Nov 2010 12

by Brad Warner

“John Lennon’s alcohol stinking spittle in my face…”

– Mark Mothersbaugh

There was a peculiar notion going around my high school in the white bread and meatloaf suburb of Akron, Ohio where I grew up that said that bands like DEVO were “wimp rock.” But seeing DEVO at the Music Box Theater in Hollywood where I had the privilege of sitting in on the final rehearsal for their current tour gave the lie to that. Even with several members of the band having passed sixty years old and the rest closing in quick, DEVO rocks like no other band on Planet Earth.

It’s easy to forget today just what a revelation DEVO’s first album was when it came out. For a lot of people in those days, seeing the band on Saturday Night Live on October 14th 1978 (Fred Willard was the host!) was akin to the previous generation seeing The Beatles live on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. DEVO’s appearance probably launched a thousand bands that night. It literally gave me a reason to live. The soul-less imitation of “rock and roll” we were force fed in the Ohio suburbs in those days was pretty much Muzak with a beat. Then along came DEVO and nothing was ever the same again.

In 1980 they even cracked the mainstream with their top ten hit Whip It. But just a few short years later their career took several wrong turns, including co-writing a song with would-be Reagan-assassin John Hinkley Jr. and signing with a label they likened to the Titanic the way every band on it sank without a trace.

In 1995, though, a funny thing happened. Girl U Want, an obscure album track from the same LP that had produced Whip It! was featured in the movie Tank Girl and all of a sudden the kids wanted to know about DEVO. The band once again donned their trademark yellow industrial waste clean-up suits (originally purchased at the MF Murdock Janitorial Supply Company in Akron, Ohio) and showed them what de-evolution was all about. For the past 14 years DEVO have been playing shows consisting mainly of their earliest material.

But now something new is on the horizon. Their first and third albums (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and Freedom of Choice) are at long last available in re-mastered versions and DEVO is on the road promoting these with a series of two-night stands across America playing the first LP in its entirety on the first night and the third LP the following evening. But what’s even more exciting DEVO is recording their first album of new material since 1990’s Smooth Noodle Maps. The results are set to come out some time next year with an even more extensive tour.

I spoke to DEVO’s front man and fellow Akron-ite Mark Mothersbaugh about all this stuff and about getting spit on by John Lennon.

Read Brad’s exclusive interview with Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh on