Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mutants from Ohio!

                                               
                                      This entry is for Mark, with whom I share many musical tastes!
 
 
Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, there's no denying that Devo holds a unique and rather bizarre place in music history.
 
The nucleus of Devo formed in 1972 at Kent State University in Akron, Ohio. Two art students, Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, devised a concept they called "de-evolution," which is the idea that rather than evolving further, mankind is regressing. Their evidence was cited as "the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society." Hmm, interesting!
 
Their view of American society as a rigid, clone-inducing tool of repression, with no room for diversity or variety, was merely an elaborate joke until Jerry Casale witnessed the Kent State shootings of students. The joke wasn't quite as funny then, but Devo always had a rather warped sense of humor to their music and lyrics. No wonder I loved them!
 
They began to develop their sound--technological and synthesizer-heavy, often with jerky, computerized rhythms--and their persona as a band: industrial, matching outfits (including their famous yellow haz-mat suits) and similar hairstyles, satirizing the dangers of conformity. They embraced their space age mutant style, and the potato took on increasing importance as a symbol of uniformity and vegetable-like behavior; the character Booji Boy (pronounced "boogie boy") was a symbol for infantile behavior and regression, i.e., de-evolution.
 
The Spudboys produced a short film called "The Truth About De-evolution," which won a prize at the 1976 Ann Arbor Film Festival; more importantly, the film caught the attention of David Bowie and Iggy Pop (a couple of original mutants), who got the band a contract with Warner Bros. Their first album, "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!" was a cult hit (I still have my copy!), but they didn't gain mainstream popularity until the album "Freedom of Choice," which contained their biggest hit, "Whip It." They were never able to match this success (although I liked a lot of their later stuff), and the band officially disbanded in 1991.
 
Mark Mothersbaugh began writing soundtracks for TV and commercials, and formed a music production company called Mutato Musika, which has done quite well. He added former bandmates Bob Mothersbaugh (his brother) and Bob Casale (Jerry's brother) to the company's roster. Jerry Casale went on to direct commercials and music videos, working with artists such as Rush and the Foo Fighters. The band was well-received when they reunited for the 1996 Lollapalooza tour, and they toured in 2006 from August to November. In 2007, Devo recorded a new song, and Jerry Casale has said that the band has been working on several songs, possibly indicating a new album at some point.
 
I've always felt that Devo was way ahead of their time, and their techno-heavy sound HAD to be an influence on bands like Nine  Inch Nails. I believe that in the current culture of conformity, Devo is as relevant today as they were 30 years ago. They always had a very subtle satirical edge that was not caught by everyone. Were they always profound? Hardly. Some of their stuff was just plain goofy, and their lyrics can be amusing and perverse. But that slightly wicked edge was always enough to make me think about the deeper meanings behind some of their songs.
 
The Q: Are We Not Men? comes from the H.G. Wells novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, which deals with evolution and the consequences of unchecked experimentation, as well as addressing the concept that just as mankind can evolve, he can also de-evolve. Based on the current atmosphere of pressure to fall into goose-step with the party faithful, I find the concept of de-evolution very applicable!
 
Much of their music was danceable and fun, and always fun to sing along with. I regret never seeing them live, but if they put out a new album, that might change. I'm putting up two videos. The first is "Uncontrollable Urge," which is one of my favorite Devo songs. It just rocks, and I love the lighting and performance! The second is "Beautiful World," which I still think is one of the finest pieces of musical satire I've ever seen...and again, very applicable today. Shots of "beautiful people everywhere" are eventually replaced by shots of violence, racism, death, and destruction. And the guy working the controls is Booji Boy, all decked out in his cowboy gear.
 
Uncontrollable Urge
 
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah!
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah!

Got an urge, got a surge and it's outta control
Got an urge I wanna purge
'cause I'm losing control
Uncontrollable urge I wanna tell you all about it
Got an uncontrollable urge let me... scream and shout it!

(he's got an uncontrollable urge)
I've got an uncontrollable urge
(he's got an uncontrollable urge)
I've got an uncontrollable...

It's got style, it's got class
Sostrong, Ican't let it pass I gotta tell you all about it
I gotta scream and shout it!

[short solo, plus buildup]
I got an uncontrollable urge I wanna tell you all about it
An uncontrollable urge make me scream and shout
And I say yeah!
(he's says yeah!)
And I say yeah yeah!
(he says yeah yeah!)
And I say yeah!
(yeah!)
And I say yeah yeah!
(yeah yeah!)

And I say yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah!
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah!
 
 
Beautiful World
 
It's a beautiful world we live in
A sweet romantic place
Beautiful people everywhere
The way they show they care
Makes me want to say

It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
For you, for you, for you

It's a wonderful time to be here
It's nice to be alive
Wonderful people everywhere
The way they comb their hair
Makes me want to say

It's a wonderful place
It's a wonderful place
It's a wonderful place
For you, for you, for you

Hey, tell me what I say
Boy and girl with the new clothes on
You can shake it to me all night long, hey hey

It's a beautiful world we live in
A sweet romantic place
Beautiful people everywhere
The way they show they care
Makes me want to say

It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
For you, for you, for you

It's not for me (It's a beautiful world)
For you (It's a beautiful world)
For you (It's a beautiful world)
For you (It's a beautiful world)
Not me (It's a beautiful world)
(It's a beautiful world)
(It's a beautiful world)
(It's a beautiful world)
(It's a beautiful world)
(It's a beautiful, beautiful world)
(It's a  beautiful, beautiful world
 

 

9 comments:

aimer said...

I loved reading about your musical tastes and learning about Devo. I listened to some of their music, but never knew anything about them as a band. The songs that you selected were great. I really liked Uncontrollable Urge.  Fun entry!--Sheria

preciousone25 said...

Very interesting!!!  I only remember 'whip it'... LOL!!!

Joann

buckoclown said...

Yeah, It's a beautiful world; if only it were full of beautiful people :o(

sybilsybil45 said...

I have never hear of Devo....maybe they never got across the pond... but having just listened to them they are not bad though "not quite my cup of tea" as we would say overhere....love  sybil. xx

http://journals.aol.co.uk/sybilsybil45/villagelife/

queeniemart said...

I never knew any of this about DEVO. Cool entry! XO

eml625 said...

I agree with a prior comment, I only remember Whip it !!! LOL
Cool entry.
Ellen

easteeleco said...

Devo was pretty popular at our high school... though I'm not exactly sure why.... At any rate many of their songs became background for our pom squads routines... LOL   Estela

helmswondermom said...

Great entry!  I always liked Devo, but I never knew this much about them.
Lori

lurkynat said...

Devo si very well explained here..I love the pictures you put in! awesome!
love,natalie