Jack’s Song Of The Day: Devo
Happy Birthday to [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Devo[/lastfm]’s Gerald Casale!!
And to celebrate, Jack FM is gonna whip it, whip it good.
Come on… you knew we were going to say that.
To say that Devo is a unique band is an understatement.
Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis were both art students at Kent State University in Ohio when they came up with the concept of “de-evolution,” the idea that mankind was not evolving but rather regressing. The concept started out as a joke, but turned serious following the shootings at Kent State in 1970. This event was said to be the catalyst for forming the band.
In 1973, Devo began performing at local art festivals, and in 1976, they gained notoriety when the short film The Truth About De-Evolution won a prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. That same year, Devo released their first single, “Mongoloid,” on their own label.
The band released their follow-up single, a version of the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rolling Stones[/lastfm]’ classic “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” in 1977. By this time, Devo had caught the attention of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]David Bowie[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Iggy Pop[/lastfm], helping the band score a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records.
In 1978, Devo released their debut album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! The album, which was produced by [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Brian Eno[/lastfm], received mixed reviews from critics. It peaked at #78 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and featured re-workings of their two previous singles. In October, the band gained national exposure with an appearance on Saturday Night Live.
After the release of their second album, Duty Now for the Future, Devo co-founder Bob Lewis asked for credit and compensation for his contributions to the band. The band refused to negotiate and sued Bob. In return, he filed an action in U.S. District Court alleging theft of intellectual property and provided evidence to back up his claim. The band quickly settled for an undisclosed sum and continued on without him.
Devo hit pay dirt with 1980’s Freedom of Choice. The album, with its synth-pop/electronic sound, peaked at #22 on the charts and featured the hit single, “Whip It.” “Whip It” climbed to #14 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and became Devo’s most well-known song. The song’s success was further propelled by its kitschy video, which was a staple on MTV. It also introduced the world to Devo’s infamous red Energy Dome headgear.
Devo took a darker, deeper, more serious turn on their fourth album, New Traditionalists. Released in 1981, the band developed a new look, trading in the Energy Dome headgear for plastic “new traditionalist pomp” modeled after John F. Kennedy’s hairstyle. The album produced the singles “Through Being Cool” and “Beautiful World,” which is Jack’s Song of the Day. “Beautiful World” was a hit in Australia, peaking at #14 on the charts.
The band released two more studio albums before taking a much-needed break. During that time, member Mark Mothersbaugh began composing music for TV shows, including Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and later, Rugrats.
Devo reformed in 1987. But after two commerically unsuccessful albums and a dismal European tour, the band had a falling out and officially called it quits in 1991.
After Devo’s break-up, Mark Mothersbaugh continued composing music for TV shows and movies. He also started Mutato Muzika, a commerical music production studio, with former band mates Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale. Devo co-founder Gerald Casale saw success directing music videos for bands like [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rush[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Silverchair[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Foo Fighters[/lastfm].
In 1995, Devo reappeared with a new recording of their single, “Girl U Want,” for the soundtrack to the movie Tank Girl. This led to a reunion concert at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and an appearance at that year’s Lollapalooza.
Since reuniting, Devo have recorded a number of songs for various films and compilation albums. They have also recorded new versions of some of their hit songs for use in television commercials. In 2007, the band released “Watch Us Work It,” their first single since 1990. Devo spent the summer of ’08 touring the U.S., Japan, Australia, France and Spain. And in 2010, they released their first studio album in 20 years, Something for Everybody.
Today, the band continues to tour, and Gerald Casale says he is currently working on a script for a Devo musical.
Check out Devo’s performance of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” It’s from their 1978 appearance on Saturday Night Live. All Jack FM has to say is that it’s a very interesting version of the Stones’ classic.
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