Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Traditionalists...The Devo Story and Show # 188

Devo had their beginnings in 1972 when they formed in Akron, Ohio. The name Devo came from a theory of De-evolution that Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerald Casale, and Bob Lewis came up with while in art school at Kent State University. The idea came after reading a book titled The Beginning was the End: Knowledge Can Be Eaten. This book claimed that mankind did not evolve, but devolved from mutant man eating apes, which in turn was responsible for all the problems and dysfunctions within societies. The group developed this idea first as a joke, but took it more seriously after shootings took place at Kent State University in May of 1970. Devo's original band consisted of Mark Mothersbaugh (vocals), Gerald Casale (bass), Bob Mothersbaugh (lead guitar), Jim Mothersbaugh (drums), Bob Casale would also be another guitarist; Alan Myers would take over as drummer in 1975. Devo played at the Kent State Arts Festival in 1973 and 1974, but for the most part spent the early years of the bands incarnation developing their sound.

After having the support of David Bowie and Iggy Pop from the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 1976, the group would get a record deal after their short film The Truth About De-Evolution was seen (and won an award). David Bowie was originally supposed to produce the bands first album, but Brian Eno ended up producing it. The album would be titled Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! While some did not understand Devo's sound and dismissed it, others loved it making it popular in the underground. The album contained songs such as a robotic sounding cover of Rolling Stones "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and songs such as the punk and new wave fueled "Uncontrollable Urge", and "Gut Feeling/(Slap Your Mammy)". The song "Come Back Jonee" is apparently about president John F. Kennedy, and the song "Too Much Paranoia's" actually contains phrases form 1970's Burger King commercials. Other interesting songs include "Mongoloid", and "Jocko Homo". The album definitely was unlike anything out at the the time. It was a mix of what some would call new wave or post punk, punk, and rock. The band used synthesized electronic instruments as well; Devo also released the Be Stiff EP which was self produced in 1977, it contained songs that could be found on the band first album, but were re-recorded.

Devo would crack the mainstream charts in 1979 with their album Duty Now For the Future. The album further developed their synthesized pop sounds from their first album as well as containing a cover of the song "Secret Agent Man'. The album also contained songs such as "Devo Corporate Anthem" (which showed off their earlier Devo theories) and "Clock Out" (a drum based, more rock oriented song). In 1980, The band released Freedom of Choice. The album would be their most successful album, it contained the hit single "Whip it!". The song would climb to #3 on the singles charts in Canada, #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, and #8 in the UK. The song is also apparently based on a riff in the song "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison. The album itself reached as high as #22 on the Pop Album charts in the US. The album also contained the song "Girl U Want" that has been covered by numerous bands, including Soundgarden.

In 1981, New Traditionalists was released. The album was a perfect mix of rock oriented Devo, and synthesized pop Devo (it in fact contained more synthesized pop than any other Devo album). The album had some minor hits, but the bands popularity would fall to cult status. Some of the albums interesting songs included "Through Being Cool" which was a synthesized, funk oriented track which describes Devo in perfect lyrical sense, "Jerkin' Back N' Forth", "Beautiful World", and "Love Without Anger".

Devo were also known for their futuristic stage uniforms. Some of their outfits included yellow nuclear plastic protection suits, wearing plastic hair dos, and flower pot hats. During the New Traditionalists tour the band performed on treadmills while being surrounded in Greek Roman structures. Mark Mothersbaugh also created an alter ego called Booji Boy, which consisted of a strange baby looking mask. The character was used various times through out Devo's career and is supposed to represent the way in which culture was infantile in American societies. Devo also used to open their shows disguised as a band called Dove, The Band of Love. the band was actually Devo disguised as a Christian rock band. They would perform in suits with old fashioned green accountant visors.

The band is also known for their music videos. The "Whip It!" music video was a popular video in the early days of MTV. The group has made numerous creative music videos and videos pertaining to the band. The band has released several promotional videos such as the mockumentary The Men Who Make the Music and the previously mentioned The complete Truth About De-Evolution. Mark Mothersbaugh would be involved in TV and movie soundtracks after Devo, and Gerry Casale would direct TV commercials and music videos such as Foo Fighters "I'll Stick Around", and Soundgarden's "Blow Up the Outside World".

Devo's last full length album, Smooth Noodle Maps would come in 1990. The band has released numerous compilations and a boxed set in 2000 titled Pioneers that Got Scalped. The set was a collection of B-sides and rare Devo songs, serving like an anthology. Also in 2000, Devo released a double CD set of demos, alternate and unreleased versions of Devo songs titled Recombo DNA; It was a limited release of 5000 copies. In 2001, Devo formed a side project called the Wipeouters. They released an album of surf rock oriented music. In 2006, Devo 2.0. was released. It was a group of kids singing and recording versions of Devo songs for Disney. Gerry Casale also formed Jihad & The Evil Doers. Devo has reformed for numerous live shows and tours; In 1996 they played Lollapalooza, finding a new audience. The band also is also apparently making a documentary about the early days of the band, rumoured to be titled The Beginning of the End. It is to contain new music from the band. In 2007, the band released the single "Watch Us Work It" which was also used for a Dell TV commercial. They are also supposed to be currently working on a new albums worth of material. Devo is a band that developed a simple style of pop, New Wave-synthesized music by stripping music down to its essentials using not only guitar and traditional instruments, but also synthesizers, keyboards, and all sorts of electronic sounding instruments. The music also contained elements of rock too, but also strong messages. Devo are one of the most interesting and influential bands to come out during the late 70's and the 80's.

Also CJAM is still taking votes for the Jammies until April 4th, 2008. Visit CJAM's site to vote for your favourite shows.

Play List:

1. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Walking on the Water
2. The Cure - I'm Cold (Demo)
3. Public Image Limited - Public Image
4. Diodes - Shapes of Things to Come
5. Young Canadians - Where Are You
6. Gang of Four - Natural's Not In
7. Teenage Head - Picture My Face
8. Bureaucrats - She's an American
9. Animal Kingdom - Tension
10. Devo - It Takes a Worried Man
11. Devo - Beautiful World
12. Devo - Watch Us Work It
13. The Wipeouters - Luna Goona Park
14. XTC - Towers of London
15. XTC - Respectable Street
16. Roxy Music - Mother of Pearl
17. Talking Heads - Crosseyed and Painless
18. Young Rival - Don't Make a Sound
19. Young Rival - Ghost in the Park (Demo)
20. The Pack A.D - Gold Rush
21. Dirtbombs- Indivisible
22. Sloan - People Think They Know Me
23. Police - Nothing Achieving
24. Police - Dead End Job
25. Wire - Feeling Called Love

Devo Videos:

Satisfaction (SNL)
Mongoloid (French TV 1978)
Devo - Friday's 1980 (Whip it! & Uncontrollable Urge)
I Saw Jesus & Through Being Cool (Live Friday's 1980)
Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy Down (Live 1980)
Jerkin' Back N' Forth
Jocko Homo (Original Version)
Through Being Cool (Video)
Whip It! (Video)
Girl U Want (Video)

Beautiful World (Video)

That's Good (Video)

Devo as Dove - It Takes a Worried Man

Watch Us Work It


thelains said...

so, I have been reading you post for a bit...well since I met you back in Cali...and you have a plethora of knowledge el Guapo...
Truly, these are quite interesting were, when, or why do you know all this information?

Dave said...

I get most of my information from books, and magazines i've read; Also the internet. I just like to write about band histories. I've never been to Cali...

aniz.8 said...