[Parts of this post have been recycled from HERE.  This post originally appeared on The Hideway on June 20, 2012]

Devo is seen by many as a novelty, a cartoon-ish band with only one song, “Whip It”.  But fans like HERC know they actually have more than a few good songs and a little known origin story. 

Initially formed on the campus of Ohio's Kent State University a few years after the tragic standoff between student protesters and National Guardsmen, DEVO was two sets of brothers, the three Mothersbaughs and the two Cassales.  The lineup changed frequently and eventually one of the Mothersbaugh brothers left for good.

Garnering interest from Neil Young for their short films and later interest from David Bowie and Iggy Pop for their music and often confrontational stage performances, the band signed with Warner Brothers Records and entered the studio with Brian Eno.

They crashed onto the scene with a punky, robotic reading of the Rolling Stones classic “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” which they had originally recorded and released on their own label.  Later that same year they gained national exposure after performing on Saturday Night Live.  They appeared on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert twice, in 1979 and 1980.

HERC finally caught the band when they appeared on Fridays in 1980 and 1981.  Although he later went back and bought their older stuff, HERC was more impressed with their releases from 1980 on because they were less punky and more funky.  He faithfully purchased each quirky release while simultaneously following the career of another robotic synth-based group, Kraftwerk.

HERC's first exposure to Kraftwerk occurred in 1976 when he was riding his orange 10-speed home from the store and found three records on the bike trail which ran across an abandoned runway on a Midwest military installation.  One of the records was Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity and when HERC put it on his Soundesign stereo it played the haunting, enchanting and other-worldly title track and HERC was hooked.  Sadly, the sands of time have robbed him of the memory of what the other two albums were that day.  The rest of HERC's love affair with Kraftwerk's music is a story for another time.

A quirkier rewrite of The Knack’s “My Sharona”, “Girl U Want” was actually the first single off the Freedom Of Choice album.  It has been covered several times in varying tempos, cementing the song’s lyrics as universal truths.

“Whip It” [1980]
The second single from Freedom Of Choice, this is the group’s biggest hit and therefore the one Devo song almost everyone knows leading to its inclusion on several One-Hit Wonder lists.  Combining a guitar riff cribbed from Roy Orbison’s classic “Oh, Pretty Woman” with what sounds like a fully mechanized drum track but is actually just drummer Alan Myers keeping nearly perfect time, “Whip It” should not be taken at the face value of it’s lyrics.  It is not about kinky stuff.  It is a positive song about overcoming adversity and challenge.  

“Beautiful World” [1981]
Although it failed to crack the Hot 100, “Beautiful World” and its accompanying video of wonderfully sequenced film archive footage are beloved by fans who enjoy the cold, detached vocals ironically singing about “a sweet, romantic place”. The lyrics paint a pretty picture but the ultimate meaning is revealed in one of the final lines. 

“Through Being Cool” [1981]
After the success of “Whip It”, Devo gained many pop music fans who were unaware of the band’s “de-evolution” beliefs. They wrote this song in direct response to all these trendy band wagoneers, alerting these fair weather fans that the band was indeed “through being cool” and they planned on eliminating the “ninnies and twits”.

“Jerkin’ Back And Forth” [1981]
This was the song that hooked HERC on the band. He witnessed their glorious performance (along with the song above) on an episode of the late night comedy show Fridays as an impressionable youth. Those wild Devo dudes were performing live on treadmills decades before OK Go even attempted their flashy choreography in a video. 

“Going Under” [1981]
Released on a special three song 12” vinyl EP to club DJs along with the above two songs, the herky jerky “Going Under” actually made the Disco Charts.  But it wasn’t until the song was featured in the second episode of Miami Vice (in the video above) that it was permanently placed in HERC’s rotation.  There are some sweet, rumbling bass notes so beware.

“That’s Good” [1982]
A single from the spudniks fifth album, “That’s Good” found the boys completely immersed in electronic music making. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who is best known for producing Queen and creating the ultra-clean sound of The Cars, the song was featured on an episode of Sarah Jessica Parker’s first (and best) series, Square Pegs. The video for this song actually was banned from MTV for a time thanks to a suggestive french fry, a donut and a naked lady.  

Devo's look and sound (d)evolved with each release until they finally broke up in 1990.  Rediscovered by the new nerds and generation geeks in the dawning of the cyber-age, the band has reunited several times, most recently in 2010, when they released their first new album in 20 years, with band members now in their sixties, but still sounding the same musically, lyrically and vocally.

And if you ever watched "Rugrats" (don’t lie), all the music was written and performed by Devo’s chief songwriter and lead singer, Mark Mothersbaugh. His original music has been featured in hundreds of other movies and television shows as well. 

The Spotify playlist below is not so much a HERC's Mix as it is a few of his favorite Devo albums and tracks all together in one playlist.

Alan Myers and Bob 2

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