DEVO – HISTORY BOTH FUNNY AND SAD

Proving They Are Still DEVO (from today’s New York Post)

I first “met” DEVO in 1982, when they played the Palladium in New York, a great little concert hall on 14th Street now better known as the NYU dorms. (Actually, it is now the Palladium NYU dorms, but I refuse to acknowledge that they retained the name, the same way I refuse to call Irving Plaza “the Fillmore.” The Fillmore was a legendary venue (two, actually – east and west) of the late 60s/early 70s, and I refuse to soil that name by using it for a venue that hosts the likes of the Hip Hop Karaoke Championship.)

So when I saw the band there in ’82, Mark Mothersbaugh wowed the crowd in mid-show by leaving the stage during one song, then re-appearing on the venue’s balcony, and using a rope to climb down into the crowd.

I somehow secured a backstage pass and went back after the show, thrilled like the excitable concert newbie that I was. Mothersbaugh was hanging out with his then girlfriend, ex-SNLer Laraine Newman. I got him and the band to sign the only paper I had on me at the time, and after they happily signed sheets of my rolling paper, I shook Mothersbaugh’s hand. He gripped hard, did not let go, and somehow we wound up Indian wrestling – foot to foot, pulling arms, straining for position. It didn’t go so far as the leave anyone on the ground, but just far enough to make it memorable.

The next time I met Mothersbaugh was around 1989, when I was just starting out as a writer. I got to interview him in person for a local NYC music magazine called Traffic, and when I showed up at his publicist’s office (I believe it was Susan Blond), he was wearing the band’s trademark red flowerpot helmet. We chatted for an hour, talking about many things including the meaning of “Jocko Homo” and de-evolution. It was one of the first celebrity interviews I ever did, and helped set a standard for me a a journalist to expect (hope) that my interview subjects would possess some sort of unique intelligence.

One aspect of the band’s history I didn’t explore at the time, though, was the impact of the Kent State tragedy on their founding, and I can only imagine that was due to my having talked to the wrong founder for that. Jerry Casale was friends with two of the victims of the infamous Kent State Massacre, and saw its immediate aftermath. I spoke with Jerry about it last week for this New York Post story. Read the piece, then check out these additional comments from Jerry on what happened that horrible day at Kent State.

Jerry Casale: Nobody even knows what happened that day, because the people that were there have been disenfranchised in the media. Nobody listens to us. That night, in the Record Courier, which was the Kent paper – not the Kent State paper, but the town’s – the headline said, “Students attack Guardsman. Four dead.” It made it sound like we had killed guardsman. Local sheriffs deputized posses that were driving around in Chevy Biscaynes in shotguns, looking for students.

Me: Do you think something like that could happen again today?

JC: Absolutely. It will. It’ll happen even bigger. That’s human nature.