I just found an interview with Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo on the Channel 5 news in NYC circa October, 1981. This interview coincides with two shows at Radio City Music Hall and the immense popularity of their song “Whip It.” I don’t know about you, but this interview for me captures their utter discomfort with their overnight success.
The tone in this interview is consistent with some of their sharpest experimental music during the late 70s and early 80s that I think was part of (ore even helped shape) a punk reaction to the Reagan 80s. They also did a ton of fascinating stuff with video well before this medium became popular with MTV.
So, all that said, what the hell happened to these guys? From their Wikipedia article it seems they have totally forgotten any sense of their “performative principles” of the late 70s and 80s. Now it’s all about planning their own “I love me” Devo Hollywood movie, selling their popular song for a Swiffer commercial, and collaborating with Disney for a little Dev2.o.
What kills me about all this that I love Devo’s intense and focused critique of American consumer culture during the late 70s and early 80s. How can they willingly turn it into the garbage for money? This kind of waste is why the star system we built for music and movies has created more harm than good. For even a band with a intensely creative vision and an intelligent message early on –given enough attention and success–become junkies of their own importance and ultimately become ghosts of the former selves. It’s a crying shame!