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Conceptually, this is the year's best record. Wideeyed rocker Marshall Crenshaw singing « Feelings. » Black-magic metal man Ozzy Osbourne declaring, « You can't sue Buddha for libel/You can't rewrite the Bible. » Former Detroit Wheel Mitch Ryder hollering, « Where the hell are my shoes? » Yes, you expect conceptual brilliance from Was (Not Was), the Detroit duo whose eponymous 1981 debut LP was a lively fusion of jokey lyrics and hard-edged white-boy funk, and Born to Laugh at Tornadoes doesn't disappoint. This time out, « brothers » Don and David Was have supplied sassy, stunning music for their wacked-out words, resulting in songs whose cleverness is outdone only by their danceability.

Throughout Born to Laugh at Tornadoes, the Was Bros. employ nine different lead vocalists and recharge a host of enervated music forms (cocktail jazz, Anglo rap, cheesy pop) with sheer wit and brainy energy. Take, for example, their reclamation of former Knack singer Doug Fieger, whose adenoidal whine fits the sardonic « Betrayal » like a cheap suit. Mel Torme's delicate rendering of the strangulation saga « Zaz Turned Blue » makes you appreciate his artistry even as you're laughing at the chorus: « Zaz turned blue/What were we supposed to do/When Zaz turned blue? » Only Ozzy Osbourne's rapped litany of impossibilities on « Shake Your Head » doesn't quite cut it.

« Professor Night, » the tale of a bad-news bar hopper, and « (Return to the Valley of) Out Come the Freaks » are sung with appropriate brio by Harry Bowens, a vocal arranger for the O'Jays. But no one can top original Was (Not Was) vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson, who rasps his way through « Knocked Down, » an AOR-meets-R&B sizzler that features the best horns heard on a rock record in ages.

Maybe only dyed-in-the-weird listeners will cotton to the oddities of « The Party Broke Up, » as Wayne Kramer's thrashing guitar ducks over and under David Was' silky pseudoparty chatter: « That flashing tie was a riot!/And what was that other/Remark that you made?/Oh, yes, you're unemployed. » All told, Born to Laugh at Tornadoes is a superb example of what smart rock & roll can be: tuneful, toe tapping, refreshingly irreverent. In these days of the British invasion, it's nice to remember that Americans can do things, too.



01 • Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball) • 3:05
Written by Don Was & David Was

02 • Bow Wow Wow Wow •  3:08 
Written by Thomas Brzezina
Featuring Lead Vocals by Mitch Ryder        

03 • Betrayal • 3:04
Written by Don Was & David Was
Featuring Lead Vocals by Doug Fieger

04 • Shake Your Head (Let's Go To Bed) • 3:54 
Written by Don Was, David Was, Jarvis Stroud
Featuring Lead Vocals by Ozzy Ozbourne 

05 • Man vs. The Empire Brain Building • 4:01
Written by Don Was & David Was

06 • (Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks • 4:21
Written by Don Was & David Was

07 • Professor Night • 4:09
Don Was, David Was, Felix Morris

08 • The Party Broke Up • 2:12
Written by Don Was & David Was

09 • Smile • 3:12
Written by Don Was & David Was
Featuring Lead Vocals by Doug Fieger

10 • Zaz Turned Blue • 4:17
Written by Don Was & David Was
Featuring Lead Vocals by Mel Torme


11 • Shake Your Head (Let's Go To Bed) Alternative Version • 3:45 
Written by Don Was, David Was, Jarvis Stroud
Featuring Lead Vocals by Kim Basinger & Ozzy Ozbourne 
ReMix by Steve « Silk » Hurlet 1992 

12 • Shake Your Head (Let's Go To Bed) Alternative ReMix • 5:30 
Written by Don Was, David Was, Jarvis Stroud
Featuring Lead Vocals by Kim Basinger & Ozzy Ozbourne 
ReMix by Steve « Silk » Hurlet 1992


13 • Read My Leaps Single Edit • 2:49 
Written by Don Was, David Was

14 • Read My Leaps Recession ReMix • 5:43 
Written by Don Was, David Was 15 • Read My Leaps Evolution ReMix • 5:02 
Written by Don Was, David Was


Published by Los Was Cosmipolitanos ASCAP
Produced in Detroit by Don St. Was, David St. Was and Jack Tann for John Lewis Productions
November 1982 /June 1983
Michael Zilkha Executive Producer

Recorded at Sound Suite Recording Studios
Don Was • Recording Zengineer
Assisted by Michael Brown & Warren D. Woods Jr.
All songs mixed with nerves of steel by David Thoener at Record plant, NYC except
« Shake your Head », « Man Vs. The empire Brain Building » & « The Party Broke Up » 
mixed by the Detroit Wasmopolitan Mixing squad : Duane Bradley, Ken Collier & Don Was at
Sound Suite, Detroit. Mr.Horton’s Drums engineered by Michael Brauer at Media Sound, NYC.
Originaly Mastered by Greg Fukginiti at Artisan Sound Recordets, LA.
Production Coordinator/ NYC Debbie Caponetta

Additional Overdub :
Media Sound. NYC
Engineers : Michael Brauer, Lincoln Clapp, Greogory Mann
Assistants : Michael Christopher, Mark Cobrin,
Thanks to Susan Planer, Suzanne Buckley, Hank Meyer & Karen White

Record Plant, NYC
Engineers : David Thoener, Jon Mathias 

Assistants : Tom Swift, Bob Kinkel, Jim Ball, Carol Cafierio
Thanks to Mich Plotkin & Randi Greenstein

39 th St. Music Studio, NYC
Engineers : Steven Guardigli & Jerry Thichaya
Assistants : Gretchen Williamson
Thanks to Geoff Ingalls

Criteria, Miami
Engineers : Mike Fuller
Thanks to Marcia Latta

Sigma, NYC
Engineers :Jay Mark
Assistants :Melanie West
Thanks to Sharon Steinbach

Gnome, Detroit
Engineers : Bruce Nazarin

People who we’d give busfare to-even if it were our last quarter :
David Geffen, Ed Rosenblatt & Co., Jeff Ayeroff, Warner Bros. Creative Services,
Junie Morisson, Bill Platt, Stone Travel, Anthony and Nicolas Was, 
The Warner Was Bros. Legal defense Committee : Fred Ansis, Esq.. Chairman. 
The ZE Liberation Front : Andrew Fuhrmann, Debbie Caponetta, Susan Schmidt, 
Lionel Conway, Madonna & Jellybean Benitez.

People who we’d rescue from path of an ancoming bus – at peril to our own lives :
Michael Zilkha, Danny Heaps & Carole Childs, 
Bass clef tones on this album are dedicated to thememory of James Jamerson, Motown immortal

Original Sound Recording Made by ZE Records © 1983 Distributed by Geffen Records.
This Compilation Selected & Produced by Michel Esteban
P & © 2009 ZE Records Mundo Ltda


CAROL HALL • Background vocals

KATHY KOSINS  • Background vocals

DAVID McMURRAY • Soprano and Tenor saxophone, background vocals

LUIS RESTO • Oberheim OBXA, acoustic piano, organ, Moog, vocorder, background vocals, Moog bass, synthetic trumpet, Emulator

DAVID WAS • Background vocals, flute, lead vocals, trumpet, Korg organ, vibes,harmonica

DON WAS • Clavinet, Oberheim OBSX, Oberheim OBXA, Linn drums, bass, Emulator, Simmons drums, lead vocals, Emulator horns, cello, tympani, background vocals, Moog bass, sea bell, bass drums, rhythm guitar, Oberheim bells, recording zengineer, mixing

Martin Alsop • Violin

Sweet Pea Atkinson • Lead vocal, background vocals

Red Banner • Bass

Chris Blackwell • Vocals
Kim Basinger • Vocals

Puppet Blum • Background vocals

Susan Borey • Background vocals

Harry Bowens • Background vocals, lead vocals

Duane Bradley • Foot choir

Pam Brown • Background vocals

Rick Cioffi • Background vocals

Jervony Collier • Bass

Nikki Corvette • Background vocals

Marshall Crenshaw • Organ and vocal, lead guitar

Michael Edwards • Foot choir

Chris Ewen • Background vocals

Felix and Jarvis • Vocals

Doug Fieger • Lead vocals, background vocals
on 3 & 9
Larry Fratangelo • Percussion

Professor Goss • Background vocals

Ada Griffin • Vocals

Lynn Halper • Background vocals

Yogi Horton • Drums

Randy Jacobs • Guitar, background vocals, bass, guitar, foot choir

Jill B. Jaffe • Viola

Peter James • Ohh wah oohs

Lori Jeri • Ohh wah oohs 

Anthony Kaczynski • Background vocals

Wayne Kramer • Guitar

Bob Kulick • Power chord guitar

Beverley Lauridsen • Cello

Valerie Ledbetter • Background vocals

Jay Leonhart • Bass

Joe LoDuca • Guitar

Branford Marsalis • Sax solo

Donna Ray Mitchel • Background vocals

Reggie Mocambo • Simmons drums

Felix Morris • Moog bass, bass

Bruce Nazarian • Guitar, overdub engineer

Mark J. Norton • Background vocals

Ozzy Osbourne • Lead vocals on 4
Roscoe Paradise • Guitar

Marvin "Hannibal" Petersen • Trumpet

Carol Poole-Gross • Violin

Larry Provost • Foot choir

Christine Reeves • Foot choir

Mike Renzi • Piano, arranger and conductor

Paul Riser • String and horn arrangements

John Robie • Prophet 5, Moog

Mitch Ryder • Lead vocals
on 2
John Sinclair • Background vocals

Mike Smith • Simmons toms

Tom Swift • Bavarian cheese cymbal

Fred Todd • Background vocals

Mel Torme • Lead vocals
on 10
Analisa Trajano • Oberheim bells

Vinnie Vincent • Lead guitar

Evelyn Werner • Foot choir

Fred Zarr • Acoustic piano, hate synthesizer

Lamont Zodiac • Background vocals

Michael Zilkha • Executive producer

David Thoener • Mixing, overdub engineer

Duane Bradley • Mixing
Ken Collier • Mixing 

Michael Brauer • Engineer, overdub engineer

Lincoln Clapp • Overdub engineer

Gregory Mann • Overdub engineer

Jon Mathias • Overdub engineer

Steve Guardigli • Overdub engineer

Jerry Thichaya • Overdub engineer

Mike Fuller • Overdub engineer

Jay Mark • O verdub engineer

Marshall Crenshaw appears courtesy of Warner Bros.Records
Felix and Jarvis appears courtesy of Quality Records
Ozzy Osbourne appears courtesy of CBS and Jet Records
Anthony Kaczynski, Mike Smith and Chris Ewen appears courtesy Metro-America Records
Sweet Pea Atkinson & Chris Blackwell appears courtesy of Island records
Brandbord Marsalis appears courtesy Sunrise Records


Album Cover Design by Jeri Mc Manus
Front Cover Illustration by Don Chapman after Caompton’s
Back Cover photo Larry Williams
Liner Photo by Vickie Johnson—Was
Prologue by Johnny « The Wolf » Goethe

Boobytraps abound on Born To Laugh At Tornadoes. Funk, pop and jazz get rolled into a single album, pinned together only by the top-notch production of the would-be brothers Was. Although the two albums are dissimilar in many ways, this always reminds me of Godley & Creme’s Snack Attack, as both share a smartalecky wit and irreproachable pop sensibilities. However, where the 10cc refugees tried to go it alone, Was (Not Was) rolls out an illimitable red carpet for an army of accomplices. The revolving cast of vocalists alone would make the album eclectic, but Was (Not Was) are out to reinvent themselves with each song. Are they the intelligent R&B band of “Knocked Down, Made Small,” the cute pop band of “Smile,” the arty absurdists of “Man Vs. The Empire Brain Building?” A: All of the above. Only in the warped world of Was (Not Was) can Mel Torme (whose straight reading of “Zaz Turned Blue” is hilarious) out-cool Ozzy Osbourne (shackled here with the synthetic “Shake Your Head”). In fact, I don’t even know what Ozzy’s doing on here; maybe they had a compromising photo of him reading The National Review. Toss in a welcome reprise of the irresistible “(Return to the Valley of) Out Come The Freaks,” and Born To Laugh At Tornadoes is literally a whirling blender of fun. The prologue on the back cover between a poet and a clown seems to set the album’s tone: there’s a place for poetry and entertainment in the world. There’s certainly a place in my collection for an album this consistently eye-opening and entertaining. Unencumbered by image, freed from preconceived notions of what constitutes pop, Was (Not Was) released one of 1983’s real sleepers with this record. In my book, this easily outlaps The Golden Palominos experiment.

Johnny "The Wolf" Goethe. 1983

Track List
  • 1
    Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball)
  • 2
    Bow Wow Wow Wow
  • 3
  • 4
    Shake Your Head (Let's Go To Bed)
  • 5
    Man VS The Empire Brain Building
  • 6
    (Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks
  • 7
    Professor Night
  • 8
    The Party Broke Up
  • 9
  • 10
    Zaz Turned Blue
  • 11
    Shake Your Head (Let's Go To Bed) - Alternative Version
  • 12
    Shake Your Head (Let's Go To Bed) - Alternative Remix
  • 13
    Read My Leaps - Single Edit
  • 14
    Read My Leaps - Recession ReMix
  • 15
    Read My Leaps - Evolution ReMix

Discography Japan Mini LP