devo

 

Dr. Moreau: What is the law?
Sayer of the Law: Not to eat meat that is the law. Are we not men?
Beasts (in unison): Are we not men?
Dr. Moreau:  What is the law?
Sayer of the Law:  Not to go on all fours that is the law. Are we not men?
Beasts (in unison):  Are we not men?
Dr. Moreau:  What is the law?
Sayer of the Law:  Not to spill blood that is the law. Are we not men?
Beasts (in unison):  Are we not men?

 

Island of Lost Souls 1933 (Based on H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau)

 

 

It’s a Saturday night in October 1978 and I am in my barracks’ room on George Air Force Base just outside of Victorville, California.

On this particular Saturday night I am in for the evening watching Saturday Night Live and on this particular show, musical guests Devo. And when Devo came out later in the show—decked out in their yellow radioactive suits—and performed a spastic perky-jerky rendition of that Rolling Stones’ riff-driven classic hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” I was awestruck. These guys rocked in their own weird, mutated way.

The following Saturday I went to a Tower Records store in West Covina and I bought a copy of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

When I got back to my barracks’ room that night, slapped that album on my turntable and begin to listen to such tracks as “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Jocko Homo,” “Gut Feeling” and “Come Back Jonee” all I could think was that I had never heard anything like this before. To be sure, I didn’t know what to make of this “mutant new-wave quintet” from Akron, Ohio that had a fixation with “spuds.”

With Brian Eno’s (I would find out soon enough who Brian Eno was) skillful production, the band—Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, Jerry and Bob Casale, and Alan Myers—caught a lot of people by surprise when they appeared on Saturday Night Live. The band would become famous for their outrageous incisive social commentary (not the least of which their satirical theories of devolution) as well as their media savvy in a pre-MTV world. Some of the melodies reminded me a little of Kraftwerk, but the lyrics were offbeat and weird—with a perky intensity that defied pigeonholing. Were they punk? New Wave? No one knew for sure. One thing is for certain, beyond their radioactive garb and pseudo-devolved demeanor people soon discovered that Devo also happened to be a rocking little band:

Although they would become famous for later hits like “Whip It” in 1980 that would make them MTV darlings, their debut album has held up for the past 30 years. Back in 1978-1979 when I was getting into all kinds of music, a lot of this music would define me and a lifestyle that I would have all through the 80s and beyond. Many of my close friends from that era like Tony Innis were also big fans of Devo and in 1982 Tony and I would have the chance to see Devo at the Holiday Star Ballroom in Merrillville, Indiana.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t listen to some Devo. Thirty years after I bought their debut album they are still rocking my world.

Jocko Homo
They tell us that
We lost our tails
Evolving up
From little snails
I say its all
Just wind in sails
Are we not men?
We are Devo!
We’re pinheads now
We are not whole
We’re pinheads all
Jocko homo
Are we not men?
We are Devo
Are we not men?
D-e-v-o
Are we not pins?
We are Devo
Monkey men all
In business suit
Teachers and critics
All dance the poot
Are we not men?
We are Devo!
Are we not men?
D-e-v-o
Are we not pins?
We are Devo
Are we not men?
D-E-V-O
God made man
But he used the monkey to do it
Apes in the plan
Were all here to prove it
I can walk like an ape
Talk like an ape
I can do what a monkey can do
God made man
But a monkey supplied the glue
Are we not men?
We are Devo.
Are we not men?
We are Devo!
We must repeat
Okay, let’s go!

 

© Devo Music; EMI Virgin, Inc.