Kids Love Devo

Have you ever met anybody who didn’t like the song “Whip It”?  No, of course you haven’t.  And on the off chance you did meet such a person, did you ever speak to them again once you knew how they felt?  No, of course you didn’t.  There’s something about Whip It that instantly demands and holds the listener’s attention; I remember hearing it for the first time in fifth or sixth grade and knowing instantly it would be a timeless classic.  And that was before I realized it was one of the most hopeful, optimistic songs about personal progress ever recorded.  And the video, well…the fact that Devo was strange and immediately identifiable didn’t seem to hurt.

For some reason though, I never ended up with any Devo in my music collection beyond the Whip It single.  I corrected that oversight and downloaded Freedom of Choice a couple weeks ago.  To my surprise, Linus and Lily (and I) loved the entire record; it’s now in heavy rotation day and night in our house.

I showed them some Devo videos on YouTube.  I wanted to impress upon them how bizarre Devo was, because that was my first impression of the band.  I saw their original appearance on SNL in 1978 or so with my parents.  They wore the yellow jumpsuits and sang “We Are Devo” and “Satisfaction”.  My parents didn’t quite know what to say and neither did I, but it made an impression.  Unfortunately, because SNL and NBC keep tight wraps on their material I couldn’t find that appearance on YouTube, but there was plenty of footage from their two appearances in Fridays (a treasure trove of live music from the early ’80s from that show on YouTube; some great Clash and Pretenders footage, among others).  So we looked at that, as well as the Whip It and Freedom of Choice videos (which is very rare and its own kind of weird).

But unlike me in 1978, they didn’t see anything unusual about Devo, other than the red hats.  And the only thing they thought was strange about the hats was that they found five of them to wear.  But having seen plenty of videos on YouTube, or Flaming Lips in concert (in Linus’s case) has taken quite a bit of the edge off of Devo in 2008.  To them, Devo is just another band with keyboards and funny hats playing some kick-ass songs.  I tried to assure them that in 1978 and 1980, Devo wasn’t like other bands.

As for why Devo works so well, I’m not sure, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they strip the music down to the essentials of guitar, a real drum kit, hard beats, and a few electronic gadgets to fill in the space…but there is a lot of space in between the sounds, similar to Spoon in a lot of ways.  Guitar, drums, and beats…can’t go wrong there.  And the hats help.

But I still maintain Devo is wonderfully strange, and I submit the following as proof:

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4 Responses to Kids Love Devo

  1. Jeff says:

    My kids like “Freedom of Choice.” They really like “Are We Not Men?…” which is one of the best albums of all time, as I’m fairly sure I’ve pointed out in these pages before. And as I listen to “Oh, No! it’s Devo!” (which few people would consider to be their strongest offering) as a parent, I’m thinking it may have been meant as a children’s album.

  2. David says:

    speaking of children’s albums, on more than one occasion I have watched a kid’s show and thought, the music is kinda cool, and then Mark Mothersbaugh is listed for the score.

  3. MrFares says:

    We listen to a lot of Devo, pretty much instead of church.
    I am glad Doug has hit it on how good they were musically and, especially considering the Friday’s clips on YouTube, how awesomely tight they were live.
    WIth all the TMBG, Devo and Sparks at my house on heavy roation my kids will are going to end up rebelling by playing Beyonce and Michael Buble and wearing those semi-spherical hip-hop baseball caps.

  4. Jeff: Yes, you’ve pimped that album here before, and Devo generally. I was slow on the uptake. Your wisdom has time-release qualities.

    David: Yeah, Mothersbaugh is everywhere. Check out the list on his Wikipedia page. I knew he did the Wes Anderson movies; I had no idea he did Clifford. If you had told me in 1980 that the glasses guy from Devo and Jack Tripper from Three’s Company would help bring Norman Bridwell’s gigantic canine creation to life, I wouldn’t have believed you. My money was on Billy Squier and the Fonz, and instead of Clifford it was Petunia.

    MrFares: They were tight live, though surprisingly the weakest song I’ve seen of the live footage is Whip It. But nothing could match the hyped-up production of the single. The Friday’s footage of that song is awesome; they felt the need to augment with 1980-era video enhancements to coincide with the whip sound. Couldn’t have been as much fun for the live audience, though. It’s times like that you need an Ozzy-type on stage to bite some heads off of rodents.

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