Was (Not Was) “Born to Laugh at Tornadoes”

Posted 17 Jan 2012 in 80s, Albums of 1983, Albums of the 80s, Funk, Funk Rock


Today’s Cool album of the Day (#608 in the Series) is Was (Not Was), Born to Laugh at Tornadoes. 

You can look for years and years and all kinds of music and you’d be hard-pressed to find a band and a sound more interesting than that of Was (Not Was.) They brought a combination of so many different things that their uniqueness may never be topped.

What makes these guys interesting and unique? Well, how about the fact that they’re a hard-funk band led by two white Jewish guys from Detroit. There’s a great start. The unbelievably high level of talent of the two bandleaders Don Was and David Was was just fantastic. Don Was has gone well beyond this act as he’s now a “producer of the stars.”  He’s produced for such megastars like Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Paul Westerberg and on and on and on.

They were also known for having just a killer sense of humor and the lyrics and subject lines of their songs, heck this album is entitled “Born to Laugh at Tornadoes” first start. And also featured songs with titles such as “Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball)” and “Man vs. the Empire Brain Building.”

Besides all that coolness, the most interesting thing still may be incredible cross-section of musicians that Was (Not Was) were able to recruit to play on their albums. This album alone has Mel Torme, Ozzy Osbourne, Marshall Crenshaw, Vinnie Vincent, Mitch Ryder  and Doug Frieger of The Knack. Yet the great production work of Don was always turned this melting pot into one of the tightest hottest funkiest sounds that ever spot on my turntables.

Was (Not Was) doesn’t do much as a band any longer, they did put out an album a few years ago and the tour pops up here and there, as Don this is pretty much a producer at this point. He continues to expand into even more circles as I last saw him as band director for the Americana Music Association Awards in late 2011.

You can still find most of their albums but this one and their eponymous debut can be hard to find except for download services, but at least you can still hear them.

Yes, they did bring in a number of cool guest vocalists, but I really need to mention the band’s to “regular” vocalists as well. They would be Sir Harry Bowens and Sweet Pea Atkinson.  The band used to make regular appearances on the old NBC Night Music TV show.  You might remember it, it was hosted by David Sanborn. See the video below of them running throw a hot version of “I Can’t Turn You Loose.” Killer stuff.

— Larry Carta

Track listing

All tracks composed by David Was and Don Was

  1. “Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball)” – 3:07
  2. “Bow Wow Wow Wow” – 3:10
  3. “Betrayal” – 3:06
  4. “Shake Your Head (Let’s Go to Bed)” – 3:55
  5. “Man vs. the Empire Brain Building” – 4:02
  6. “(Return to The Valley of) Out Come the Freaks” – 4:22
  7. “Professor Night” – 4:10
  8. “The Party Broke Up” – 2:14
  9. “Smile” – 3:15
  10. “Zaz Turned Blue” – 4:19


  • Marshall Crenshaw – organ, guitar, vocals
  • Ozzy Osbourne – vocals
  • Mitch Ryder – vocals
  • Vinnie Vincent – guitar
  • Joseph LoDuca – guitar
  • Mel Tormé – piano, vocals
  • Carol Hall – vocals
  • Sweet Pea Atkinson – vocals
  • Wayne Kramer – guitar
  • Marin Alsop – violin
  • Chris Blackwell – vocals
  • Sir Harry Bowens – vocals
  • Jervonny Collier – bass
  • Michael Edwards – vocals
  • Doug Fieger – vocals
  • Yogi Horton – drums
  • Bob Kulick – guitar
  • Jay Leonhart – bass
  • David McMurray – soprano & tenor saxophone
  • Bruce Nazarian – guitar
  • Luis Resto – organ, synthesizer, vocorder
  • Paul Riser – horn & string arrangements
  • John Robie – synthesizer
  • John Sinclair – background vocals
  • David Was – keyboards, saxophone, vocals
  • Don Was – synthesizer, bass, vocals
  • Randy Jacobs – bass, guitar, background vocals
  • Lawrence Fratangelo – Percussion


Give a listen to some of the album below.

Posted by Larry Carta

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