Was (Not Was) will trip through its past early next year with the Feb. 23 release of "Pick of the Litter (1980-2010)," a 19-song compilation which commemorates the 30th anniversary of the inventively warped dance/rock/soul/funk/jazz group's recording career.
"...Litter" spans the entire Was (Not Was) canon, from the 12-inch version of its firs single, "Wheel Me Out," to a pair of songs ("Semi-Interesting Week" and "From the Head to the Heart") from 2008's "Boo!" The set also includes the group's two Top 20 hits -- 1988's "Spy in the House of Love" and 1989's "Walk the Dinosaur" -- as well as an improvised live rehearsal take of "Hello Operator...I Mean Dad...I Can't Even Remember Who I Am;" the Steve "Silk" Hurley remix of "Shake Your Head" with Ozzy Osbourne and Kim Basinger; the single edit of the 1990 cover of the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone;" and collaborations with Leonard Cohen ("Elvis' Rolls Royce") and Mel Torme ("Zaz Turned Blue").
Don Was (ne Fagenson) and David Was (ne Weiss), who founded the group during the late '70s in their native Detroit (and subsequently relocated to Los Angeles), tell Billboard.com that the idea of a compilation "has been kicking around for as long as we can remember" and was even considered when Was (Not Was) signed with Shout! Factory for "Boo!" Don Was took the lead in choosing the material, saying that "I just picked the best ones, y'know? It was fun. I didn't expect it to be fun, but I remember every session, and certain things I thought were goofy I remember why we did it that way."
David Was recalls that the group's creative aim was, and continues to be, "to figure out what unlikely things could you put over a dance beat and still motivate people to move around and not freak 'em out. Whatever phantasmagoria or soloing or crazy words or whatever go in front of that beat, as long it's contemporary you can still make cool records. I still think that's a worthy ideal."
Don Was, meanwhile, feels that "...Litter" confirms that "there was a reason for us to exist. And mainly we had fun making all those records. It was never pull-your-hair-out labor. It was all laughs."
David Was says he hopes "...Litter's" release will "stir the waters enough to have an excuse to put out another record at some point," though nothing firm is planned at this point. But his partner concurs. "I think we just keep going," says Don Was, who's currently serving as a "production consultant" for Stone Temple Pilots next album and producing tracks for the Rolling Stones' upcoming "Exile on Main Street" reissue as well as albums by singers Sharon Little and Elizabeth Cool. "I anticipate doing this 'til we drop."
The track listing for Was (Not Was)'s "Pick of the Litter (1980-2010)" includes:
"Wheel Me Out"
"Out Come the Freaks"
"Tell Me What I'm Dreaming"
"The Sky's Ablaze"
"Should I Wait"
"Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball)"
"Walk the Dinosaur"
"Spy in the House of Love" (7-inch version)
"Dad I'm in Jail"
"Somewhere in America There's a Street Named After My Dad"
"Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (promo edit single)
"I Feel Better Than James Brown"
"I Blew Up the United States"
"From the Head to the Heart"
"Hello Operator . . . I Mean Dad . . .I Can't Even Remember Who I Am" (live rehearsal version)
"Shake Your Head" (Steve "Silk" Hurley remix featuring Kim Basinger and Ozzy Osbourne)
"Elvis' Rolls Royce" (featuring Leonard Cohen)
"Zaz Turned Blue" (featuring Mel Torme)