At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I can’t tell you how sad the news of the death of Bob “Bob 2” Casale of DEVO made me today, it being the second member of one of my all-time favorite bands to die prematurely.
Oh, sure, I’d had other “all-time favorite” bands before DEVO -– notably KISS and Pink Floyd, but everybody loved KISS and Pink Floyd at the time. Declaring one’s fandom for either didn’t exactly put one out on any precarious limbs. It was, however, my fervent immersion in all things DEVO that, I’d suggest, turned me into the arguably insufferable music geek/knowitall/jackass/curmudgeon that I am today.
My first experience with DEVO was at my Uncle Carly’s place way out in the Berkshires. We were visiting for the weekend, and I was about eleven or twelve years old. My sister and I were allowed to stay up and watch “Saturday Night Live” (then still a very big deal), which we wouldn’t normally have been allowed to do. Comedian Fred Willard was hosting, and introduced a band called DEVO (I want to say they played the “Jocko Homo” footage with Boojie Boy and General Boy first), and then the band appeared in their yellow suits. I remember being so perturbed by the sight of these guys, and wasn’t quite sure whether it was a real band or just another sketch on the show.
In short order, their name got around. Their debut LP, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! became a required acquisition. It sounds quaint now, but I can’t tell you how much people just DID NOT LIKE this band. Seemingly more so than any ridiculous heavy metal ensemble or pugnacious punk outfit, the mere invocation of DEVO’s name used to make people actively agitated. I remember wearing a DEVO t-shirt on Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side some Saturday, and a complete stranger well into his 30’s with a cop/porn mustache and a mullet came right up to me –- this gormless geek in a DEVO t-shirt, barely into his teens –- to emphatically state: “Yo, man…fuckin’ DEVO SUCKS!” I took it as an affirmation that I was on the right side.
Prior to their “big hit single” (and even afterwards), DEVO fandom drew a line in the sand. I remember several of my friends being pointedly put off by my bug-eyed espousal of their music, their message, their aesthetic, as if I’d joined some cult that involved voluntarily taping a “KICK ME IN THE FACE” sign to my chest.
DEVO was my first ever proper concert. Radio City Music Hall on Halloween night 1981. The New Traditionalists tour. Under a block away that same evening, FEAR would abortively play on “Saturday Night Live” (with future members of Minor Threat and the Cro-Mags in tow). My second ever concert was DEVO a year later on the Oh No! It’s Devo tour, downtown at the Palladium on East 14th Street (it’s footprint now occupied by a NYU dorm and a fucking Trader Joe’s). I can’t tell you how much of an affect these performances had on me.
Anyway, blah blah blah. I became an ardent Devotee for life. They’ve meant a great deal to me. They still do. And always will.
In any case, rest in peace, Bob 2. Duty Now!
More about DEVO on Flaming Pablum from over the years...