no-wave christmas pt 8: Was (Not Was)
To catch up on what exactly is going on, read this post first. A summary: Ze Records, 1981, no-wave and mutant disco, christmas.
What do MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Mingus associate Marcus Belgrave, future Eminem accomplice Luis Resto, Mitch Ryder, Doug Fieger (of The Knack), Mel Tormé, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Leonard Cohen, Larry Fratangelo (P-Funk), Bruce Nazarian (Brownsville Station), Frank McCullers (Wild Cherry), Marshall Crenshaw, Vinnie Vincent, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Michael McDonald, Elton John, Michelle Shocked, Bob Seger, Neil Diamond, Roy Orbison, BB King, Glenn Frey, Ringo Starr, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings, Randy Newman, Marianne Faithfull, Kris Kristofferson, Joe Cocker, Travis Tritt, Stevie Nicks, Rickie Sambora, Joe Cocker, Garth Brooks, Ziggy Marley, Paul Westerberg, Bette Midler, Barenaked Ladies, the Black Crowes, Edie Brickell, the Chieftans, Hootie and the Blowfish, Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovitt, Ladytron, the B-52's, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Syd Straw, Paula Abdul, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, and the Roches have in common? They all worked with Was (Not Was) at one point in their career- either through collaboration or Don Was' extensive production career. Long before they were piped into every living room in America with their hit "Walk the Dinosaur", they were melding rock, funk, and god knows what in the early 80s for Ze. The eighth track on the holiday compilation was from Was (Not Was).
David was born on October 26, 1952 in a Detroit hospital, his 'brother' Don was born a few weeks earlier, on 13 September 1952, in a nearby hospital. Don's mother was a high school teacher and his father a high-school counselor.. David's parents were both entertainers. In the 1950s his father Rube Weiss played Soupy Sales' sidekick, Shoutin' Shorty Hogan, on the late night Soupy Sales Show, not the kids' version. Both sets of parents were tolerant of their children's eccentricities, which would eventually lead to Was (Not Was).
Although Don lived eight blocks away from David in Oak Park, it wasn't until Oak Park's Clinton Junior High-school in the 1960s that they met each other outside eighth grade gym teachers office while waiting to be punished. David had seen Don performing Midnight Special and a Dylan song in an eighth grade talent show and realized that he was different from other kids.
They would meet on the top of the high school bleachers and talk about how they were going to make a record one day. In the Humor Prison, which was the basement of David's parents' house, they would wear funny masks and make tapes on a reel-to-reel machine, and laugh till they couldn't laugh any more. The tapes would bear witness to their influences when young, MC5, Iggy & The Stooges, Frank Zappa, The Firesign Theater, Jazz (especially Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane) and Motown.
They called themselves Nirvarden Maverse (Don) and Ferguson Webster aka Webbo (David). At one time they published their own newspaper "The Daily Bot" full of fictitious news. The creativity didn't stop there. They ran a comedy troupe called the Maverse Players, dropped acid and wrote Dadaist poetry, and held a mock political convention. Their politics saw them getting involved with the White Panther movement and holding their own demonstration during the Vietnam Moratorium in 1969, which got them mentioned all over the USA.
They both attended The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, but Don dropped out after the first year. After getting married in 1972, Don worked as a journeyman musician getting work where he could. There was not much money and Don was worried about how to feed his family. David was married in 1980 and moved to LA where he worked jazz critic for the "LA Herald Examiner". The geographical separation didn't stop David and Don staying in contact. There were long phone calls where they would write songs. Some of these appeared on the first album, "Was (Not Was)".
It was during one of these phone calls that Don told David his money problems had got so bad, that he was going to turn to crime to solve them. Don had hatched a plan to rob a dry cleaners. David decided to travel back to Detroit so that they could to make a record together, rather than let his long-time friend turn to crime.
Above text ripped from the super-exhaustive history at their official website. Where you will also discover that they are about to go on a short tour! Here are the dates:
MON DEC 27 - ANAHEIM - HOUSE OF BLUES
TUE DEC 28 - LOS ANGELES - HOUSE OF BLUES
THU DEC 30 - SAN FRANCISCO - SLIM’S
FRI DEC 31 - DETROIT - ROYAL OAK THEATER (w/ THE ROMANTICS)
SAT JAN 1 - CLEVELAND - HOUSE OF BLUES
TUE JAN 4 - CHICAGO - HOUSE OF BLUES
WED JAN 5 - ANNAPOLIS, MD - RAMS HEAD
THU JAN 6 - NEW YORK - B.B.KING’S
FRI JAN 7 - PHILADELPHIA - TROCADERO
8. Was (Not Was) - Christmas Time in Motor City
Buy their reissues here.