I was sitting in the passenger seat of a 1978 Camaro when I was struck dumb by the cross-eyed genius of Devo. My friend Steve Collier and I were on break from our jobs as ushers in a strip mall cineplex when he played me the band’s second album, Duty Now for the Future. We marveled at the dissected, frozen guitar solo of “Blockhead,” and the mongoloid charm of “The Day My Baby Gave me a Surprise.” Even today, it sounds like some of the sickest rock music ever.
Devo are the sausage link between Neil Young, the Butthole Surfers and the Beastie Boys, and no other band could have connected those otherwise disparate superfreaks.
I took the photos above when the band came to Austin and played our legendary Armadillo World Headquarters. They showed movies (actually some of the first modern music videos), they changed outfits five or six times, they had choreographed dance moves. I was wearing a new wave jumpsuit, which must have been my signal to the band that I was ready to join their Mutant Minions. (PB)
Devo was Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerald Casale, Bob Mothersbaugh, Bob Casale, and Alan Myers.
Interviewer: “Ohio’s been described as very industrial and bleak—flat empty planes—“
DEVO: “That’s exactly the atmosphere that allowed DEVO to exist.”
DEVO: “The cities are the major source of information—they are devolving at a faster rate than the rest of the country—but they represent the trend always. They’re ready for it, just like in FEMALE TROUBLE, the sequel to PINK FLAMINGOS, DIVINE says: Who wants to die for Art? And everybody says ME! ME!—in a kind of facetious parody, a kind of enactment of the total nihilism, self-contempt and debasement that people feel….We weren’t stupid enough to be businessmen, and we weren’t pretty enough to be DAVID BOWIE, we’re just following our genetic imperative….”
[Devo’s third album Freedom of Choice is a] distinctively American album. It has a distinctively American title (of course), and distinctively American concerns—which are, in no particular order, sex, sex. sex, and a bit more sex. In many ways, this is the perfect Devo album, for if dealing with humanity as a collection of biological blobs, what better activity with which to illustrate that essential “bio-business” than the tired old two-backed beast, the squelch and sneeze of flesh on flesh and its associated rituals? Freedom of Choice, like much pop music, is a fairly mechanical soundtrack for a fairly mechanical pursuit.
Andy Gill, NME, May 16, 1980
DEVO: “You know how, in a lot of science fiction movies, there’s a guy with a master plan, who has some kind of a breakthrough that will potentially make the living situation for all humanity better. But they always cast him as some kind of evil, sinister fascist, who in his quest to do good is ignoring the rights of the individual. And somebody like Captain Kirk (Star Trek) comes along and puts a stop to it in the Name of Humanity. Somebody who symbolizes the Human Soul, but that Human Soul is really just the network program to keep things the way they are…I’d like to remake all those movies with new endings where the guy gets to do his plan!”
DEVO: “We’d like to hand out diapers at the door to a concert of 10,000 people and then for the finale we’d turn on the subsonic frequency generators and cause spontaneous bowel movements! and rather than being uptight about it they would love it! Like that’s what they came for and they would be mad if they left without it! Rather than lighting matches for the Eagles—one mass infantile, pre-sexual eruption—all tense muscles going lax!
Interviewer: How did you know about infra-sound?
DEVO: I first heard about it because I used to hang out with coordinators of a local SDS chapter who received inside documents on polic weapons all the time. They got ANGRY about the subsonic frequency generators, while I asked myself, What are the creative uses of those?”
DEVO: “Like science fiction movies in the 50’s, they could imagine monsters from other planets always invading us, when it was just an internal, paranoid fantasy projected and personified in monsters. It’s all mythology—it’s stupid to try to make that real—to find PROOF...Like the Kennedy assassination…just the fact that people can think about another gunman is all that counts.”
DEVO: “We were at Iggy’s house…he did play something really fine: there’s a band called NEU from Germany—really nice, it’s 1984 Nazi music—GOOD Nazi, TOTALITARIAN music that takes your body over but you want it to.
Interviewer: How did you meet Iggy?
DEVO: He came backstage at the STARWOOD to meet us (LA). We gave DAVID BOWIE a tape about 4 months ago in Cleveland—he just threw it in a barrel and one day IGGY wanted to listen to some tapes and BOWIE said, Go ahead, you can have anything you want—he found our tape and got off on it….”
(DEVO quotes above from an interview in) Search & Destroy #2, 1977
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!