Years: 1973 – 1991, 1996 – present
Styles: Alternative rock, Experimental Rock, New Wave, Post Punk, Proto punk
Bob Lewis - Guitar (in band: 1973 - 1976)
Gerald V. Casale - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Bass Synthesizer, Fairlight CMI, Keyboards, Lead vocals, Synthesizer, Vocals (in band: 1973 – 1991; 1996 – present)
Rod Reisman - Drums (in band: 1973)
Fred Weber - Vocals (in band: 1973)
Bob Casale - Backing vocals, Fairlight CMI, Guitar, Keyboards, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1973 – 1974; 1976 – 1991; 1996 – 2014)
Mark Mothersbaugh - Backing vocals, Fairlight CMI, Guitar, Keyboards, Lead vocals, Synthesizer, Vocals (in band: 1973 – 1991; 1996 – present)
Jim Mothersbaugh - Electronic Percussion (in band: 1974 - 1976)
Bob Mothersbaugh - Backing vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Lead guitar, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1974 – 1991; 1996 – present)
Alan Myers - Drum Machine, Drums, Fairlight CMI, Percussion (in band: 1976 – 1986)
David Kendrick - Drum Machine, Drums, Percussion (in band: 1987 – 1991; 1996 – 2004)
Josh Freese - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1996 – present)
Neil Taylor - Drums (in band: 2008)
Jeff Friedl - Drums (in band: 2008 - 2014)
Pete Parada - Drums (in band: 2011)
Josh Hager - Guitar, Keyboards (in band: 2014 - present)
Devo is an American rock group formed in Akron, Ohio, United States in 1973. The band split in 1991 and returned in 1996. The band currently consists of Gerald Casale (vocals, bass), Mark Mothersbaugh (vocals, synthesizer), Bob Mothersbaugh (guitar) and Josh Freese (drums). Former members include Bob Casale (guitar, keyboards) and Alan Myers (drums). The band released their first album in 20 years, "Something for Everybody" on June 15, 2010.
Their style has been variously classified as punk, industrial and rock, but are most often considered to be the 70s/early 80s New Wave band that ushered in the synth pop of the 1980s, along with other acts such as Gary Numan and The B-52s.
Devo's music and stage show mingle kitsch science fiction themes, deadpan surrealist humor, and mordantly satirical social commentary, often dealing with the concept of De-Evolution, in sometimes-discordant pop songs that often feature unusual synthetic instrumentation and time signatures.
Their work has proved hugely influential on subsequent popular music, particularly New Wave, alternative and grunge music, they created some memorable music videos popular in the early days of MTV.
The name "Devo" comes from the concept of Devolution (also referred to by the band as "de-evolution"). This idea was developed as a joke by Kent State University art students Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis as early as the late 1960s. Casale and Lewis created a number of art pieces in the vein of Devolution. At this time, Casale had also performed with the local band 15-60-75. They met Mark Mothersbaugh around 1970, who introduced them to the pamphlet Jocko Homo Heavenbound, which would later inspire the song "Jocko Homo".
The pivotal moment for the formation of Devo was the Kent State shootings of May 4 1970. Casale knew two of the murdered students, and even saw one student, Allison Krause, with exit wounds from the M1 Garand rifle. At this moment, Casale claims he changed the idea of Devolution into a serious concept.
The first form of Devo was the "Sextet Devo" which performed at the 1973 Kent State performing arts festival. It included Casale, Lewis and Mothersbaugh, as well as Gerald's brother Bob Casale on guitar, and friends Rod Reisman and Fred Weber on drums and vocals, respectively. This performance was filmed and a part was included on the home video The Complete Truth About De-evolution. This lineup only performed once. Devo returned to perform in the Student Governance Center (featured prominently in the film) at the 1974 Creative Arts Festival with a line-up including the Casale brothers, Bob Lewis, Mark Mothersbaugh, and Jim Mothersbaugh on drums.
Devo later formed as a quartet focusing around Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale. They recruited Mark's brothers Bob Mothersbaugh and Jim Mothersbaugh. Bob played electric guitar, and Jim provided percussion using a set of homemade electronic drums. This lineup of Devo lasted until 1976 when Jim left the band. The lineup was occasionally fluid, and Bob Lewis would sometimes play guitar during this period. In concert, Devo would often perform in the guise of theatrical characters, such as Booji Boy, and The Chinaman. Live concerts from this period were often confrontational, and would remain so until 1977. A recording of an early Devo performance from 1975 with the quartet lineup appears on DEVO Live: The Mongoloid Years, ending with the promoters unplugging Devo's equipment.
Following Jim Motherbaugh's departure, Bob Mothersbaugh found a new drummer in Alan Myers, who played a conventional, acoustic drum set with mechanical precision. Casale re-recruited his brother Bob Casale, and the popular line-up of Devo was formed. It would endure for nearly ten years.
Recommendations from David Bowie and Iggy Pop enabled Devo to secure a recording contract with Warner Bros. in 1978. After Bowie backed out of the business deal due to previous commitments, their first album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was produced by Brian Eno and featured re-recordings of their previous singles "Mongoloid" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". On October 14, 1978, Devo gained national exposure with an appearance on the late-night show Saturday Night Live, a week after the Rolling Stones, performing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Jocko Homo".
The band followed up with Duty Now for the Future in 1979, which moved the band more towards electronic instrumentation. While not as successful as their first album, it did produce some fan favorites with the songs "Blockhead" and "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize" [sic], as well as a cover of the Johnny Rivers hit "Secret Agent Man". "Secret Agent Man" had been recorded first in 1974 for Devo's first film and performed live as early as 1976.
Devo gained a new level of visibility with 1980's Freedom of Choice. This album included their best-known hit, "Whip It", which quickly became a Top 40 hit. The album moved to an almost completely electronic sound, with the exception of acoustic drums and Bob Mothersbaugh's guitar. The tour for Freedom of Choice was ambitious for the band, including dates in Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Canada. Other popular songs from Freedom of Choice were "Girl U Want", the title-track, and "Gates of Steel". The band released popular music videos for "Whip It" and "Girl U Want". The band members often wore red, terraced Energy domehats as part of its stage outfit. The dome was first worn during the band's Freedom of Choice campaign of 1980. It reappeared in the 1981, 1982, and 1988 tours, as well as in most of their performances since 1997.
In 1981, Devo contributed a cover of "Working in the Coal Mine", recorded during the Freedom of Choice sessions, to the film Heavy Metal. They offered the song to be used in the film when Warner Bros. refused to include it on the album. Warner then included it as an independent bonus single accompanying their 1981 release, New Traditionalists. For this album Devo wore self-described "Utopian Boy Scout uniforms" topped with a "New Traditionalist Pomp"—a plastic half-wig modeled on the hairstyle of John F. Kennedy. Among the singles from the album was "Through Being Cool", written as a reaction to their new-found fame from "Whip It" and seen as a response to new fans who had misinterpreted the message behind the hit song.
Oh, No! It's Devo followed in 1982. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, the album featured a darker, more sinister sound than its predecessors. According to Gerald Casale, the album's sound was inspired by reviewers alternately describing them as both "fascists" and "clowns." The album's tour featured the band performing seven songs in front of a 12-foot high rear-projection screen with synchronized video, an image recreated using blue screen effects in the album's accompanying music videos. Devo also contributed two songs, "Theme from Doctor Detroit" and "Luv-Luv" to the 1983 Dan Aykroyd film Doctor Detroit, and produced a music video for "Theme from Doctor Detroit" featuring clips from the film with live action segments.
Devo released their sixth album, Shout, in 1984 to poor reviews. The album has been criticized for its overuse of the Fairlight CMI digital sampling synthesizer and weak songwriting. However, the band's cover of the Jimi Hendrix song "Are You Experienced?" and the accompanying music video received some praise. Following the critical and commercial failure of Shout, Warner Bros. dropped Devo. Shortly after, claiming to feel creatively unfulfilled, Alan Myers left the band.
In 1987, Devo re-formed with former Sparks drummer David Kendrick to replace Myers. Their first project was a soundtrack for the flop horror film Slaughterhouse Rock, starring Toni Basil. The band released the album Total Devo in 1988, on Enigma Records. This album included two songs used in the Slaughterhouse Rock soundtrack. The song "Baby Doll" was used that same year in the comedy film Tapeheads, with newly recorded Swedish lyrics, and was credited to (and shown in a music video by) a fictitious Swedish band called Cube-Squared. Devo followed this up with a world tour, and released the live album Now It Can Be Told: DEVO at the Palace. However, Total Devo was not a commercial success and received poor critical reviews.
In 1990, Smooth Noodle Maps, Devo's last album for twenty years, was released. It too was a critical and commercial failure which, along with its two singles "Stuck in a Loop" and "Post Post-Modern Man", hold the distinction of being Devo's worst-selling efforts; all failed to appear on the U.S. charts. Devo launched a concert tour in support of the album, but poor ticket sales and the bankruptcy and dissolution of Enigma Records, who was responsible for organizing and financing the tour, caused it to be cancelled part way through. They had a falling out and played one final show in March 1991 before breaking up.
In January 1996, Devo performed a reunion concert at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The band performed on part of the 1996 Lollapalooza tour in the rotating Mystery Spot. On these tours and most subsequent tours, Devo performed a set-list mostly composed of material from between 1978 and 1982, ignoring their Enigma Records-era material. ", "Faster and Faster", and "One Dumb Thing").
In December 2007, Devo released their first new single since 1990, "Watch Us Work It", which was featured in a commercial for Dell. The song features a sample drum track from the New Traditionalists song "The Super Thing". Casale said that the song was chosen from a batch that the band was working on, and that it was the closest the band had been to a new album.
When Devo performed at SXSW in March 2009 the band presented a new stage show with synchronized video backdrops (similar to the 1982 tour), new costumes, and three new songs: "Don't Shoot, I'm a Man!", "What We Do", and "Fresh". The album, Something for Everybody was eventually released in June 2010, preceded by a 12" single of "Fresh"/"What We Do".
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