Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Tag: Devo

On the road with Devo

There I was, sitting down across from Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, Gerald and Bob Casale, and Alan Meyers. The topic of our discussion was “de-evolution” and the state of music today. And then, I asked them a question that has been nagging me ever since I first slapped Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo on a turntable: What is this fascination with potatoes?

However, before Mark and the other Spuds could answer, I woke up.

I guess it was only fitting that I dreamed about Devo. After all, it was thirty years ago today when I saw them in concert. There have been a lot of bands that I wished I could have seen over the years. I’m grateful that I could experience Devo in concert.

As for the fascination with potatoes, I guess I will just have to wait for the answer.

In the meantime, time for some Devo action on my iPod today.

iPod Fully Loaded

Remember the days before digitalized music, MP3 players and iPods–when making a compilation tape, whether for a road trip or a friend was an art?

It’s like what Rob (John Cusack) says in High Fidelity (2000), “The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.”

Back in the day you only had 90-120 minutes (is it just me or an urban legend but somewhere along the line I remember someone telling me that 90-minute tapes were better than 120-minute tapes) for your compilation tapes so you had to choose your songs carefully and wisely.

Of course, these days with lots and lots of gigabytes at your disposal, you can make up all sorts of play lists for whatever mood or situation. And if you want a bit of old school you can still make some killer play lists.

That’s kind of what I’ve done for my upcoming trip to Laos–I’ve created some killer play lists, not only for the journey but for some background music when I am with Aon and the boys. It’s time for me to introduce Jeremy Aaron and Bia to some of the music I have grown up with.


I’ve got my iPod fully-loaded and ready to rock out on the long journey ahead and to introduce Jeremy Aaron and Bia to 50+ years of rock and roll.

An Evening with Devo — Devo in concert, November 1982

It was a cold, wet November night back in 1982—the night I sat in the majestic Holiday Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana waiting for Devo to take to the stage.

 

Leave it to Devo to have a concert in a theatre where you would expect someone like Tom Jones or Neal Diamond to headline. Maybe it was intentional, a little “de-evolution” humor from the spudboys—you know, if you could play the Holiday Star Plaza Theatre, you could play anywhere. It seemed fitting for a band like Devo that had made a name for themselves by defying critics and rock and roll purists alike to play such a venue. While it might not have had the same resonance as The Beatles at Shea Stadium or The Band at Fillmore East, Devo at the Holiday Star was an incredible concert.

 

Billed as an “Evening With Devo” it has remained a concert near and dear to my heart because the band has been and will always be one of my favorite bands from the 70s and 80s.

 

I first heard of Devo one night four years before in 1978 when I caught them performing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” on Saturday Night Live. Maybe it was the radioactive suits they were wearing or the frenetic guitar playing and vocal stylings of frontman Mark Mothersbaugh that got me hooked. All I know is the next weekend I was at my local Tower Records in West Covina, California buying the spuds’ first album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

 

At a time when music was changing and something called “new wave” was re-packaging the early punk sound, Devo was one band that sort of defied any kind of label. With a bit of histrionics thrown in for good measure, the music that Devo played was a far cry from anything that was being played on the radio. A year later, a resurgence of rock would take place sounding the death knell for disco and the “mega-stadium bands” of the 70s. Without question, the band was one of the early pioneers of the new wave sound; but then again I think the spud boys would probably disagree.

 

I bought all their records, but their first one will always be my favorite. Maybe it was the Brian Eno touch that has made it a classic I (although I hadn’t even heard of him at the time, but like much of the music I would soon be listening to—I would).

 

Even now, 30 years after it first came out, it still rocks. I have never grown tired of songs like “Come Back Jonee,” “Jocko Homo,” “Space Junk.” “Gut Feeling” (which was a pleasant addition to the Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou soundtrack), and my all-time favorite spud classic “Uncontrollable Urge” (which was always a crowd stopper when performed live).

 

Before I saw Devo that night, I was lucky to have caught some great concerts in the early 80’s by some classic New Wave acts including The Pretenders, Ultravox, and The Stray Cats. While these bands and concerts will always be near and dear to me, especially for someone who was really getting into the new wave scene at the time, there was always something unique about Devo and their sound that made them stand out from other bands of the post-punk new wave era. One thing is for certain when it came to Devo and their music: either you were into them or you despised them.

 

(I’ll never forget back in the autumn of 1980 when I was working a cafeteria at Thompson Point at Southern Illinois University, there was this girl who I worked with who was one of those preppy “new wave” types—you know the ones I am talking about, the ones who would wear some band buttons, a skinny tie and her father’s dress shirt over a black mini skirt and think they were punk. Well, she came to work one day a little sad because some sorority types in her dorm made fun of her wardrobe and called her “Devo.” Obviously, Devo rubbed some people the wrong way.)

 

When I heard that they were going to playing at the Holiday Star Plaza Theatre (the band was on tour to promote the recently released Oh, no! It’s Devo album) there was no way that I was going to miss this concert. Although the album is my least favorite of their first four albums, (a few songs/videos had already gotten some airplay on MTV—at a time when MTV was still pretty hip—before I saw them in concert) their video stylings were definitely classic Devo, which they would incorporate into their live show.

 

Before they took the stage, some vendors were hawking some Devo paraphernalia from Spud Collars to Energy Domes (the hats that looked like upside down flower pots)

 

“Get your spud collars here,” barked one vendor, “great to wear around your neck when eating your favorite brand of potato chips so you don’t get any crumbs on your clothes.”

 

“Energy Domes here, get your Energy Domes,” yelled another vendor.

 

Yes, perhaps just a bit surreal. Then again, this was Devo and who’s going to bat an eye when someone is hawking Energy Domes?

 

There was no opening act either—just Devo. Actually, I think it would have been hard for any band to open for them. Leave it to the Spuds to have it their way. And speaking of having it “their” way, they had already recorded “muzak” versions of most of their popular songs and that was what was playing when you walked into the theatre and sat down in these wonderfully comfortable crushed velvet-like padded seats. Of course, when Devo started to rock the house, no one would be sitting for too long.

 

The stage was bare but there was a huge video screen in the back of the stage and while the band played “Peekaboo!” “Big Mess,” “That’s Good,” and “Speed Racer” there were images and vignettes playing on the screen while the boys played. The band members were dressed in black with “white spud-collars” around their necks.

 

Okay that was fun enough, but things got more interesting during the second half of the show when the band played most of their hits from the their first four albums from “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Whip it” to “Jerkin’ Back and Forth” and “Freedom of Choice.” They also made a number of costume changes that included their red Energy Domes and their yellow radioactive suits.

 

One of their more popular songs played in concert was “Uncontrollable Urge” –a favorite among fans when four of the members moved to the front of the stage and sort of “jogged” in place (while they were still playing their instruments) as the song ended.

 

However, the real show stopper of this concert was “Jocko Homo” the song that featured the now famous “Are we not men, we are Devo” chorus. At one point in the song, Mark Mothersbaugh disappeared from stage as the band played while removing their radioactive suits to reveal black Devo T-shirts underneath. Then all of a sudden everyone heard, “I’m up here!” Mothersbaugh had disappeared to the balcony and was now standing at the edge of it. As he started to sing the chorus “Are we not men” he climbed down a rope and once he reached the audience below, he continued to sing “Are we not Men” as he walked toward the stage (he wasn’t too far from where I was standing) and getting some vocal assistance from various members of the audience. He literally brought the house down.

 

The show ended on a more sedate note with Boogie Boy (Mothersbaugh) singing a gentle version of “Beautiful World.”

 

On a cold, wet November night all those years ago, Devo rocked the Holiday Star Plaza Theatre only the way Devo knew how with their frenetic musical virtuosity and vocal stylings. An Evening with Devo was a memorable concert that will always be near and dear to my heart.

Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! – Devo

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.

The Soundtrack of my Life — Tracks 1-5

One song that is in heavy rotation on my iPod Nano these days is “Echo Beach” by Martha and the Muffins. Every time I hear this song-a classic from 1980-I am reminded of the time that I almost saw them. They were playing at Tuts in Chicago just right after New Year’s Day in 1981.

I had gone to Chicago with my best friend Chris Vasquez and two other friends Colleen and Dawn to see them. Colleen, a mutual friend of ours said that she could get us in free. Sadly, we spent too much time at another friend’s apartment before the concert-by the time we got to Tuts, we couldn’t get in. Colleen pleaded with the bouncer (whom she knew), but to no avail.

To this day, I swear that when we were standing out there on the sidewalk I could hear Martha and the Muffins playing inside. There was another band playing later-David and the Happenings, a band from SIU-so we decided to wait in this small blues bar just down the street until they came on.

Now, whenever I hear “Echo Beach” I think about the time that I was so close to seeing the band at Tuts that cold, January night.

And this got me thinking about a lot of the music I have grown fond of over the years. What is the story behind some of my favorite music? What was going on in my life when I first heard or listened to a particular song over and over? We all have our favorite songs that remind us of something in our lives, whether it was someone we once dated, hanging out with friends, or some other significant event.

I like making lists, especially ones about music and how it has impacted me most over the years. It’s kind of what like the character played by John Cusack did in one of my favorite movies High Fidelity. More than just a “top 10” list, this list is my own personal soundtrack for my life.

There is no particular order for these songs. This is just a list of some of my favorite music and the memories associated with them.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Devo

If I had to come up with just one Devo song that had some connection to my life I might be hard pressed because there have been so many of their songs which have a lot of memories attached.

Devo was the kind of band that you either really liked or really hated. I have been a big fan of theirs ever since I first heard about them in October 1978 when I was stationed at George Air Force Base in the High Desert outside of Victorville, California. When I saw them performing their song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on Saturday Night Live and wearing those yellow radioactive suits, this was one band that I was definitely going to listen to more.

The following weekend, I was at a Tower Records’ store in West Covina picking up a copy of Devo’s first album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. Once I slapped it on my turntable, I couldn’t get enough of it. This was some zany, cool stuff. It was like nothing else I was listening to at the time. Little did I know at the time but my musi-cal tastes were beginning to change. I was really into music at the time listening to practically everything and in many ways, that album was the beginning of a musical transformation of sorts in terms of what I would be listening to for the next couple of years.

I Wanna Be Sedated – The Ramones

One memorable weekend in October 1980 I was home from Southern Illinois Univer-sity (SIU) when I saw The Jerks at Fridays for the first time and also ran into Chris who I hadn’t seen in over four years.

That same weekend I bought The Ramones’ Road to Ruin and Split Enz’s True Colors. Now, whenever I hear this song (or any song from the album) I think about that weekend and how my life would change when I got back to SIU.

You know what it’s like when you slap a new record on a turntable and as soon as you hear that first song you want to run out and tell all your friends about it? That’s kind of how I felt when I heard “I Wanna Be Sedated.” This was just a rocking song. And I am thinking, “damn, why haven’t I been listening to the Ramones already?”

I suppose that a lot of the songs that I heard that weekend would be worth noting, but it’s this song by The Ramones that has really stayed with me the most.

Vienna – Ultravox

If I were to come up with my Top Ten list of my all-time favorite New Wave songs not to mention one of my favorite all-time videos, one of them would be Ultravox’s Vienna.

It was October 31, 1980-Halloween in Carbondale-and I was sitting in the balcony of Shyrock Auditorium on the SIU campus waiting for Ultravox to take the stage. John Candy was in town, the host of a short-lived NBC show about college life and was sort of the emcee for the concert, keeping the audience entertained while every-one waited to find out if the opening act Steel Pulse would make it to the concert (they never did).

I had only heard about Ultravox just a few weeks before and had not bought my ticket until a few days before the concert. It has remained one of the best concerts I have ever been to-right up there with Devo in 1982, Ultravox again in 1983, and The Stray Cats in 1981.

In that last week of the month before that night, I had gone back home and seen The Jerks, ran into my old friend Chris, cut off my hair, got an earring, and seen Kansas in concert.

Whenever I hear Vienna now I always think back to when I was going to SIU and how music was redefining and shaping my life.

At the same time, the song also reminds me of cold, autumn or winter days-

“We walked in the cold air
Freezing breath on a windowpane lying and waiting
The warmth of your hand and a cold gray sky
It fades to the distance.”

The Wait – Pretenders

It’s the spring of 1980 and I am stationed at George Air Force Base just outside of Victorville, California in the Mojave Desert. For the past couple of months I had been getting into all kinds of new music-Tom Petty, Madness, The B-52’s, Talking Heads, Pat Benatar, and Gary Numan. One day I’ve got the radio tuned into some FM station out of LA and I hear the Pretenders for the first time. As soon as I hear their song “The Wait” I go out and buy their debut album the first chance I get.

Five months later, on September 10 I am sitting in Shyrock Auditorium at SIU wait-ing for the Pretenders to take the stage.

Whenever I hear the song I think about that spring of 1980 when I was preparing to get out of the Air Force and how my life would change forever a few months later when I started going to school at SIU. The die had been cast, a defining moment of my life was underway.

Their debut album still rocks. It’s raw, visceral, and powerful.

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding – Elton John

When I was a high school student in the mid seventies, you couldn’t listen to the ra-dio without hearing at least one or two Elton John songs like “Bennie and the Jets” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” or his version of the Who classic “Pinball Wizard” being played heavy in rotation.

In a decade that started with Kent State and ended with the hostage crisis in Iran, the music of the decade might have lacked some of the cultural relish that the music of the 60s gave us, but it did offer a medley of styles and expressions which saw the birth of arena rock, disco and punk rock. It was also the beginning and the ending: The Beatles and The Doors were no more while the Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin would keep on rocking through the decade and turning out some of the best stuff. For other bands it was the beginning like The Eagles with their own distinct sound were ready to dominate the airwaves, while Queen, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, and Pink Floyd continued to redefine rock and push the music envelop.

In New York, the Ramones would strip down rock to its raw basics and energize crowds at a venue called CBGB’s. By the end of the decade, music would undergo a major reawakening thanks to those four lads from the UK who went by the name of the Sex Pistols and shook things up a bit.

It was a strange decade for music that gave us hits like C. W. McCall’s “Convoy” and Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck” along with soon to be classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody” “Hotel California” and “Born to Run.”

The decade also saw the rise of rock superstars and business-type rock and rollers playing enormous venues. It was also a time for Pop and Rock icons like Elton John.

I first started listening to Elton John in the summer of 1975 when it seemed that every time you turned on the radio another one of his songs was playing. He had al-ready scored big on AM with “Bennie and the Jets” and in the summer of 1975 he was shooting up the charts with his version of “Pinball Wizard” for the upcoming the-atrical release of Tommy as well as “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” I liked Bennie and the Jets a lot it was featured in a little known movie from that summer Aloha Bobby and Rose (starring Paul LeMat from American Graffiti fame). I had just a couple 45’s and as well as his first Greatest Hits collection. I didn’t listen to Elton John too much after that summer. I preferred more of his earlier stuff like “Your Song” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Rocket Man” than the stuff he came out with toward the end of the decade.

A year later I had raised the bar for the music that rocked my world and I pretty much stopped listening to Elton John until 1980.

When I started attending SIU in the summer of 1980 I started getting into all kinds of music and catching up on a lot of the music I might have missed which meant adding a lot of albums to my collection including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

There was at least one or two concerts every month on campus and a lot of up and coming bands were playing some of the local bars and clubs.

Elton John was one of the performers/bands who had a concert on campus that se-mester. As soon as it was announced that he was coming to SIU, my roommate and I decided to go. Elton John had recently reformed his old band and returned to per-forming the way he had when he first started. It was definitely going to be classic Elton John in concert.

My roommate asked his girlfriend to get us tickets and she got us some pretty good seats. Actually, she bought six tickets: one for herself, my roommate and myself and three for her friends. Somehow when she gave my roommate and me our tickets she got them mixed up with the other tickets. My roommate and I ended up with seats in the fifth row while his girlfriend and her friends ended up with seats in the twentieth row. Then, to complicate matters even more, my roommate had just broken up with his girlfriend. We had already given her the money for the tickets (she and I got along okay, too) so she had to give us our tickets. She just gave us the wrong ones though.

Elton John started off that concert with “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” The lights had gone down and you heard the song’s opening notes on a keyboard that sounded eerily like some funeral dirge. Then white lights bathed the stage with thick fog rolling across it; and it was then that you saw this small baby white grand piano on the left side of the stage illuminated by a few more white lights. When some of the fog cleared, you could see (and from where my roommate and I were sitting see very well) members of his band already on stage and then Elton walked out on the stage and took a seat at that baby grand. As that funeral dirge-like procession reached a climax Elton and his band launched into the song and literally brought the house down.

It was a memorable beginning to one of the better concerts I have been to and that song will forever remind me of when I was a student at SIU. I was just listening to it on my iPod today and you better believe I was transported back in time to that cool October night in 1980.

That’s one of the things that music is supposed to do. Take you back in time.

An evening with Devo — November 1982

It was a cold, wet November night fifteen years ago when I was sitting in the Holiday Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana waiting for Devo to take to the stage.

Leave it to Devo to have a concert in a theatre where you would expect someone like Tom Jones to headline.

Maybe it was intentional, a little “de-evolution” humor from the Spudboys. It seemed fitting for a band like Devo that had made a name for themselves by defying critics and rock and roll purists alike to play such a venue. While it might not have the same resonance as The Beatles at Shea Stadium or The Band at Fillmore East, Devo at the Holiday Star was an incredible concert.

Billed as an “Evening With Devo” it has remained one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

I first heard of Devo one night four years before in 1978 when I caught them performing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” on Saturday Night Live. Maybe it was the radioactive suits they were wearing or the frenetic guitar playing and vocal stylings of frontman Mark Mothersbaugh that got me hooked. All I know is the next weekend I was at my local Tower Records buying the spuds’ first album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo.

At a time when music was changing and something called “new wave” was re-packaging the early punk sound, Devo was one band that sort of defied any kind of label. With a bit of histrionics thrown in for good measure, the music that Devo played was a far cry from anything that was being played on the radio. A year later, a resurgence of rock would take place sounding the death knell for disco and the “mega-stadium bands” of the 70s. Without question, the band was one of the early pioneers of the new wave sound; but then again I think the spud boys would probably disagree.

I bought all their records, but their first one will always be my favorite. Maybe it was the Brian Eno touch that has made it a classic. Even now, almost 30 years after it first came out, it is still rocks. I have never grown tired of songs like “Come Back Jonee,” “Jocko Homo,” “Gut Feeling” (which was a pleasant addition to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou soundtrack), and my all-time favorite spud classic “Uncontrollable Urge” (which was always a crowd stopper when performed live).

Before I saw Devo that night, I was lucky to have caught some great concerts in the early 80’s by some classic New Wave acts including The Pretenders, Ultravox, and The Stray Cats. While these bands and concerts will always be near and dear to me, especially for someone who was really getting into the new wave scene at the time, there was always something unique about Devo and their sound that made them stand out from other bands of the post-punk new wave era. One thing is for certain when it came to Devo and their music: either you were into them or you despised them.

When I heard that they were going to playing at the Holiday Star Plaza Theatre (the band was on tour to promote the recently released Oh No It’s Devo album) there was no way that I was going to miss this concert. Although the album is my least favorite of their first four albums, (a few songs/videos had already gotten some airplay on MTV—at a time when MTV was still pretty hip—before I saw them in concert) their video stylings were definitely classic Devo which they would incorporate into their live show.

There was no opening act either—just Devo. Actually, I think it would have been hard for any band to open for them.

Leave it to the Spuds to have it their way.   

An evening with Devo — November 1982

Classic Devo: The band performs one of their hit songs, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” in 1978

If I had to choose one of the best concerts I have been to, I would have to say it was the night I saw Devo in concert.

It’s a cold, wet November night and I am sitting in the Holiday Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana waiting for Devo to take to the stage.

Leave it to Devo to have a concert in a theatre where you would expect someone like Tom Jones to headline. Maybe it’s intentional, a little “de-evolution” humor from the spudboys. It seemed fitting for a band like Devo that had made a name for themselves by defying critics and rock and roll purists alike to play such a venue. While it might not have the same resonance as The Beatles at Shea Stadium or The Band at Fillmore East, Devo at the Holiday Star was an incredible concert. Billed as an “Evening With Devo” it has remained one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

I first heard of Devo one night four years before in 1978 when I caught them performing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” on Saturday Night Live. Maybe it was the radioactive suits they were wearing or the frenetic guitar playing and vocal stylings of frontman Mark Mothersbaugh that got me hooked. All I know is the next weekend I was at my local Tower Records buying the spuds’ first album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo.

At a time when music was changing and something called “new wave” was re-packaging the early punk sound, Devo was one band that sort of defied any kind of label. With a bit of histrionics thrown in for good measure, the music that Devo played was a far cry from anything that was being played on the radio. A year later, a resurgence of rock would take place sounding the death knell for disco and the “mega-stadium bands” of the 70s. Without question, the band was one of the early pioneers of the new wave sound, but then again I think the spud boys would probably disagree.

I bought all their records, but their first one will always be my favorite. Maybe it was the Brian Eno touch that has made it a classic; after all he worked his magic with other bands, so why not for the boys from Akron? Even now, almost 30 years after it first came out, it still rocks. I have never grown tired of songs like “Come Back Jonee,” “Jocko Homo,” “Gut Feeling” (which was a pleasant addition to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou soundtrack), and my all-time favorite spud classic “Uncontrollable Urge” (which was always a crowd stopper when performed live).

Before I saw Devo that night, I was lucky to have caught some great concerts by some classic New Wave acts including The Pretenders, Ultravox, and The Stray Cats. While these bands and concerts will always be near and dear to me, especially for someone who was really getting into the new wave scene at the time, there was always something unique about Devo and their sound that made them stand out from other bands of the post-punk new wave era. One thing is for certain when it came to Devo and their music: either you were into them or you despised them.

When I heard that they were going to playing at the Holiday Star Plaza Theatre (the band was on tour to promote the recently released Oh No, It’s Devo album) there was no way that I was going to miss this concert. Although the album is my least favorite of their first four albums, (a few songs/videos had already gotten some airplay on MTV—at a time when MTV was still pretty hip—before I saw them in concert) their video stylings were definitely classic Devo which they would incorporate into their live show.

There was no opening act either—just Devo.

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