Vegas wedding vows, spies and dinosaurs made Michigan rockstar
David Weiss (stage name: David Was) co-founded the ’80s rock band Was (Not Was) which released four top 10 singles in the world. Weiss agreed to meet me for an interview and chose a Hollywood hotspot: the Brentwood Country Mart, a small shopping village near Santa Monica frequented by movie stars such as Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Dern.
“Me and an old-school pal Don were lucky enough to stick around long enough to have a big, dough-rich CD-era record company, sign us up and throw good after bad money,” joked. Weiss. One of his hits, the dance tune Walk the Dinosaur, has been featured in a number of Hollywood movies, including the recast of Queen Latifa in Ice Age 3. But what would her UofM literature professor think of Weiss writing a dinosaur song with the lyrics “Open the Door, get on the ground, everyone walks the dinosaur? ” Weiss said he was invited when his little boy asked him a vexatious evolution-related question. “I then scanned the alphabet for something that rhymes with dinosaur,” he revealed. “It teaches you that songwriting isn’t poetry – it’s optional content commerce. You can either say “love the world” or “kill your parents” as long as it is a pleasant and changeable phrase. Don’t bother us: go to the choir.
Weiss also confessed to the genesis of another Was hit (Not Was).
“‘Spy in the House of Love’ was the title of a 1954 short story by Anais Nin – one of the books I kept in the house to impress any girls who might have come.”
Weiss witnessed the inspiration for his song Wedding Vows in Vegas – a ballad his group recorded with Frank Sinatra Jr. “One evening I saw a wedding of five people walk into the buffet at the Rio hotel and I started taking notes. They had their wedding buffet dinner! I mean you can buy a second-rate steak in Vegas for $ 6 and it comes with a dog and a two-car garage, ”Weiss said with a laugh. From what he saw write the lyrics: “Vegas wedding vows aren’t meant to last for ages… Plastic flowers in her hair; don’t they make a great pair? His wife launches Minute Rice; her tears are false.
Sinatra Jr. succinctly sang the song, which Weiss described as a “living room singer song.” “He didn’t cheat the sadness of the song. He walked in and told us he liked it. Like Henry Mancini, he said, “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage,” Weiss said. “He was both a gentleman and a tragic figure because he was in charge of the worst name in history – Frank Sinatra Junior – so he lived in the trenches of second level showbiz.”
It was a high profile late night appearance, however, when Sinatra Jr. appeared with Was (Not Was) to perform Wedding Vows in Vegas on the David Letterman Show.
Weiss also nabbed crooner Mel Torme’s number at the Hollywood Bowl and ended up writing and recording the song Zaz Turned Blue, a departure for Torme. “Mel came in like a sniper, took two takes and got out of there.”
Weiss also told me that Bob Dylan turned out to be more of a mercenary than he imagined.
Dylan asked me, ‘You wouldn’t write these songs unless you have an album to make, right?’ This from the most prolific guy of the past 50 years. You would think he woke up and started writing 15 more verses of something. No, he’s like another Hollywood figure Sammy Cahn who wrote both standards as ‘The second time around’… And jokes for Bob Hope. Cahn didn’t write for fun; he wrote when the phone rang.
Making money in the music industry has become a challenge: records sold on the radio have been replaced by songs available through streaming services.
“A song that is streamed is worth a penny on the dollar. Unless you’re Taylor Swift, you’re not broadcasting enough to go down the Mississippi, ”Weiss said, using more of his colorful vernacular. “You have to have huge success just to pay the lighting bill. You don’t buy an island like Marlon Brando.
Weiss went on to write soundtracks for television such as The X Files and Fox NFL Sunday. “The music is absorbed by the image in such a magical way. If you played Chopin and sequence moose farts on the same stage, both would work just fine in some places, ”said Weiss, who insisted that the days of performing Was (Not Was) are over. “We were offered concerts in our drivel which I turned down because the thought of going on an ’80s Caribbean cruise would make me want to step on the board.”
Contact Michael Patrick Shiels at[email protected] His radio show can be found on MiBigShow.com or weekday mornings from 9:00 a.m. on WJIM AM 1240