Monday, 24 May 2010
Just finished reading the Devo book "We Are Devo" by Jade Dellinger and David Giffels published by SAF. I've had it for a month and read a bit every day. An excellent book, and fully recommended. This book has interviews and insights with all the original members which is good - too many biographies these days are overviews and paper clippings, this book is the meat. Good stuff. It also covers the music "scene" of Akron and Cleveland in the mid 1970's with members of Pere Ubu, Tin Huey, Chi Pig and Dead Boys etc all chipping in their ten cents worth. Read the XTC biog. "Chalkhills And Children" or the Hugh Cornwall autobiography and realise what a bloody good read this book is.
Also, it is a fascinating story starting in the early 1970's with the Kent State University shootings and the birth of the idea of Devo/lution. Jerry Casale and Bob Lewis' writing in the mid 1970's. The Mothersbaugh brothers attempt at being a teenage rock group at the same time and the music "scene" in Akron at the time.
At this point I found it really funny that no matter what bloody book I am reading about punk rock/new wave - call it what thou wilt - the name Chrissie Hynde ALWAYS pops up. I could be reading about the Roxy Club, or Jah Wobble's autobiog. or Slits book or Julian Cope's autobiog. and Chrissie Hynde's name is always there. She turns up in this book as brother of Terry Hynde, saxophonist with The Numbers Band and vocalist / girlfriend of Mark Mothersbaugh in 1975 or something. I dread writing my own autobiography...I wonder when I'll meet Chrissie Hynde.
I loved Devo when I first heard them. Could have been John Peel, could have just spotted the 7" "Jocko Homo" in the 7" singles box on Sanctuary Records counter back in 1978 and bought it on the power of the name/sleeve. I can't remember. The pictures in the music weeklies were working too. True industrial, my cup of tea! The next 7" "Satisfaction" coupled with "Sloppy" was the bollocks of the dog, I was sold to Devo. Unfortunately (for me) the LP did not cut it. After hearing the rawness of the singles, the LP was this too much produced smooth approach. Over produced. I have re-bought the first LP on CD (with a bonus live album tacked on) but I still don't like it, I'll stick with the Booji Boy singles.
So. We have the story of Devo. A band that ran out of ideas and got swallowed by behemoth that is the "music industry". Their ideas were based on tracts / pamphlets that they found in secondhand bookstores by Dr. B.H. Shadduck and Oscar K. Maerth. The idea of Devolution. Take in stuff like "The Island Of Lost Souls" movie where the mutants chant "Are We Not Men?" and we have the birth of Devo, the "rock" band. From the start they were asking for help from Akron musician Joe Walsh trying to get their tapes played in the "right ears" of the "right people". They moved to Los Angeles and stayed with Iggy Pop and jammed with Neil Young.....(I've seen it on You Tube). Devo were desperate to hit pay dirt. I'm surprised they didn't ask Ted Nugent to play guitar! The two major members - Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh come across as a couple of right cunts. Users. This is why the book is such a good read. They use people for their own ends and they just want to be "rock stars" - the original Devo manifesto is left behind in a haze of cocaine, alcohol and court cases. It is very easy to see how Devo went pants very early on. This is where the book becomes unputdownable. I really recommend it, if you see it on the bookshelf of your local book shop.
The book hasn't ruined it for me listening to Devo - unlike the Slits book "Typical Girls" - even though the main characters are highly unlikeable people, in fact I want to hear their final LP just to see/hear how poor it is....
Whip it/Whip it good....
1: "We Are Devo" book cover.
2: Devo. 1978. (Outside the shop where Chi Pig got their name from).