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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Thirty Seconds Over Akron
In an attempt to find a single web page that mentioned both Bob Lewis and Alan Myers, I ran across this one:

Of all the bands that had spawned near the Ohio Canal during the Seventies, Devo was the fish that made it furthest up the Punk and New Wave stream. DIY costumes, sci-fi motifs, a philosophical statement in the band's very existence, that strange Rolling Stones cover they recorded, and those angular guitar riffs and quivering vocals...Devo was like nothing ever before seen in Ohio or America. Now, they're brought back to life like a regenerated cyber-virus, as Devo is the subject of a new book by Beacon Journal journalist David Giffels and co-author Jade Dellinger. Giffels, who studied English, Mass Media and Creative Writing, earned a Masters Degree from Akron University and has been writing for the Beacon Journal for nearly ten years....

The band members' participation was limited. Jerry Casale gave two very good interviews, then withdrew participation; Mark Mothersbaugh declined to be involved. Alan Myers gave the first interview he's given since leaving the band in the late 80s, and Bob Lewis, a key figure in the proto-Devo years who later sued for intellectual property rights, ended a years-long silence....

When the scene really congealed in 1976, Devo, Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys played a lot of shows together. The Dead Boys and Devo had quite a feud, which is part legend and part reality; David Thomas, interviewed for the book, was dismissive, saying Devo was a pop band, where Pere Ubu was a folk band. But at the time, they all needed each other, 'cuz it was them against the world. Ultimately, the whole scene was better for it....

[H]aving met Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale -- always the key (and virtually only) spokesmen/leaders -- and having come to understand them through others' eyes, I'd say both are what I expected. They're both really, really smart guys and vibrant conversationalists. Mark is soft-spoken and a genuinely kind person -- he's still got all that Ohio politeness, even though he hasn't lived here in like, 25 years. Jerry has more edge, and also more sheen. He'd make a great political candidate....

I couldn't find the original article on Bob Lewis (the geocities link no longer works), but I found some comments about it:

I know this should probably be consigned to the FAQ department, but it
bothered me on so many levels that I couldn't help asking the group. I
came across an interview with Bob Lewis where he claims to have been one
of the important formative influences for DEVO. While this may be true,
there seems to be a smug, nasty tone throughout the piece. Gerry seems
to come off as a user and Mark as some sort of puppet. Lewis makes it
seem like Gerry was ordering everyone in the group around, that the
shift to synthesizers was due to a fight Gerry had with Bob 1 over a
woman, and that the reason everything after FOC "sucked" was because the
boys were cut off from Lewis's genius. What gives? Is this guy right,
or is he just a sour old spud?
Both....but, of course this is HIS SIDE of the story. There's a lot of truth mixed with highly opinionated ego-saving exaggeration....
I just read the whole thing, and the story about Gerry punishing Bob is hard for me to believe. Personally, I think it was a good direction of Devo to go full-synth, but I find it hard to swallow that that was the whole reason for doing so. It seems to be too petty for Devo to change it's entire sound just because of a girl that one band member impregnated....
It's easier to accept when you remember that, according to an 80's Casale interview in, I think, ROLLING
STONE, he claimed DEVO was adrift in a sea of coke and it helped wreck their Warner Bros relationship. The interview quoted Casale as saying DEVO pissed off the label further by inadvertently messing up the master tape for one of their albums (NEW TRAD?). Wish I could remember it more clearly.

What's telling is not the truth of the matter, but that Casale said it for the public record in a mass-market rock'n'roll magazine. What's the deal? Protective posturing? Deliberately misinformative DEVO prankery? Bullshit without reason?....
The change to more electronics came before the coke. They left WARNERS
because of bad advice. NEW TRADS was recorded on a bad tape; DEVO didn't
"mess it up".
My biggest problem with the peice is that it totally discounts Mark's contribution to the group. Considering the story as told (and as far as it goes, it seems legit), how can Mr. Lewis be an objective source of information? I learned some from this peice, but it's not gospel, imo.
You know, when I did that Bob Lewis piece, I admit that I did not realize that I would be talking about it on and off for a long long time to people as varied as cognitively challenged VH-1 producers to agitated fan-boys to graduate students who sieze upon the piece as a cornerstone to their thesis work(!) to Devo memebers themselves.

Since the article happened due directly to an online fight right here ("They rock, therefore they're a rock band" vs. "No, no, you don't get it, they rock IRONICALLY") I feel like I should check in....

When I interviewed BL it was to answer questions I had that dogma had no place
in answering, just some facts please, stuff that sounded like it came from
mere humans instead of Devo. You know, like when Bob M, self-described "just
the guitar player" spills the beans about the energy domes having come
straight out of a Little Lulu comic book....

Putting the "anal" in "analysis" since 1977,
Rob Warmowski

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