Yellow Blog, Up High in Banana Tree

I love the beautiful world at night.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

We must repeat.

I have been asked, what is Devo? Is it a rock band? A group of renegade art students? A prank? All of the above?

I am only a beginning student of Devolution (though Beanie pushes me ever onward), but I can point other willing students to some cool Devo websites.

Here's a rough, rather simplistic overview of what they're about: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/story/214663p-184843c.html

There's also plenty of cool interviews with Devo available on the web. This one is with lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh in 1997. Witness, in the picture, the fantastic red hats. Those are the "energy domes" that Beanie loves so much (and now he has one of his own! See above post.)
I love how Mark answers the interviewer's question about what's good in the music scene of 1997:

I like a lot of little things. I think there's no such thing as the "good old days." It's bullshit. I think there's a time in your life when your metabolism is moving really fast and it's really functioning properly, and that's the good old days -- when you're beyond those. But, chronologically, I think now is the good old days. I think things are better than they've ever been right now. I think it's be great to be a teenager right now.

Mark nails it on the head -- what was great about most of the music of my youth? Uhhh.... my youth. My metabolism worked better. That's the only explanation for my enduring fondness for certain 80's pablum (like, why do I still crank up the Bangles when I'm alone in my car?) Thanks for explaining, dude, and thanks for the extra incentive to not get stuck musically in the past.

This surprisingly emotional interview is with Jerry Casale, another Devo guy:
http://members.tripod.com/vermontreview/Interviews/devo.htm
I had no idea that members of Devo were present at the Kent State shootings of 1970. They were students there. When the interviewer asked Jerry about seeing the massacre, he answered with great candor:

Whatever I would say, would probably not all touch upon the significance or gravity of the situation at this point of time. It may sound trite or glib. All I can tell you is that it completely and utterly changed my life. I was white hippie boy and than I saw exit wounds from M1 rifles out of the backs of two people I knew. Two of the four people who were killed, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause, were my friends. We were all running our asses off from these motherf&*$#ers. It was total utter bullshit. Live ammunition and gasmasks – none of us knew, none of us could have imagined. They shot into a crowd that was running. I stopped being a hippie and I started to develop the idea of devolution. I got real, real pissed off.

Jerry went on to describe how Neil Young's "Ohio" was deeply moving to him, and how Neil was, coincidentally, one of the first celebrities Devo encountered on their rise to semi-fame.

(A minor digression: Devo did a lot of covers, but one of their best is Neil Young's "Worried Man". The video is terrific, the music is catchy -- but now I wonder, is the video in fact a scene from Neil Young's bizarre 1982 movie, "Human Highway"? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084099/
If so, I'd love to see the whole film, which has Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell, Devo, and Neil Young doing musical numbers together.)

So, Devo threw off their hippie peace/love/justice aspirations after seeing some of their fellow students shot in the back. I've been thinking about that. Almost every day, Beanie wants to see Devo's video of "R U Experienced", and the song and film just keep growing on me. (Listening to it over and over at the height of my fever didn't help, either.)

The video opens with a group of kids coming across a big metal peace sign on the ground in a dirty alley. They pick it up, declare that it's just a piece of junk that looks kind of like a chicken foot, and derisively throw it away as far as they can.

Dammit, I'm so sorry, Devo....

At least Devo carries on cheerfully and continues to bear witness to the devolving. They still tour; can you believe it? Look at these old, rockin' codgers: http://www.clubdevo.com/mp/live.html I love them. I hope they keep at it so I can take Beanie to a concert.

"R U Experienced" closes with the line, "Not necessarily beautiful, but mutated." (It was originally "Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful" in the Hendrix version). Want to see what Mark Mothersbaugh is up to these days?

Beautiful mutants: http://www.mutatovisual.com/beautifulmutants/gallery.html Some of them are just lovely. Have a look.






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