, 1987)
- The Boy’s Gone Crazy (A Walk and a Dub in the Black Forest Mix) (U.K. 12″ B-side – Fontana 870 006-2, 1987)
- Do the Dinosaur (Early Version) (from P.I. (Private Investigators) soundtrack, Germany – Mercury 816 463-1, 1987)
- Robot Girl (Paris Mix) (U.K. 12″ A-side – Fontana WASR 112, 1986)
- Walk the Dinosaur (Bruce’s Dangerous Dub) (12″ B-side – Chrysalis 4V9-43332-1, 1987)