Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Spy in the House of Love" by Was(Not Was)

Song#:  3663
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  16
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Funk

Pop Bits:  This group was formed in Detroit, Michigan, by childhood friends Don Fagenson and David Weiss. Needing a name for their collaboration, they came up with Was (Not Was) based the way Fagenson's young son would say certain things. The pair then adapted stage names based on the group name and became Don Was and David Was. Their first recording, the song "Wheel Me Out," got picked up be ZE Records and in 1980 it reached the Dance chart at #34. That result was good enough for the group to work up a self-titled debut album that came out in '81. One track, "Out Come the Freaks," got to #16 Dance while "Tell Me I'm Dreaming" would get to #3 Dance and #68 R&B. Their odd blend of genres along with beat poetry, political commentary, and rap brought attention to the group. Their second LP, '83's Born to Laugh at Tornadoes, gained them critical favor and became their first to chart at #134. Although it failed to spawn a charting single, the album became known for its unexpected guests including Ozzy Osbourne, Marshall Crenshaw, Mitch Ryder, Doug Fieger from The Knack, and crooner Mel Tormé. After a break that had them moving over to Chrysalis Records, they issued out the '87 single "Spy in the House of Love" in the UK and a few other countries. It was only able to reach #51 in the UK, but a second single did much better and that prompted the label to push for a new album and get the US involved. The group prepped their third effort What Up, Dog? and "Spy in the House of Love" was pushed out in the US later in '88. It caught on big time in clubs and made it to #1 on the Dance chart. That along with video support from MTV helped the song cross over to Pop where it made the Top 20. It also got to #77 at R&B. It was a solid start for the group, but their next single would take them even further.

ReduxReview:  I didn't really get into Was (Not Was) until later on, but I did latch on to this single. It was a mysteriously groovy tune with terrific production and a hooky chorus. It really should have made the Top 10. Years later, I happened upon the song "Zaz Turned Blue," which was on Born to Laugh at Tornadoes and was sung by Mel Tormé. It was an odd, somewhat morbid tune done in an old pop standards style and I though it was so cool. It was then that I went back and listed to the group. Born is their most interesting album and my fave, but What Up, Dog? is probably their most consistent and fun. Both are worth seeking out.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  If the name Don Was sounds familiar, it should. While helping head up Was (Not Was), he also branched out to working for other artists, mainly as a producer. It was his work with two artists in 1989 that really took his career to the next level. He would produce a pair of comeback albums that helped each artist reach new career highs. First, he worked with Bonnie Raitt on Nick of Time. That LP would hit #1 and go on to win three Grammy awards including Album of the Year. It was the first of several LPs Was would produce for Raitt. Then he produced The B-52's Cosmic Thing, which featured the two biggest hits of their career, "Love Shack" and "Roam." Both singles would reach #3 and go gold. The album would get to #4 and sell over four million copies. After those two successes, Was became an in-demand producer. He would go on to work with artists like the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Willie Nelson, John Mayer, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Bob Seger, and many others. Along the way he would win five Grammys including one for Producer of the Year in 1994.


1 comment:

  1. A truly fantastic song, that I still enjoy today. Sadly, if most people remember this group at all, it's for that (soon to be reviewed) horrible dinosaur song.