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Blue Heron in flight

Monday, August 28, 2023

They shove the holes in the poles

I wanna end this prophylactic tour
Afraid that no-one around me
Think I'm only a spud boy
Looking for a real tomato
Smart Patrol

I was sad to hear that DEVO is hanging it up this year, supposedly. Mark Mothersbaugh and co. are finally calling it quits. Gerald Casale said, "We did as well as we could, for as long as we could.” Fifty years apparently.

There's a good article on the boys from Akron at the Guardian. The Eagle scouts who carved their own path and talked about de-evolution. Completely created a new ethos in a sea of mediocrity and hippie blather and forecast dark rumblings ahead for the human race.

Many thought of Devo as a joke, unable to accept they could be funny and sincere. The label didn’t know what to do with them. “We came out fully formed,” says Casale. “People want to grab you when you’re malleable and change you, but they couldn’t do that to Devo because the armour was too strong.”

Being so fully formed – with a perfect concept, aesthetic and choreography in place from the off – caused creative friction in the band over time. “You’ve got a body of work informed by a whole manifesto and philosophy,” says Casale. “Do you let go and move on to the next thing? You want change, otherwise you’re stale, but you don’t want to be contrived.”

I saw Devo many times, early on all the way to the Huckjam tour and they were amazing from the get go and through out. Revolutionary. They spoke a new language and if you were hip to it when nobody else was it was the coolest thing. They were like sirens for those of us that didn't quite fit in and were possibly seriously affected.

Bob Casale
The show I saw at the California Theater with Big Mike and possibly Pat Campbell was one of the three greatest musical performances I have witnessed in my life.  

Crowd on stage doing swanees into the pit, just pure joy and cacophony. The energy was so over the top, their performance so polished and developed. But so intense, so many strings pushed to the breaking point and past that, it was beyond words. The late Bob Casale was a beast on guitar.

The spud boys delivered. And the dumb humans that thought it was just about whipping it good missed a hell of a lot. 

Later on things didn't sound quite as good. It happens. We all get older. But I really respect every one of them. And their birth or origin story bears repeating:

And yet, while Devo effected a radical break with tradition, they were actually children of an entirely different revolution. Casale and co-frontman Mark Mothersbaugh had been studying art at Kent State University when, on May 4, 1970, they witnessed the Ohio National Guard massacre four students, among them two of their friends. That day inspired Neil Young to write the song Ohio, and caused Mothersbaugh and Casale to change: hippie idealism became a new kind of negative energy and disgust.

“Correct,” confirms Casale. “Until May 4, 1970, I might have been part-hippie – I certainly had a laissez-faire attitude, I liked my pot, and my hair was long – I looked like Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. But that day changed everything. I was always political and there were things lurking in the background that were fodder for rage, but that didn’t find a true focus until I was in the middle of people being shot by soldiers with M1 rifles. That’s when Devo was born. We became an insular, parallel world: I started talking about common people – the unwashed, who believed the illusions fed to them by government and schools – as spuds, pinheads and huboons: half-humans, half-apes.”

I think Booji here is getting romantic. It is splitsville for the band. Just having a little trouble letting go. Understandable.

I never saw them but early Devo used to come out as a fake christian hippie band called Dove and then turn the tables on their peaceful audience as they transformed into their new roles as discordant, anarchist dadaists.

Who remained as musical as hell.

I got to see Mark Mothersbaugh's art show at La Luz De Jesus gallery in Los Angeles many years ago, maybe at Psychedelic Solution in New York too, been too long to remember.

He was a brilliant and precise visual artist. A true visionary.

I wish them all well. They filled in a great portion of life's soundtrack.

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