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Out Come the Freaks

ZE 005CD ZE 005CD

2016 restock. First reissue of this 1981 debut album. "Don Was (Donald Fagenson) & David Was (David Weiss) grew up in the musical and cultural thrall of Detroit, raised on the timeless soul of Motown artists as well as on such anarchic rockers as the MC5 and the Stooges. According to legend David and Don became friends when both were ratted on in an 8th grade gym class incident in suburban Detroit. Their debut album was released in June 1981 in the UK, Was (Not Was), was immediately recognized as a wildly unique confabulation of R & B, funk, rock and theater of the absurd. Referred to by one early published account as 'The Beat That Devoured Detroit, the funk-mutation experiment that wrecked the lab and boogied off into the night,' Was (Not Was) brought more than just a whacked-out-yet- utterly danceable sensibility to pop music. It also introduced the listening public to such striking musical voices as frontman Sweet Pea Atkinson, the former Detroit auto worker whose rich vocal qualities recall Otis Redding or Sam Cooke. Following release of their first self-titled album in the summer of 1981, the daft Out Come the Freaks reached the disco top 20. The smooth dance sound of 'Tell Me That I'm Dreaming' broke them into the dance top 5 in early 1982. The Was (Not Was) sound could often be mistaken for classic R & B with a dance beat if not for topical and sometimes overtly nutty lyrics. Shattering the imaginary divisions between 'black music' and 'white music', Detroiters David (Weiss; sax, flute, keyboards, vocals) and Don (Fagenson; bass, keyboards, guitar) Was use undated soul and funk as a flexible backdrop for their alternately serious and sarcastic commentary. The historical problem with a lot of dance music has been its rabid dissociation from intellect; more than almost any other group, Was (Not Was) obliterates that gap. The first album's material, while drawing on such familiar sources as Grace Jones and Stevie Wonder, blends in enough humor and cleverness to make virtually every song an original gem, including the disco hits 'Out Come the Freaks' and 'Tell Me That I'm Dreaming' (which includes mutilated found vocals by Ronald Reagan). The remarkable cast of players is a disparate mix of rock and funk. In addition to the welcome sounds of Sweet Pea and Sir Harry, the album was stocked with a wickedly confusing assortment of guest stars. It featured Mitch Ryder, Ozzy Osbourne, Doug Fieger of The Knack -- and most remarkably -- rock hating jazz singer Mel Torme. Ozzy was dragged into the studio to record the vocals for 'Shake Your Head' for which the 'brothers' had originally used Madonna as vocalist. But Don was not convinced that anyone outside of New York would ever hear of her... President Nixon was apparently asked to play piano for '(Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks', but refused. In the USA, for some inexplicable reason the record was issued with side two as side one. Although fans were once again bowled over by the band's irresistible beat and genre-bounding eclecticism, the group proved to be a marketing nightmare -- too rock to be thought of as an urban act, and yet too urban to be thought of as a rock band. To be continued..."