I think I was 11 when Devo first hit the scene. They were featured on a program called ‘Evening Magazine’ in Boston. The five of them were decked out in contamination garb with planters on their heads and chanting, “We are DEVO, de-evolution!” Up until that point, I’d never seen anything like this. What made it more surreal was the fact that they were from Ohio. Having been to Ohio several times since, I am surprised more innovation doesn’t come out of there.
Devo was part of an avant-garde landscape that was largely ignored by mainstream radio in the late 70s. They were pioneers of New Wave, and were considered a fringe act at the time. Their first release, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, was met with some positive attention, but it was followed by the completely forgettable, Duty Now For the Future. Then the pot boiled over in 1980 with the release of Freedom of Choice. Their third album was fueled by its title track, the bouncy “Girl U Want”, and the mega-hit, “Whip It!” Devo was now firmly entrenched in the minds of young people. They became regular features on MTV and college radio with some of the deeper cuts from Are We Not Men…, Freedom of Choice and their fourth album, New Traditionalists.
Their fifth release, Oh No, It’s Devo!, was about as far as I got with Devo. I moved onto other acts, but their endearing, nerdy brand of new wave always stayed with me. Anyway, I am sure many of know why I posted this. Devo’s guitarist, Bob Casale, died of heart failure the other day. Nothing brings out nostalgia like death. He was pretty young (61 years old), and I think it caught a lot of folks by surprise. So, consider this a toast and hat tip to one of the seminal new wave bands from the US. Their legacy lives continues with modern bands, Django Django and Datarock.
“Girl U Want”
“Freedom of Choice”
“Time Out For Fun”