Mon. Oct. 25, 2021

Was (Not Was) – Spy In The House Of Love

This Beat Is Mine! Was (Not Was) – Spy In The House Of Love (Fontana)

I can see how eclectic you are here on Indamixworldwide. Therefore, I’d like to say how I like it as you embrace so many different vibes. Hailing from Detroit, as I stated on my message to you, I shouldn’t surprise you when saying we had Motown and the Techno thing. And also some Neo-Soul vibes. But wait a minute! We also had Was (Not Was), which is probably lesser known to many. And what a band this happened to be as a matter of fact!

People absolutely away from all the conventions and most likely ahead of their time. Differently said, we also had our Punks. They obviously felt good outside the genres when so many nowadays feel like kind of lost without banners. ‘Spy In The House Of Love’, although released almost 10 years after their debut, pretty much illustrates the feeling. It is jazzy but not jazz. Housey but not House. Discoish but not Disco. And that’s what makes it so catchy, even though released almost 30 years ago. Just like ‘Dance Or Die’ which Was (Not Was) singer Sweet Pea Atkinson also happened to be performing on.

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With warm thanks to Detroit, MI-based correspondent, Thomas Denham, for this week’s suggestion…

Gladly welcoming yours to be published next Wednesday. On your marks!

Was (Not Was)… Say wot? Quite a strange name to a certain extend. But the one from the association between David Weiss and Don Fagenson who adopted the David Was and Don Was stage names. With the “Not” coming from a habit which Fagenson‘s son to play with contradicting expressions like “Blue” and “Not Blue” by the time he was beginning to talk. I suppose, although without of course knowing it, he couldn’t have been more prophetic. With Was (Not Was)‘s music being pretty much a blend of Disco (Not Disco), Funk (Not Funk) and Jazz (Not Jazz). If ot ‘Rock (Not Rock)! With this being for much on its originality. But also the fact that famous label ZE Records happened to first sign them in America, and Island for the rest of the world.

A quick look at their origins brings us back to the Detroit, MI. And, by that, illustrates one more time the versatility of the local scene. Even though they moved to Los Angeles, CA soon after their formation. Weiss and Fagenson teamin’ up with vocalists Harry Bowens and Sweet Pea Atkinson. With Donald Ray Mitchell whom Ray Parker, Jr. had discovered, joinin’ them later on.

‘Wheel Me Out’, their debut-single, saw the light back in 1980. With Elizabeth Elkin Weiss, an actress and a radio pioneer but also David‘s mom providing the so to say spoken word performance. And their eponymous album followed the year after, featuring the seminal ‘Out Comes The Freaks’. Meanwhile 1982 saw them producing Sweet Pea Atkinson‘s debut-album, ‘Don’t Walk Away’ featuring the memorable ‘Dance Or Die’.

Was (Not Was) released their second album – ‘Born To Laugh At Tornadoes’ – in 1983. But they would have to wait for another 4 years to score their biggest success. This by the likes of ‘Walk The Dinosaur’ and ‘Spy In The House Of Love’ (with Juliet Roberts among the backing vocalists), although to a slightly lesser extend. Two of the definitive highlights of their ‘What Up, Dog?’ album which hit the streets the following year.

The band released another album – ‘Are You Okay’ – back in 1990. Featuring a memorable cover version of The Temptations’ ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’, it would preceed a long period of silence. Was (Not Was) resurfacing 13 years later with ‘Out Comes The Freaks’ (the album although more of a compilation). And another five years before the release of their fifth (and last) studio album to date, ‘Boo!’, on Rykodisc. The latter including ‘Mr. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More’, co-written some twenty years before or so along with Bob Dylan.

– A native of London Juliet Roberts originally sung as Julie Roberts before slightly changin’ her name. With the first traces bringin’ us back to 1980. And this with a Reagge /Lovers Rock cover version of The Police‘s ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You’. She made her first appearance in the British Top 10 back in 1983. This when takin’ the centerstage of Funk Masters‘ memorable ‘It’s Over’. And, during the same year, she signed a recording deal with Bluebird that would result in the release of a handful of singles. Then, the year after, in 1984, she began a four-year stint as vocalist for Working Week

A workaholic, Juliet Roberts became one of the most sought after backing vocalists. With the list of the ones she’s collaborated with pretty much telling about her versatility. From Total Contrast (remember ‘Takes A Little Time’) to Loose Ends. But also Was (Not Was) (‘Spy In The House Of Love’), Paul Hardcastle and Sting to name a few.
The end of the 80’s would see her firing things up on the floors. Contributing to L.A. Mix‘s ‘Love Together’ and ‘We Shouldn’t Hold Hands In The Dark’ among others. Then teamin’ up with with D-Mob producer Daniel Kwadwo Addai Poku, better known as Dancin’ Danny D. With the twosome givin’ birth to crackers such as ‘Free Love’, ‘Caught In The Middle’ and ‘I Want You’. These in addition to ‘Never Had A Love Like This Before’ that saw her sharing the bill with Steven Dante, although on a slower vein. Then the memorable ‘I Needin’ U II’ along with David Morales presents The Face in 2000.

Juliet Roberts also happened to collaborate with British Jazzman Courtney Pine OBE. Thus displaying another facet of her talent on the outstanding although sadly underrated ‘Life Goes Around’, from his 1992 released ‘To The Eyes of The Creation’ album…

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