Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Formed in 1972 by Kent State art students Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, on bass and synthesizer respectively with both as vocalists. They were rounded out with Bob Casale (Bob 1) and Bob Mothersbaugh (Bob 2) on guitars and Alan Myers on drums. They released their first single "Mongoloid" b/w "Jocko Homo" on their own independent label Booji Boy. This was followed in 1977 by an utterly insane re-working of The Rolling Stones' classic "Satisfaction".
The band's mix of discordant pop, deadpan surrealist humor, cheesy science fiction themes and satirical social commentary caught the attention of many, including David Bowie and Iggy Pop who got behind the band and helped them get signed to Warner Brothers Records. Bowie was set to produce their first album but had to pull out due to prior obligations. Brian Eno ended up producing the album entitled Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo, which contained re-recordings of "Mongoloid" and "Jocko Homo", as well as "Satifaction". An appearance on the tv show Saturday Night Live October 4,1978 gained them national exposure.
The band's follow-up album, Duty Now For The Future, saw the band delve deeper into electronic music, and while not a major success, it contained some fan favorites such as "Blockhead" and a cover of the Johnny Rivers hit "Secret Agent Man", songs they performed on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert later that year. A higher level of visibility was gained in 1980 with the release of the next album Freedom Of Choice which featured their break-out hit "Whip It" as well as popular songs "Gates Of Steel" and the title track. More tv appearances on shows like American Bandstand and Fridays did much to spread the word.
In 1981 the next album New Traditionalists contiunued the band's popularity, containing stand out tracks like "Through Being Cool" and "Beautiful World" with accompanying videos containing sharp social commentary. The album was shipped with a bonus disc upon which was a cover of "Working In The Coal Mine", the old Jimmy Dorsey hit done surprisingly faithful (for this group) to the original. This would prove to be the peak of the band's success as subsequent releases met with diminishing commercial and critical response.
Outside of a few bright spots, such as the theme song to the movie Doctor Detroit, and a harder rocking re-recording of "Girl U Want" for the movie Tank Girl, there seemed to be little steam left in the Devo machine. Mark Mothersbaugh had some success writing theme songs for tv, the most notable being Pee Wee's Playhouse, but by 1984 the band began a cycle of changing personell, break-ups and re-formations, ultimately fading from the scene until 2007, when their songs appeared on the video games Rock Band and Rock Band 2. Highly influential, many later bands have adopted Devo's formula and expanded on it , creating an entire rock sub-genre. Devo itself still occasionally perform one-off shows and short tours.