Archive for the ‘Devo’ Category

A Musical Laxative for a Constipated Society

November 2, 2007

duty.jpg

I once attended a lecture by Brian Eno at UCLA back in the late 1980’s. He was talking about the future of virtual reality and its possible affects on the brain and sensory organs. What was really interesting was his comment about the brain and how it processes frequencies. Apparently, when the brain “hears” frequencies, specific chemicals interact to make sense of the “noises.” Sometimes when new frequencies are introduced to the brain, specific chemicals interact for the first time, causing nausea and mild confusion. “Ah ha!” I thought to myself. That’s what happened when I first heard Devo’s record “Duty Now for the Future.”

It was 1979, and I was at a friend’s house listening to records. I remember him pulling “Duty” out and putting it on the turntable. The cover was unlike any cover I had seen before. It had these five guys in black shirts, wearing orange crash helmets, and they had barcodes across their faces. When the music kicked in, I was really blown away.I had grown up on Zeppelin, The Doors, Beethoven, Carole King, Jim Croce, Crystal Gayle…you get the picture—pretty main stream stuff. Anyhow, Devo was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was punk, but electronic, and the vocals sounded like they were emanating from a plastic tube or something; it wasn’t Jim Morrison, that’s for sure. My friend only played one song, Wiggly World, and then put it away. I begged him to let me take the record home, and reluctantly, he did.

I got home, went to my room, shut my door, and put on my headphones. The sounds that came through those headphones were both atonal and beautiful at the same time, and then it happened. I got really sick, like “I gotta puke” sick.

“Duty Now for the Future” was the first punk record I ever bought, and through that record I discovered music all over again. Since then Devo has remained one of my favorite bands of all time, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I can’t think of a musician from ANY musical background who hasn’t considered Devo an influence. From jazz to country to grunge to classical, musicians understand how important Devo is (and I’m not even going to discuss their message!). It pains me to watch these one-hit-wonder shows on VH1 and see Devo featured. They are so much more than that. Their music is complicated to play, interesting to listen to, and fun to rock out to.

Below are two clips. The top one is an interview with two of the spuds in 1981, and the bottom clip is a live version of that first song, filmed in 1978.

WE’RE ALL DEVO!!