Side Note: Devo was big on the Church of Sub Genius. To this day I have no idea what the Church is about, and I have never looked it up. But the reason I got the references on MST3K (like in Ring of Terror) was because of Devo and their involvement with the all mighty Bob.
DaDa as comedy religion, basically. And generally not taking anything seriously. There are a lot of Subgenius-themed "bands" out there, and the vast majority of them are Devo knock-offs.
Post by Mighty Jack on Dec 14, 2010 4:53:47 GMT -5
Thanks mums for the info and link, I’ve seen Bob on your avatars so I knew you’d had some familiarity there.
1980: The Year Of Mass Spud Hysteria
Though they first saw life in the 70s, I always think of Devo as a 80s band. In part, because the body of their albums were released throughout the decade, and also because they were among the pioneers who ushered in the age of the music video. Devo had thought, like many of us, that Laserdisc would be the next big thing and filmed shorts in anticipation of exploiting the new format.
I don't think I fully comprehended the changes on the horizon. I was still in a standard AM radio mindset, where anything different and challenging was banished to obscurity. So I was constantly surprised when Devo broke through mainstream barriers.
The band gave a taste of their new album on May 23rd 1980 on TVs Fridays, a late night copycat of SNL. They played Gates of Steel and Girl U Want. I was sure that if Devo were to have a radio hit, it would be the great and catchy Girl (which is probably my all time favorite Devo tune). When that didn’t catch fire a disgruntled me, thought, "Well there you go, proof that radio and the human race don’t know their heads from their asses."
The last song I ever though would get on the radio, what with its sadomasochistic undertones and kind-of Rap-like chorus, was Whip It. Never in a million years. When it hit (peaking at #14), my jaw hit the floor.
Devo on their second appearance on Fridays, performing "Whip It"
I also remember a moment in 1980: I can picture my father wearing a wide smile, telling me that my favorite band was going to be on American Bandstand. I responded, "What, the Beatles re-united?" He chuckled and said; no it’s a band that’s still around. I made a few guesses before I finally threw up my hands… "Well it can’t be Devo, they’d never let Devo within 100 feet of that show" My dad laughed and said, "It’s Devo!"
I couldn't believe it. Even the usually vanilla Bandstand was embracing the spuds (Public Image, Madness and –I believe- X would also pop up on AB).
It's a strange pull. I was desperate for them to have a hit, but I also wanted them to be mine and to stand outside the mainstream. In the end... oh yeah, I was absolutely ecstatic when they charted with Whip It (and later, "Working In A Cole Mine"). That was a great thing in my mind. All the cool people who wouldn’t give a geek the time of day, were dancing to geek music. It was delicious - and ironic, because Devo was always teasing the mass mind-set, the loss of individuality, yet here they were being embraced by the masses. The mutants and spuds had conquered the Earth, if only for a brief wonderful moment.
Jerry Casale on writing Whip It - "The lyrics were written by me as an imitation of Thomas Pynchon's parodies in his book Gravity's Rainbow. He had parodied limericks and poems of kind of all-American, obsessive, cult of personality ideas like Horatio Alger and 'You're #1, there's nobody else like you' kind of poems that were very funny and very clever. I thought, 'I'd like to do one like Thomas Pynchon,' so I wrote down 'Whip It' one night. Mark had recorded some sketches for song ideas in his apartment, and when we'd get together every day to write, rehearse and practice, we would listen to everybody's snippets of ideas. He had this tape with about 8 things on it, and one of them had a drum beat that was very interesting, it became the 'Whip It' drum beat. Then 3 other songs had pieces of what became the 'Whip It' song, except they were in different time signatures and different tempos. I put them all together into one composition. All the parts of the song got rolled into one song. Then we started putting the lyrics over the top of it and liked the idea of how it was working out. We started practicing it every day, until we got it to the point where we really liked it and we thought it was really snappy. Then we recorded it. We didn't like it any better or any less than any of the other songs we were doing, and we had no idea it would become a hit."
Post by Mighty Jack on Dec 15, 2010 2:20:32 GMT -5
A note on the production of Freedom of Choice Given the themes and targets of Devo's message — mankind's de-evolution due to conformity, emotional repression, domination, dehumanisation and toxic waste — and the fact that the robotic, sometimes discordant music was intended to convey this every bit as much as the lyrics and the band's physical image, I ask (producer) Margouleff how this fits smoothly with his R&B influence.
"It was basically in the grooves, in the bottom end," comes the reply. "We set up the grooves for the songs so that the songs were not self-consciously about the top end. If you play the record, you'll hear that the bass, the kick and the rest of the drums are very, very prominent and dry in the mixes, so you feel like you're standing next to the kit. In the case of the drums, I always put the hi-hat on the left because that's where the drummer would hear it from his own perspective, at least if he's right-handed. He's the only one who actually hears the drums in surround and stereo — if you're 10 feet away from the kit, it's mono. So, when you hear the tom-toms move around in a fill or you hear the rhythmic pattern of the hi-hat — whether it's on one of Stevie's (Wonder) records or on Devo's record — you hear it from the point of view of the drummer, and the result is that the whole track is much more tactile, and that the listeners stop viewing it as an object and become subjectively involved in the sound.
"The motion of music is as important as the sound. In other words, I might put a rhythm guitar on one side and then an opposing rhythm on the other side so that the music moves back and forth from left to right, providing a motif energy that's musical. On the other hand, when you do a fill on the tom-toms that moves through the mix from left to right, that motion itself is in time and is musical. The idea, therefore, is to understand that there's motion in music, and to take advantage of that emotive motion to help convey and move the track forward. Even the slightest differences can make a track more powerful — OK, let's play another rhythm guitar track so that there's one on the left and one on the right. Or, if the hi-hat's on the left, let's put an opposing instrument on the right, like a shaker with another rhythm so that the rhythms are in motion. That's another R&B trick."
July 5th 1980 – The band’s highest Billboard charting album at #22
Their appearances on Fridays (and perhaps Bandstand, I’m not sure the month that aired) whet my appetite for the new album. I could tell that this release was going to offer warmth not found on DNFTF. And I recall rushing off to Strawberry Jams on the day of its release. Side Note: Strawberry Jams was the coolest record store in the history of record stores. It was local and smaller than the big chains. But they were the only place in town that carried the obscure, imports and EPs. It was the only place a fellow could pick up a copy of the Classix Nouveux single “Guilty” or find Klaus Nomi on the shelves.
From the first notes of Girl U Want I was in heaven. This was an incredible LP and like always, different from what came before. So far Devo had not repeated them-selves. FOC was the transitional album that would see them shift from New Wave to Synth Pop. It wasn’t as perfect as Are We Not Men - but there really wasn’t a bad tune in the bunch. In addition to Girl and Whip It (with its nice B-side number, “Turn Around”), was the powerful title track, Freedom of Choice (single peaked at 103 on Billboard charts). Freedom is an example of Devo’s literary leanings as the lyrics are inspired by Aesop’s fable “The Dog and the Bone”. Musically, Alan Myers steady, hammer-like drumming gives the tune a rousing pulse. Oh, and speaking of drawing from other sources, That's Pep (which acts as kind of a bookend to Whip It) was inspired by an early 20th century poem by Grace G. Bostwick
Lyrically the band was in a romantic mood. Songs about desire and heartbreak pepper the production. But that’s not to say they’d abandoned themes of De-evolution – the urgent Gates of Steel -for example- addresses mankind being bound by logic, which is undone by their irrational, impulsive, and illogical natures.
With a new record comes another costume change. This one left an indelible mark as everyone had something to say about those Aztec Energy Domes (yeah, the flow pot hats) and any die-hard DEVOtee put in an order and proudly wore them to concerts (I’d even wear mine for a song or two during my own gigs)
With all this radio attention and TV appearances, 1980 was a hell of time to be a beautiful mutant and it got even better for me on August 12th, 1980. That’s when my father and I drove off to Seattle. He was to conduct business and visit family, and I was anxiously awaiting a concert.
A Note on DEV-O Live EP... Issued just after "Whip It" became one of the early '80s' most popular new wave hits, 1981's DEV-O Live was issued by Warner Brothers to cash in on Devo-mania. The six-track EP was recorded live at San Francisco's Warfield Theater on August 16, 1980 -- officially released as a 16-track promo-only release, "Warner Brothers Music Show", Warner edited down the song list and decided to issue it domestically as DEV-O Live. Mixing favorites ("Whip It," "Girl U Want") with rarities ("Be Stiff"), album cuts ("Gates of Steel," "Planet Earth"), and a song reconstructed for the stage ("Freedom of Choice Theme Song"), DEV-O Live shows that the spazzy quintet was a fun live act. Although DEV-O Live went out of print shortly after its release, it turned up again on a British two-fer CD with their debut, Q: Are We Not Men, in 1994, and a much more expanded version (22 tracks) was issued through Rhino Handmade in 1999. – Allmusic
Note: I could have sworn the album came with this poster. But no one mentions it. Perhaps it was all in my imagination and I just bought the poster along with the album?
Post by Mighty Jack on Dec 16, 2010 1:31:19 GMT -5
Devo Live! August 12, 1980 – The Showbox, Seattle
I loved my father dearly. He was a 9 to 5, hardworking man - smart, caring and funny. He didn’t have an artistic bone in his body but he was my biggest fan. He loved seeing my brother and I play live, and he always took an interest in the things I enjoyed. Even strange things like Devo with those silly flowerpots on their heads. So we had a fun trip and he asked me questions and let me ramble on about the band.
Next to Los Angeles, Seattle boasted Devo’s biggest fan base, so I got there early (with a book to entertain me), I was like 5th, 6th in the queue. After conducting his business my dad said he drove by to see how I was getting along and he was astounded to see the line had wrapped around the block. The show sold out and they added another one for later that night!
I remember Devo came around the corner; the Bobs had guitars in hand, and walked in through the front entrance. We cheered and I was jacked. I’d never seen a band just walk out in front and nod at all their fans in line. I could hear rehearsals and sound checks and when they let us in I must have had the biggest assed smile pasted on my face. I was tired, I’d spent the morning in a car, going from the far western part of the State to the far eastern end of it, then about 2/3 hours standing in a line - but that weariness was about to disappear.
Devo was their own warm up act. On this tour they showed all their videos, including a few exclusives (like the death of Booji Boy). When the guys hopped on stage, a couple of jackasses pushed me back. I was ready for a fight, but I couldn’t tell who did it, I wound up on the right hand side of the stage, not up front, but still close. My anger subsided though and the joke was on the A-holes who stole my spot, as during the concert Mark would wipe his brow and throw the towel in the audience, right in my direction. I raised my hand, never thinking it would actually find me. When I felt it fall into place. I quickly pulled it in to my chest. No jackholes were going to take this away from me!
I noted that Alan didn’t play drums behind everyone else, as was the tradition; he was up front, on the left. I had a good view of him and was really impressed watching him play. The drums were strong live; you could feel them in your chest.
The guys had on vests, each emblazoned with a letter. After the first song, the lights when out and all you could see those letters, glowing in the dark, spelling out DEVO. What cheesy good fun. The crowd went wild.
The concert was brilliant, the best I’ve ever seen. It was without a doubt the most fun I’ve had at a show. My dad picked me up after and we went out to eat. I was on an adrenaline rush and went on a mile a minute about very detail. Breathlessly telling him the tale of my newly acquired treasure. When we got to his sisters house (where we were staying) I could hear him on the phone, telling whoever was on the other end that I had a great time and relaying my stories. My father was always happy to see his kids happy.
It was one of the best days of my life.
This was the only picture I could find from the Seattle concert.
Post by Mighty Jack on Dec 17, 2010 5:24:38 GMT -5
Nightflight and later MTV (8/1/81) hit the air and showed music videos, while VJs keep us updated on all the news. At first, these shows/channels didn’t have a lot to chose from in the mainstream. All they could do is turn to the oddballs, the new wave artists who were all about visuals and had plenty of material to offer. It was perfect timing for bands like Devo, the B-52s, Talking Heads, Oingo Boingo, XTC, Gary Numan, Mi-Sex, the Brains, Adam and the Ants etc – radio might have been a tough nut to crack, but TV was desperate for them. And it helped that these arty types liked filming striking and interesting images.
Magazines took a back seat because all of a sudden I had a rich new source for info…. and this one came with sound.
August 1981, peak charting at #23. Devo’s 2nd highest Billboard album (though none of its supporting singles could break past the top 100)
Devo was at a all time high. The previous year they had a hit record, songs on the radio and in 1981 music television was running their vast catalog of video on a steady basis. In addition to that, Working in a Cole Mine, from the Heavy Metal Soundtrack was getting plenty of airplay (though it topped out at #43 on the charts). At this high peak was where I met my first Devo disappointment.
NT wasn’t a horrible album, but it was a flat one. In each of their first 3 releases Devo gave a new fresh spin on their sound, but they stood in place for NT as it sounds a lot like Freedom of Choice.
Check that, it sounds like a collection of castoffs from the FOC sessions.
It starts with the funky Through Being Cool, an okay tune, but not scorching enough for an album opener and I find my attention drifts as it plays. The next track, Jerking Back and Forth fares better, but it’s not a complete killer either. I remember listening to the record for the first time and this feeling of dread washing over me track after track after track. I kept waiting for them to ramp it up and while the songs weren’t terrible (and Going Under and Pity You were both decent), for the most part they were filler, little sparkled. There were no Whip Its or Girl U Wants in sight. On top of that, Devo decided to helm the LP themselves. This was met with less than stellar results. The production was muddy, low key and dry.
It wasn’t until the second to last tune that the album finally struck gold. Beautiful World was the LPs lone gem and one of Devo’s very best songs as well as one of their finest videos. Beautiful World is quintessential Casale (and he was the one who painstakingly scoured through hours of archives to find the clips he wanted for the video), it’s the quintessential Devo message song/video, it exemplifies the theory of De-evolution sharpened in the aftermath of the bloodshed at Kent State. Oddly it’s kind of a sequel to the FOC song, Planet Earth”, Beautiful surpasses that one - the only time New Traditionalists betters its sister album.
Overall the lyrics on the album are strong. The humor, when present, seems darker to me; it’s generally more straight-out serious and maybe a little angry. Many critics offer that in Through Being Cool, that Devo is dissing those who jumped on the “Whip It” bandwagon and wanted to make it clear who they were and what they were about. Enough Said is a full out bitch slap on political leaders.
Musically NT is filled with fair to middling material. While not a failure, it accomplished something I never thought could ever happen. For the first time, Devo kind of bored me.
Notes: The outfits for this release were “Utopian Boyscout Uniforms” and plastic, molded hair modeled after JFKs (and mentioned in a riff during a KTMA episode). The tour was massive, and included a Greek temple motif.
Human Highway, Neil Young’s little seen film that Devo appeared in as workers in a nuclear power plant, has a limited release in 1982. A video for their cover of “It Takes A Worried Man”, from that film, gets some coverage (which includes bookend appearances from Rod and Donut Rooter). The movie featured Mark Motherbaugh’s first foray into film scores.
This link has a commercial to watch beforehand, but you can see the video here (sans the Rooters), NSFW, there’s an F bomb…
Post by Mighty Jack on Dec 18, 2010 3:28:59 GMT -5
Before it got serious, Devo started off as a laugh (Jerry found about a book about brain eating monkey’s, and how this contributed to backward evolution). And when it became a band there was a postmodernist philosophy attached to it. When Mark or Jerry speak of the group, they speak of it in the third person, as if it were a performance art piece created around a fictional band who have come to the planet with a message. So Devo was always more than just a bunch of guys making music, Devo was a concept
With ONID, the concept might have defeated itself. The intent was always to pull further away from guitars and into electronics, but I wonder if Devo shot themselves in the foot. Adhering so faithfully to the idea of Devo, that they sacrificed the quality of the music of Devo. It would have been preferable to have said, “Screw the concept, let’s get a real bass and drum and put some depth and meat on these bones.”
I say this because the production on ONID sounds thin and tinny. The damn programmed drums and synths all have a similar sound, which makes the LP mesh together in one undistinguishable mass.
Despite these flaws, on an individual song-by-song basis, I like this record. Unlike the murky New Traditionalist, Oh No is exciting - it has life and energy.
Devo is now pure synth pop and the effort sounds so bubbly and poppy - and with titles like Time Out For Fun - you might think this was Devo-lite, fluffy and sweet like cotton candy. But the lyrics hide a darkness - with mental illness and unrest a reoccurring theme.
For example: The odd, Big Mess draws inspiration from the Cowboy Kim letters. These Schizophrenic missives where sent to TV game shows, Devo was friends with someone who worked in the mailroom and got their hands on them. I Desire on the other hand sounds like a thousand other urgent songs about a man who’ll do anything for his love. Until you discover that the lyrics were inspired by letters John Hinkley Jr. sent to Jodie Foster – the line between love and madness is thin indeed. I always thought I desire, while robotic, had a pretty melody and I’ve always enjoyed singing along with the track.
Sadly, the mutated stitches are starting to unravel. There were rumblings that Alan Myers was not happy with Devo’s growing reliance on programming/drum machines, as many drummers of electronic bands often become. I agree, while I like to finesse and play around with sounds, Drummers are the heartbeat and even syth bands make a fatal mistake when they replace that heart with a machine. I remember the Cars drummer issuing the same complaints, ironic in a way, the Cars producer Roy Thomas Baker, was the man in the control booth for this record.
MTV is also acting like snippy little girls and for some reason turns on the band, refusing to play their final videos. It was the French fry that did it! In the video for That’s Good, an animated French fry inserts into a donut, which cuts to footage of a woman in the throes of passion. MTV refused to air the video and things got heated. Mark laughs about it today and nails the double standard on the head, when he stated that Madonna could stick a French fry in her ass and they’d have had no problem with it.
Here's that video. I like the song, it has a nice hook and is another I enjoy singing as it plays.
The album was heavily promoted, but it failed to light as great a fire as the previous 2 LPs and peaked at #47 on the US Billboard charts.
One fun thing I’ve failed to mention was that Devo's albums all came with a Club-Devo catalog. It was hand drawn, like the ads on the back of old comic books. This one comes from the Shout LP
Post by Mighty Jack on Dec 21, 2010 2:11:26 GMT -5
In November of 1982, Devo performed on the short lived TV sitcom “Square Pegs” (It might still be on HULU if you want to check it out. Episode titled “Muffy’s Bat Mitzvah” – BTW, Gerald said there was a lot of cocaine and rampant sex going on around the set and a lot of 16/17 year old were hitting on the band. These out of control hiijinx are apparently one of the things that got the show cancelled).
1983 came and went with no new LP, the first time we’d gone a year without an album. News from the group was non-existent - it was like they fell off the Earth. And then all of a sudden in October of 1984, there was Shout, the new Devo release, sitting on shelves. There were no appearances on TV to herald the album and no tour to support it. Devo was quietly fading away.
Strangely, what first comes to mind when I think about the album is the Cincinnati Bengals. I was getting into football card collecting and had just bought a Bengals set from their inaugural season. The designs were odd because the players came from the expansion draft and they were all wearing the uniforms of their previous clubs. I had the cards in plastic sleeves, which I placed on my music stand. I’d look them over like artwork and play the Shout record.
This is the beginning of the end. This would be Alan’s last stand with the band. Saying that he felt “creatively deprived”, the drum master takes his leave after this release. Alan wasn’t the only disgruntled one, fans and critics were none too happy with it, the album failed to chart and Warners dropped them.
Shout does sound like a group with nothing left to say. There’s little new here (other than the Fairlight CMI computer synthesizer’s they used for the first time), and it sounds almost like the work of a Devo knock-off. It’s similar in style to Oh, No! It’s Devo!, with it’s video game synths. But it’s actually a bit fuller, more bass heavy and we get some guitar work from Bob 1. This is the second stab at production for the guys, and I think they do a better job this time out.
I won’t argue that Shout is a great album - the title track is strong, but after that it fades into melodies and lyrics that have been done before and done better. There are good moments in songs like The 4th Dimension (with it’s Day Tripper riff) and I liked the detached alien-like backing vocals throughout, but overall Shout is pleasantly non descript, and I can’t blame those who threw up there hands and gave up.
I can’t blame them, but they should have stuck with it. Because Shout’s second side actually offers up some entertaining material: Puppet Boy and Please Please aren’t going to make anyone forget Jocko Homo or Uncontrollable Urge, but they are solid tracks. The funky Puppet Boy in particular was a hell of a kick, spastically danceable and delivered that old Devo humor, with a defiant Puppet (Booji) Boy piping in his protests.
The spuds from Ohio saved the best for last with one of their trademark classic covers. This time they do Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? The tune opens with noise that hearkens back to Too Much Paranoias and then throbs with a cool fusion of 80s new wave and 60s psychedelic (and inserting a lick inspired by Hendrix’s Third Stone From the Sun). It’s a fitting end (though not truly the end). I discovered these guys performing the brilliant Satisfaction” and finished with them doing Hendrix. And for me, this was the end – at least for now.
A lavish video for "Are U Experienced?" was produced by the band and Ivan Stang of the Church of the SubGenius. Its many highlights include Devo as floating blobs of 'wax' in a lava lamp (a definite '60s image) and Hendrix (played by an impersonator) stepping out of his coffin to play a solo. Despite being one of Devo's most visually impressive (and expensive) videos, it wasn't included on the 2003 DVD-format video retrospective The Complete Truth About De-Evolution (Experience Hendrix wouldn’t allow them to) – Wiki – Oh, and that’s Bob 1’s daughter seen sitting on the couch.
A remastered edition of this album with extra tracks (The B-Sides, Hello Kitty and Growing Pains) was released, but only in Japan in a box set. Grrr.
The band still had some commercial appeal. Here’s a Honda scooter add they filmed
Post by Mighty Jack on Dec 22, 2010 1:47:30 GMT -5
It was a great time, but it was coming to an end. Not just with Devo, but a lot of the bands I discovered and enjoyed since 1978 were either running out of gas or were breaking up. Oingo Boingo peaked with Dead Man’s Party, Billy Idol couldn’t match Rebel Yell. Blondie had gone off on a horrible tangent. The Knack were tapped out after 2 albums, the Cars were done after 4. Gary Numan gave me 3 good LPs while Joe Jackson went Jazz and lost me. Plus a whole lot of the smaller groups like the Brains, The Fabulous Poodles, Mi-Sex and the like were fading away. Only XTC was still going strong and would offer up 2 of my favorite albums from them in the late 80s early 90s (Nonsuch and Oranges and Lemons).
Devo returned (without Alan at the drums) on a smaller label 4 years after Shout. But it was a painful comeback. Disco Dancer was just plain bad and the album Total Devo is considered by most to be the low point of the bands recording career. I didn’t even bother to buy the LP.
A few years after that, I was in a record store with the woman who would soon be my wife. While in the shop I spotted the new album by Devo, Smooth Noodle Maps. I picked it up, looked it over and told her… “I used to really be into these guys”
I think of that now and it makes me a little sad. I’d moved on and was starting a new chapter in my life and Devo was reduced to an afterthought. I guess things always change and you have to accept that (and sadly, Strawberry Jams has since closed its doors). To this day I don’t own Maps. I’ve read some decent reviews for it (as well as bad ones), but the single from the album, Postmodernist Man sounded pretty weak to my ears, so I skipped it. Now it’s out of print and costly to buy – Unless it gets a CD release I can’t say anything about the total quality of the record.
Devo broke up and Mark continued working on scores for film, TV and writing jingles for commercials (admitting he used to sneak in subliminal messages about how bad this sugary soda –etc- they were selling was for your health). In the late 2000s, Casale fired up a new project, Jihad Jerry, which seemed to freak people out (he thought folks would get a laugh out of it, but it didn’t work out that way)
Jihad Jerry, Army Girls Gone Wild (Might not be suitable for work)
Post by Mighty Jack on Dec 23, 2010 0:23:55 GMT -5
Something For Everybody
When I was young I couldn’t wait to be older, and now that I’m older I wish I could go back and be young and revisit those old haunts and relive those times with my friends, the music etc that populated them. About 10 years ago I was in a reminiscent mood and thought I’d see what the Internet had to say about those old musical mutants of mine.
There wasn’t much, until 2007 when they recorded a song for a commercial in Japan. That song was the great Watch Us Work it, and it put us Devotees into a spin. Would they, could they, make a return and record again?
Watch us work it…
It was uncertain for a while; they went back and forth for years. Mark announced the band was regrouping in his studio, later Jerry said that Mark had halted the project and that there would be no new Devo album. Then it was back on, release dates were suggested, set – and then changed again. They leaked a few songs but it was taking so long that I started to wonder if they’d ever get it in gear. Finally, I found out that they’d resigned with Warners, the website was set up for a song study and clever promos were played. It was a hoot (I loved the guy who hosted it), but I think people maybe took it too seriously and a few got upset when the fans choices weren’t followed to the letter. I could care less what they’d release at this point, I just wanted the CD.
Soon the day arrived, a listening party for cats was planned (I watched some of it and laughed like mad at the idea) and after work I sped on down to the local Best Buy and grabbed my copy!
Ahh the beautiful noise they made was like taking a trip back to my past. The production was brilliant, smoother and fuller than they’d done in ages. The synths were there of course, but they didn’t sound as cheap and tinny as with Oh No, It’s Devo. The songs rattled with energy, the pulse pounding album opener Fresh ripped right through me. I wanted to get up and make these creaky old bones of mine dance. Unlike other comeback albums, this wasn’t a tired old band wheezing and sputtering through safe music, and resting on past glories - this music was as bright and relevant as what they’d done with Are We Not Men? and Freedom of Choice. The insightful lyrics, rousing music and slick production were all aces. And the underlying commercialized concept and message tied it all together and added to the experience. SFE was a success on all phases.
Fresh opens the album and it’s one of my all time favorite numbers from the group. Bob Mothersbaugh’s lead guitar adds spice and Joah Freese’s drums are big and bold. The lyrics ( I think) are about advertisers etc, dangling every new bauble in front of consumers like a carrot. And how we go for it like starving dogs, thinking it’ll be the thing that makes our lives perfect. That sums up the concept of the album, as well as the costumes (Plastic faceplates that obliterate the individual. Every person looks the same).
Even though Cameo received the fewest votes among fans, Devo included it… and I’m glad they did (I actually voted for its inclusion). I like quirky weird Devo (Paranoias, Speed Racer) and Cameo is indeed, odd. Sumthin’ features another quirky trait I’ve always enjoyed in their arrangements. Here they do an instrumental handoff during the verses - from synths to a quick strum from the rhythm guitar, which gives way to a lead guitar lick from Bob 1.
Reviews were generally positive (though many critics still don’t get it, judging by comments -that in all seriousness- attacked the commercialism and promotions. They couldn’t see that the marketing campaign, the lyrics rife with catch phrases… it’s all part of the joke, it’s all part of de-evolution’s dark satirical twist). The album was their 3rd highest charter (peaking at #30), the band played on Lettermen etc, there were cool new videos to watch… man it was like old times but with an Internet twist, which offered up more access and entertainment.
That song study allowed us fans to know what we were missing. Personally I’d have replaced No Place Like Home and March with Knock Boots and Watch Us Work It, but those tunes and 2 others are now all available for download (listeners today, can build their perfect Devo record)… so maybe I need to join the modern age and at least buy a basic MP3 player?
Something For Everybody is not only the best Devo album since FOC, but also the best album I’ve heard in several years. The only bummer was that the band was not making a scheduled stop on tour anywhere near me.
I don’t know how long this will last. Will they record again; will I get to see them live a second time? I don’t know, but at least myself and other Devo fans got another taste of greatness from the guys. And I got a chance to experience once again, that electric charge I felt back on October 14th 1978.
Wow, well - when I wrote that first post I hadn’t planned on a 32-year journey down memory lane, but once the ball got rolling…
In the end, it was fun to re-visit and relive it all. And as I close this chapter in my blog, I leave you with this Holiday number from the spud boys, “Merry Something, To You” (featuring art by Mark Mothersbaugh)
Here’s a video showing how the current ones are manufactured.
I had the original sold by Club Devo, with the bands name stamped on top. There was also a limited edition clear plastic version, a silver one the band donned during some concerts - and while I couldn’t find a pic of the rare Green domes worn in an ad for Coke, or the White ones they put on for a performance of “Whip It” on “Star Search”, here’s the White and Purple worn in the video for “Go monkey Go”
I never thought I’d see the day, the Dome on display at Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art
An oldie and goodie, Jerry and Mark explain the Energy Dome...
Updates: I've ordered the remasters for Devo's first 4 albums. 2 have arrived.
New Tradtionalist was a revelation and sounds so much better. The muddiness is gone, there's a new clarity and separation in the instrument. It really made the record a much better listen. Bonus trax were good, but 3 came from sessions from the next LP? Why didn't Warners include the single, Working In A Cole Mine or the B-Side, Hello Kitty?
Duty Now For the Future. This one pretty much sounds as it always has. The remaster accomplished little if anything. The Bonus songs fit, there were B-Sides and a live version of "Secret Agent Man" that kicked butt. I said that drummer Myers sounded so much better live, this is proof. It's also proof of how sterile the album is. The studio version of the song sounds like it was recorded by robots, while the live cut bristles with energy. If they could construct the entire record from live performances I think it would be a major improvement.
Still, listening to SIB (Swelling Itchy Brain). That remains a freaky cool song in the studio or out.
Anyhoo - After all these weeks of electronic music I needed a break. So I've been listening to the rustic Over the Rhine and their LP, "Good Dog, Bad Dog" - which came recommended by Mr. Atari a few years back. Great record and about as opposite from Devo as you can get.
Working on a new blog project, idea was stolen from Mr. A's 80s song list. It's about songs from the 60s. But phew, I should have stopped and asked Mr. Atari advice first. If you think a top albums lists is difficult, imagine trying to distill thousands of tracks from a whole decade into a list of 100. It’s a head scrambler.
I first jotted a quick list and then I did some research, and then I poked around the obscure corners of the musical universe. I complied a list of well over 200 songs I liked (and this was after limiting myself to 15 songs each for Dylan and the Beatles) - I whittled that back, and then back some more… and then I would remember another dozen or more I’d forgotten and start the process all over again.
I've been working on this all week. Hope to have the first 10 posted on Monday.
What follows isn’t a strict list of the greatest songs of the era. There are popular songs I don’t like. And it’s not really a list of my favorites. That would be impossible for 2 reasons – namely Bob and the Beatles. A true list of favorites would consist of 90% of their impressive catalogs alone. So I had to place limits (1 song each). That means a LOT of great numbers are off the charts.
So it’s not a “best of”, or an accurate look at my favorites. Rather it’s a Whitman’s Sampler: An assortment of delights from the era.
Many a song failed to make the final cut (the Mindbender’s “Groovy Kind of Love”, for example was dropped, simply because I prefer the Phil Collins version) but I hope I’ve found some treasures along the way that will be enjoyed. So phone the neighbors and wake the kids...
Unless there’s a Youtube video attached, click on titles to hear the song.
Honorable Mention: Acid Head, the Velvet Illusions I put this on here because these kids were from little Yakima, Washington. A town I lived in during much of my school years. There wasn't much to do in Yakima other than play your guitar. These guys went off to Hollywood, recorded a few singles, didn’t care for the place and returned home, where they broke up.
100. San Francisco Girls, Fever Tree Texas and San Francisco were the epicenters of the psychedelic movement: generally San Fran pushed the folk aspects of the genre while Texas went crunchy garage. Fever Tree is from Texas, but blends a bit of both. This tune shows off their classic style: Starting slow, before building into rockier sections. This was Tree’s one claim to fame and it only reached #91 on Billboard.
99. Red The Signpost, Fifty Foot Hose From San Fran: Electronic experimentation with a jazzy vibe. Nancy Blossom’s the vocalist. The track comes from their album titled “Cauldron”, which is an apt name, the record -like this song- is raw, imperfect, explosive and quite fascinating.
98. Pushing Too Hard, The Seeds Released in 1965, This was the Seeds only national hit. Considered one of the influences on punk rock – Sky Saxon wrote the tune in 15 minutes, in his car as he waited for his girlfriend to finish her grocery shopping. The keyboards remind me of something you’d hear from the Doors.
97. They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Napoleon XIV The 60s had their share of novelty songs. This one give critic Dave March an earache, but I think it’s a hoot and when you’re crazy like me, you enjoy stuff like this. Bit O’ Trivia: Because there were no musical notes or melody, the record could not be copyrighted as a song. Instead, it was copyrighted as a lecture.
96. Get Together, The Youngbloods This folk combo is best known for this classic. whcih calls for brotherhood and deserves to on any song list for the 60s. The Youngblood's also recorded "Darkness, Darkness", which became an anthem for Vietnam soldiers.
95. Painter Man, The Creation Known for their pop experimentation's, guitarist Eddie Phillips was quoted as saying, "Our music is red – with purple flashes." Philips is also credited as the first rocker to play his ax with a violin bow. The band went through a lot of lineup changes and thus, their sound changed a lot. Painter Man was their biggest hit, though they are known for the heavy duty, “Making Time” which is worth checking out as well.
94. Long Years In Space, Neighb’rhood Childr’n Trippy “mushroom folk” song from a San Fran band that started out in Oregon, doing surf music! They are often compared to Jefferson Airplane and the Turtles, they recorded one album, but couldn’t get anyone to back another and they broke up in 1970.
93. Eight Miles High, The Byrds Though I think this and So You Wanna Be A Rock and Roll Starare well written and are highlighted by good musicianship and arrangements - in truth, I don’t care for the Byrds… it’s that damned chirping. Normally I love tight harmonies, but I find the Byrds vocals too practiced and plastic. They are the New Christy Minstrels of Rock and Roll. I never liked their highly praised Dylan covers either, it’s like Bob with the passion sucked out. In fact, what the hell are they even doing on this list! Oh well, aside from their plastic voices, this is a solid tune.
91. The Garden of Earthly Delight, The United States of America The USA released one LP - band members fought over pretty much everything and split within months of the albums release. Leader Joe Byrd stated that.. "...his aesthetic aims for the band and album were to have an avant-garde political/musical rock group with the idea of combining Electronic sound (not electronic music), musical/political radicalism and Performance arte". The album employed specially made electronic devices and wave oscillators etc, all of which went into creating an avant garde sound that is bizarre to say the least. Though an imperfect experiment, it's an album that should be listened too at least once, in ones life. Garden is one of the more normal pieces, Dorothy Moskowitz provides the vocals, which are kind of Debby Harry-like.