Thursday, February 08, 2007

Woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks

The The One Big Loud Guy chuckles quietly to himself whenever I mention Was (Not Was) because I am the only person he knows that likes the band. I'm not sure where I first heard of the album called "Born to laugh at tornados" but I did subscribe to Rolling Stone in high school and it may have been this review that introduced me to the album. Being a teen in the woods of northern Michigan maybe it was the smart, weird and from Detroit that caught my eye.

I bought the album on cassette. I remember it was white with black lettering and, since this was the time before automatic reverse play the lettering was eventually rubbed away from the top of the cassette from all the times I flipped it over. I remember spending a lot of time at school with this album blaring in my headphones.

My other favorite album around this time in my life was Tom Waits' Swordfishtrombones and if you listen to both albums they have some similarities. Both are experimental lyrically and musically and they are nice and weird. It's pretty amazing to me that I was able to find them back before there was the wide ranging music press that came later and the internets. I guess that comes from reading Rolling Stone's reviews closely back when it was the only decent music magazine I could find. Back in the early 80's it was Rolling Stone magazine and a local college station, WNMC, that were the two windows I had onto the world of good music. Sure, the local rock station played good stuff now and then but it couldn't touch WNMC.

(Speaking of WNMC, I would like to know whatever became of a dj called Dennis Sophie (sp?) that had a show on Wednesday nights called the Mondo Radio Show. He introduced me to Tom Waits one night and he deserves a hug just for that. The week before Swordfishtrombones came out he played three solid hours of Tom Waits. I've been hooked ever since. I remember he announced he was going to do this special show and I recorded ninety minutes of it because he had played some Waits before and I was more than a little intrigued. I mentioned his show about three years ago on this blog and no one has stepped up. I was every college DJ's cream dream, a teenage kid that listened to your show every week and recorded it on occasion.)

Today I provide in MP3 format one of my favorite songs from the 1983 Was (Not Was) album, Born to Laugh at Tornados. The song is called (Return to the Valley of) Out Come the Freaks. It's a good example of what the band could produce. The sound is crisp and clean, it has a nice groove and smoothness that sounds like a traditional R&B song with vocals by Harry Bowens that would be fitting in a nice slow love song. The lyrics are about people getting their freak on. The initial incongruousness of the lyrics and sound just defines Was (Not Was). I guess this is what happens when you combine two stoned songwriters/producers and a couple of solid R&B singers from Detroit.

Was (Not Was) (Return to the Valley of) Out Come the Freaks

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Funny, I was thinking of Was(not was) the other day, I haven't thought of them in years. I was also happy to hear Tom Waits in Shrek 2. Taking U.S. Twentieth Century History and sitting next to the new kid with the dice was the event that most shaped my musical taste.