So the DEVO lore states that Whip It was the beginning of the end for DEVO. They were shocked and surprised it went so well with audiences, displacing their desired singles: Freedom of Choice and Girl U Want. Whip It made them a one-hit-wonder and destroyed any hopes the band had to be taken seriously.
I'm finding this hard to believe. If you listen to the entire album, Whip It is obviously more produced and polished than the other songs. Jerry even went to WB and told them they wanted to make a video for Whip It, which made the song even more popular than before...
So which is it? Was DEVO tragically misunderstood geniuses or just the same as everyone else?
>Jerry even went to WB and told them they wanted to make a video for Whip It
I thought the thing was that they already had music videos for their shit to begin with, and that's why MTV was big into them?
But yeah, imagine what could have been. What would the 4th album have sounded like if Whip It didn't make them backlash against their success? I love New Traditionalists, but it's probably the weakest of their 'good' albums.
Well, the "lore" is half right. Whip It was definitely designed with a bit more pop sensitivity than the others (although Girl U Want is an 8/10 synth punk track) on the album, but they were definitely surprised when it actually went over well. If you've read what Mark and Jerry wrote about it, it was supposed to be a wry take on Pynchon's poetry, so it certainly wasn't just designed as a dumb catchy novelty song. But somehow people liked it a lot, and then Warner Bros suddenly took notice of the edgy art school punk band it happened to have locked away since it managed to vomit out a major single.
So, basically, yes. Whip It was the beginning of the end for Devo because the attention made Warner Bros. realize they had a cash-cow they could milk, so the studio executives started to interfere, as is the cliche. However, it's definitely a really catchy synthpop track, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't think anyone expected it to actually do well, though. There's a fucking whip sound effect in it, for Christ's sake.
Besides, Planet Earth would be the best single on Freedom of Choice.
When you get a chance watch this interview with Jerry.
It's long but is really the most complete backstory to the band that I could find. You're right in that Devo had videos already made before MTV, but the video for whip it was specifically requested by Jerry (and when WB said no the whipping woman idea, Devo ended up paying for it themselves)
My whole issue, is that, yeah I love Devo and I think they had good intentions, yet they still took advantage of commercialism like any other band would've done.
As a graduated art student, I know what bullshitting a great idea is like, and Jerry seemed to master that in that interview. At one point he even said something like >"Yeah even in the beginning we knew DEVO would become commercialized and fail. We anticipated it and were prepared for it"
Ok, thats a bit of a hindsight stretch there Jerry.
If you listen to some of the demo releases like Recombo DNA, you'll see a lot of the early NT tracks were more upbeat and less "serious"
Jerry went to WB to make a video for Whip It because the song was written around the video. IIRC he and Mark found a story in an old men's magazine about a guy who had a ranch who would bring his wife out and whip her clothes off for the pleasure of tourist's. They thought the idea was hilarious and basically said "let's make it into a video". The actual song was basically an afterthought.
>let's just make ironic synthpop so we can get paid and still feel better than everyone" phase
At least it sounds a lot better than their unironic synthpop phase.
Once in a Lifetime
They really stepped up their heavy beatz synth for that album. You go from a smooth album like new traditionalists to the BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM of Oh No it's Devo. Shout was pretty much the same thing. It's hard to say if WB has something to do with this suddent shift or if it was actually Devo's decisions.
Check out their 3-Devo concert sometime. It was meant to be a 3-D thing to be shown on pay per view, but nothing actually works and about halfway through the band just starts fucking with the audience and the producers. It's great.
>So which is it? Was DEVO tragically misunderstood geniuses or just the same as everyone else?
a little bit of both. you don't enter the music business thinking you're going to have 100% artistic integrity. and that goes for anything with art in a public/commercial context.
as far as whip it being better produced than the rest of FOC is kind of a stretch. I think the arrangements and production is pretty even throughout.
Jerry however is definitely a master salesman, you kind of have to take whatever he says with a grain of salt at times.
I find it more interesting to talk about how Jerry is pretty much the only reason Devo got back together in the mid 90s, and has continued on since. If Mark could, I'm sure he would have never resurrected Devo post-enigma records.
This guy has a lot of great Devo footage, in particular interviews, this one of Jerry is pretty interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AY8sB0EFr8
>During Jocko Homo, a girl comes out with a plate of random objects and during the "call/answer" section Mark comes up to the camera and apologizes for what a terrible idea broadcasting this in 3D was. To make up for it, he says, he's going to show a wide array of 3D effects. However, this "wide array" is simply a hilarious presentation of a bunch of toffee containers with those cloth snakes that pop out of them at the camera. For the encore he sprays fake popcorn, fake mustard (a string), a fake camera with a phallus that sticks out of the "lens", and an extending rack with large underpants on them (dedicated to Mark's mom, "who gave her brain to the lord.")
>Booji Boy hates the 3D idea a lot; during Beautiful World he explains they were forced to live in barrels and walk around on all fours to make the project occur. Some confetti is abruptly sprayed on him, which he claims was "not our idea". (Gerry: "There's another stupid idea.")
>plastic hair modeled from JFK's pomp
While thats true, I think the "official" word was that Devo was "commericialed" at that point in their career, so they became all-american boy scouts, with that classic hairdo and prim dress
I'm pretty sure Mark is done with Devo.
I remember Jerry making that shitty Devo 2.0 with disney in an attempt to revive the music. When the album failed horribly, you'd think he stop there, but no. he wanted a full DEVO album release. Poor Mark, he justs wants to move on and do tv show soundtracks
well, certainly NuTra was more varied in rhythms, at least in comparison to Oh No, but the production or 'smooth soundingness' of NuTra is rather muffled/heavy sounding to my ears. Those drum machines are heavy throughout. In Oh No the drum machines were more balanced, at least on a production level. I mean, not that I dislike either album, I just have never thought of NuTra as a 'smooth album' and Oh No a 'boom boom boom'.
I really do like Duty over Q:?, I just am not so keen on the production of Duty. The album screamed for more synth production, but the mix sounds like they're still thinking of going more acoustic sounding like Q:?. I remember reading how in Duty they wanted the drums to sound heavy and in your face...they're paper thin throughout. Something happened during the mix, since the drums just sound 'louder/mixed lightly' but not punchier or fatter or anything like what they intended.
IIRC, some backstage people were not familiar with Devo's set up with the reels running with the film backdrops and hit a switch that slowly but surely set their sync off from the video projector to the sequenced backing tracks. I think it's during Big Mess (how ironic?) that they're completely off and leave stage while they try to regroup for the next song.
>tfw the ironic fascist aesthetic isn't hip anymore
>tfw you will never get on stage and stand resolutely and perfectly upright as a wall of frenetic but dance-able sound envelopes you from behind
>tfw you will will never cleanly and perfectly enunciate your lyrics while moving robotically to a heavy bass groove
>tfw glam-fascism is passe now
Why even live?
>"DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE"
never had i heard that before, the 'official' word being the pomps symbolizing their 'commercialized' status.
and that's what I'm saying, Jerry is the main perpetuator of Devo continuing to play since the mid 90s. I think they would have been better if they only reunited to play a few shows throughout the 90s on. I think Mark would have tolerated that, as a favor to Jerry, but somehow Jerry has taken over the ship and even despite Bob2 gone (RIP), they're still going at it.
>muffled/heavy sounding to my ears.
Thats a great way to put it. I couldn't find the right words. I guess the synth drums and parts in ONID are sharper and more in the front, while NT kinda softens it up and leaves it fuzzy...
funny enough, the album songs themselves also have dropouts in sound, like some of the masters weren't perfect when they were making the final cut. Wiggly world has tape muffle spot right when he say "you got a nickel, I got a dime" at 1:27.
Too bad we'll never get isolated track releases so someone could home-mix it properly
>that tight sound
>that nxtlvl aesthetic
>all those subtle jabs at american culture
70's Devo was too good for this world
>out of sync
oh man the ironies of that concert/album. good one, spud, good one.
yes, that's another thing about Duty, there is some rather conspicuous master tape issues throughout the album depending on which re-issue you have. I have the original on vinyl, but my player is broken at the moment so I can't double check, but I know that on the different CD issues there's differences in sound quality for Duty. I don't know if it's the Japanese Devo box remasters from 2008 or another reissue, maybe the Oldies reissue from 2005(?) but I clearly remember "Clockout" having a drop out on the right channel towards the end while the other version had no drop out.
oh okay I have seen this one. this is one of those interview's where what Jerry says can be taken with a grain of salt partly while really its mark and jerry at their best being subversive on live television. I never interpreted the response about the pomps to referring their own commercial status, I think they're referring to the general music industry/public society.
Both the version that's on Spotify as well as "on the net" have the drop outs on a few songs. Wiggly World like I mentioned, Clockout, and a few others I can't remember.Not a huge disappointment, but you'd think they'd get a better generation copy.
>mfw I found out that David Bowie discovered Devo
I'm never going to do anything as impressive as fucking EVERYTHING David Bowie did musically in the '70s. How could one man have such a solid as fuck decade? Everything he touched turned to gold except for Pin Ups and his own mental wellbeing.
I have a copy without the Clockout drop out, but I haven't listened to it in a while so I can't recall the Wiggly World, etc. stuff but it might be interesting to find out which has the best sounding master source. talking about Wiggly World, I got to hear them play it live in 2006. one of the last few times they played it.
wiggly world was not bad, they clearly had not played since like 79 or something so it wasn't in top shape like their other standbys but they still had Josh Freese on drums then, and he was like the 2nd coming of Alan Myers so they still sounded pretty damn good in general. Bob 1 wasn't lagging it during solos as much as he does now.
not as far as playing with Devo is concerned. i believe jerry and mark both had some online contact with Alan pre-cancer and they had kind of buried the hatchet, but neither side had any interest in playing with each other.
40+ comments and none of you realize that Weird Al is who killed Devo.
Dare to be Stupid out-Devoed Devo, forcing Mark Mothersbaugh to pursue a career as a soundtrack composer.
Damn. I wonder where the animosity was. You could say alan was rightly pissed that they didnt need a drummer anymore, but I dont know why they still hate each other 25 years later..
well see the thing is, alan wasn't entirely replaced. his role was reduced as far as his input on the making of albums, but in live concerts, he would have been integral if he had never left. devo has never played without a drummer, just recorded songs that use drum machines in studio, thats all. Alan was kind of an old school cat though, he was a jazz drummer prior to devo (iirc) and kind of like buddy rich, rejected newer innovations in drumming. in fact, he had to be talked into devo, because they loved his timing and efficient drumming that they felt fit their style, but he didn't quite get it, aesthetically at least, until a year or two in. i mean alan resurfaced in his last years playing in some jazz/art collective and looked pretty spry, but clearly preferred acoustics.
Come Back Jonee is at least partially about JFK.
Apparently Jerry wasn't too happy about that. His response was basically "Yeah, it's pretty easy to steal other people's ideas, isn't it."