Archive for the '20th Century' Category


I Killed Sears, And I’m Sorry

Today’s news that Sears has finally filed for bankruptcy protection has me thinking about my own role in the legendary retailer’s demise at the hands of the internet.

In 1995, along with a business partner in Chicago, I founded an “online presence” consultancy called Automatic Media Group. We consulted for businesses, connected clients to internet service and built websites with software tools that were incredibly primitive by today’s standards. A pair of technology-friendly creative types, we understood that the internet and the web were going to change how most businesses communicated.  We knew that the web would completely transform internal and external messaging and workflow for practically every business. We set out to show companies how to manage that change.

That decade, Chicago’s giant business sectors were retail, insurance, finance and logistics. We had friends working in some of these companies, and we could get meetings with decision-makers.  Sears — specifically its catalog production team based in Hoffman Estates — was a major target for us.  My partner and I had equal strengths in the print and creative worlds, and we were ready to talk to the makers of the world’s most famous mail-order catalog in their own language.

We could see the digital future: the Sears catalog’s pages would not be mailed in three-pound bricks of glossy dead tree to millions of postal customers. Those pages were headed instead toward the World-Wide Web.  And knowing this was half the battle, we were very sure.

But once we were in the room, the catalog’s future wasn’t the topic. Instead, the team asked us about something more modest: how to put internet email onto everybody’s desk. Two thirds of their hundreds of Mac computers weren’t on a local area network (LAN) and a third were on a hodegepodge of different, not-working-well-together network technologies. They asked: is email compatible with Aldus Pagemaker and Photoshop 4.0?

Yes it is, but first things first, I said. A bunch of things need to change, because the network itself is the point.

I then let them know that they were asking the wrong questions, not seeing the big picture.  Instead of talking about their email, I told them that the catalog team needs to create a LAN where everybody is on the same network, because the network is the point. That they should use 10Base2 NICs and AppleTalk and accounts from our ISP and…

Something was going wrong. I saw their eyes glazing over.

“We just need email,” they said.

I wasn’t getting through to them, so I doubled down on communicating the vision. “I think you need way more than that. Ultimately, your catalog pages need to be delivered to the world using the network, using the web, not paper mail. This is just step one.”

Long story short, we were shown the door.

It took time for me to see what had gone wrong. I was so sure of the future — so right — that had I more or less overlooked what the client was asking for. They were asking for X, which meant they were thinking about X. But I was looking beyond X, to its context. That was the big mistake. Being right about that context didn’t matter much at that moment.

In hindsight, we weren’t in the room because we were right. We were in the room to listen to the client.

Had I listened to them talk about their smaller problem, instead of fixating on their big problem, we could have solved the email on the team’s own terms, and, having stuck around, we might have let what would have naturally followed — e-commerce and all the disruption it brings — present itself for our likely involvement and guidance.

Today, I’m indulging in a bit of tongue-in-cheek — I obviously didn’t “kill Sears”.  But it is true that the once-powerful brands of Sears never connected in time to the serious technological and company-cultural guidance they needed to avoid today’s fate two decades later.  If I had known what I was (and wasn’t) doing that day, maybe we could have changed that at least a little.

In my defense, I was a very green twentysomething, and this was my first company. I was the first entrepreneur in my family. I was so inexperienced that  I didn’t even realize I was in a sales role, let alone that I was screwing it up.

Sorry, Sears.

You’re welcome, Amazon.


Mouthbreather Bar Misremembers War

History Is Bunk (To Brahs)

Call me a stickler, but when Murphy’s Bleachers in Wrigleyville decided to infamously promote its drink specials on Pearl Harbor Day, it wasn’t the cheap marketing I found galling. If not for cheap marketing, the backward-hatted morons who frequent places like Murphy’s would have no idea what to do with themselves, and everybody needs guidance in a confusing world, especially our dumbest bros.

What irritated me about the sign wasn’t the pimping of the 72nd birthday of our country’s sadly eternal military-industrial complex.  It was the predictably boneheaded bungling of the underlying history itself.

See, brah, you can’t commemorate Pearl Harbor by buying a Kamikaze cocktail.  It’s impossible, for the same reason that you can’t commemorate the 1990 Iraq War by buying a 9/11 t-shirt with a crying eagle on it.

Because there were no Kamikazes — aka suicide pilots — at Pearl Harbor, nor fighting anywhere else in Japan’s military for years following.  Suicide attack is a tactic born of desperation.  On December 7, 1941 the Japanese were anything but desperate.

The Imperial Navy and its aviators, having sunk most of the US Pacific fleet on Dec. 7th were left on Dec 8th as the dominant force in the war in the Pacific.  For six months, the US was unquestionably losing World War 2.  It wasn’t until June, 1942 that the US Navy’s aircraft carriers engaged in the Battle of Midway the same Japanese carriers that so successfully attacked Pearl Harbor.

Midway was the beginning of the end for Japanese ambitions in the Pacific, as three of its aircraft carriers were sunk and most of the pilots and aircraft that won the day at Pearl Harbor were killed.

When your A team is wiped out, you’re left with the B and C teams.  Soon after, Japan lost even those, as US manufacturing power poured ships and planes into the Pacific in the following years, mounting an inexorable island-hopping march toward the Japanese mainland.

It was desperation, years after Pearl Harbor that brought forward the Kamikazes in late 1944.

See, brah, things have dates.  Events occur in order of time. Dumbing history down to high-five-engendering drink specials is no way to go through life.

Here’s a hint, broseph.  Just down the street from Murphy’s, there’s a tavern where you can bet your sandals and fannypack they won’t get these details wrong.  It’s called Nisei Lounge. 

Nisei, you may be surprised to learn, is not the name of a cocktail.  It is the name given to the Japanese-American citizens who, despite having their families rounded up and shipped to concentration camps in remote locations across 18 US states, signed up to fight for the US in WWII.  If you head over there to learn something, good for you.

Just remember: you can’t listen while you’re flapping your Miller Lite-hole. Smarten up and quiet down.


Gerry Casale’s Oral History Of DEVO

In a turkey(monkey) coma this Thanksgiving? Snap out of it with these 1995 clips of DEVO’s Gerald V. Casale as he tells the story of five pilgrims from Akron, OH who sailed to Los Angeles in a Plymouth only to collide with a rock called the music industry.

Marvel at tales of Booji Boy, he who is old as the mountains but as yet unborn!  Learn of the earliest days of Art DEVO, of the Poot Man and his dairy intake, of janitor supply stores,  McDonald’s restaurant managers and other stanchions of Akronian society!

It’s a wiggly world full of strange pursuits and unkeyed chroma.  Light up a stogie (really?) with Gerry and reflect on a job well done.


Chalmers A. Johnson 1931-2010

Have closed libraries, unfixed potholes and darkened streets gotten your attention?  Wondering why the country’s come down with a nasty case of the declines?  Curious about how the abuses of runaway capitalism seem sharpened and deepened for everybody, yet somehow, business is actually booming for builders of fighter aircraft and submarines designed to combat the Soviet Union in 1978?

Chalmers Johnson was way ahead of you.  As a cold war Navy and CIA analyst, Johnson carried a spear for empire, then laid it down and began talking in great detail and clarity about the “military Keynesianism” he had served. His “Blowback” trilogy is absolutely essential reading that illustrates the hidden reality of the US’s unchallenged permanent war economy.   Johnson’s work reveals that far from being a cyclic ill, militarism is actually life’s blood to every corner the US economy. His trilogy is the categorical detailing of Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address warning concerning the military-industrial-congressional complex.

Hours ago, Chalmers Johnson passed away, and is already missed. While many who served US policy knew something about Eisenhower’s speech, far fewer acknowledged its ramifications and even fewer had the guts to talk about it.


Harvey Pekar 1939-2010

Sadly, the RW370 NBC Letterman category gets a bump today. Harvey Pekar, writer of American Splendor, the deeply funny and mordant autobiographical comic book anthology that obliterated the long-presumed gap between comics and literature has passed away in his Cleveland home. He was 70.

Pekar’s insistence upon maintaining his idea of the lifestyle and ethos of a steadily and modestly-employed, nose-to-the-grindstone midwesterner (he kept a job as a file clerk in a Cleveland hospital his entire working life) brought him attention beyond his writing work, culminating in the terrific 2003 film adaptation of Splendor starring Paul Giamatti as Harvey.

During the 1980s, the irascible and combative Pekar appeared on David Letterman’s show several times. Always essential viewing, these were cut short by Pekar’s unwillingness to overlook the many sins of General Electric, NBC’s corporate parent, as the clip demonstrates. So long, Harvey.


Pere Ubu On Letterman: Worlds In Collision

We get a glimpse of show business’s hidden ritual abuse of musicians as Dave discusses the effrontery of the show’s performance arrangements for Pere Ubu in the 1989(?) clip. As per the show’s other longstanding policy of requiring musical performances to be shared by Paul Schaeffer and the house band, the forced hybridization of Ubu is in this case not a displeasing one.


DEVO’s Gerald V. Casale on Kent State Massacre’s 40th Anniversary

Eyewitness recounting of the Kent State shootings from DEVO’s co-founder. Witness the birth of DEVO – the sound of things falling apart – on a campus hilltop in Ohio.

(RW370 video embed not working)


Tex Avery / Walter Lantz: Sssshhhh!

Picked this up from the incomparable Drew Friedman, sending it right back out to Mike Greenlees and all the crumbsnatcher Tex Avery fans at Casa de Greenlees: Sssshhh! Haven’t seen it in years, probably not since Channel 32 used to show Woody Woodpecker cartoons after-school in the late 70s. It’s got the Tex Avery silly/goofy physics and signage right along with that Walter Lantz subtle weirdness – all mixed in with the Okeh Laughing Record. Sssshhh!


Devo Co-Founder Bob Lewis: My 1997 Interview

Not Pictured: Bob Lewis

I’m on an email list about DEVO called Spud Talk.  Today, out of nowhere, list member Chad sent out to the list a copy of my 1997 interview with Bob Lewis, a founding member of DEVO. The Truth About The Truth About De-Evolution originally appeared in “The Ohio Issue” of Wind-Up, the print zine helmed by the very fancy and very caffeinated dear friend Liz Clayton.   It was later posted to the USENET newsgroup Thanks to Chad (having lost the file many moons ago) I present it once more:

The Truth About The Truth About De-Evolution

an Interview with DEVO founder Bob Lewis by Rob Warmowski

Let me get one thing clear immediately: no single group of musicians or artists changed my life more completely than DEVO. When their 1978 television performance on Saturday Night Live sailed into my living room and collided with my 11-year-old primate brain, I grew up.

This rock band managed to, all at once, exhilarate and scare the living crap out of me, starting by showing a snippet of the DEVO film The Truth About De-Evolution. I will never forget the sheer terror at the unacknowledged, unexplained sight of Booji Boy scurrying up a fire escape to the General’s conference table, set to the tortured groaning sounds of some flea-bitten Moog synth. The visual impact was akin to finding a cockroach in a salad, and it sounded like the credits / theme music for an elementary school educational film gone horribly wrong. I remember an overwhelming desire to turn on the lights in the dark living room.  No chance –  the band came on and stopped me in my tracks, blurting the most crawly, murderous sound I had ever heard. My neurons fired furiously, watching these nuclear technicians with guitars. Not a motion or sound wasted. It made sense. It meant everything. It was over too quickly…but little did I know it would never really stop.

The following Monday at school, I embarked on a journey of social devolution that continues today. New Wave, schmoo wave, the polarization was much simpler then: you either knew that we’re all Devo or you didn’t and kept on air-guitaring to Kiss courtesy of MusicRadio WLS. Some of us knew.  Key alliances formed with the few young primates who were similarly educated led naturally to fringe cultural exercises like punk rock, reading books, and personal computing.

As I became more involved in music and learned more about how it was made, I dropped the juvenile idea that DEVO walked around, sipped coffee, and made their records wearing their full suits of protective gear.  This opened a whole new line of thinking: DEVO was five guys. They were out there, somewhere, doing something at any given time. But what? They hadn’t been DEVO all their lives: what the hell could they have been before? What in the world could they have seen that caused them to make this glorious din and gripping film work?

The questions kept coming. As their recorded career progressed past the records “Freedom Of Choice” and “New Traditionalists”, into what I call the Dark Guitarless Era, new questions arose. “Why are they beginning to suck?” “What happened to the guitars and drums?” Magazines were no help. Asking the
spudboys themselves was a complete impossibility to me.

Skip forward more than a decade, past their ignominious breakup and ascendancy of Mark Mothersbaugh into megabuck film & TV scoring. Enter the Internet.

While hanging around on the Usenet newsgroup some months ago, I received an e-mail reply to one of my posts from a fellow with a username of
“bobdevo.” His reply seemed cogent and knowing. Any spud worth his salt knows that there were two Bobs in DEVO. Immediately, I regressed into a
twelve-year-old. Oh my GOD…. Could it be…? Is that…?

I calmed down and asked for some qualification, and received so much more than I could have hoped.

This Bob was Bob Lewis, 47-year-old entrepreneur based in Akron, OH, business consultant and media developer.  Bob Lewis is the unknown co-founder of DEVO. I had found the missing Bob.  Bob Zero.

Bob’s creative impact on the band was real. Spuds carefully examining their Devographies will note that the classic song “Be Stiff” is credited to one B. Lewis, as well as are other songs on the Rykodisc “Hardcore DEVO” selections of basement tapes and whatnot. Bob functioned as guitar player in the early days to Gerry Casale’s bass anchor, and was the originator of the DEVO concept in its anthropological context.

His anonymity in the public story of the band is not a result of his lack of involvement.  On the contrary, legal reasons related to the great size of
his contribution account for his invisibility. Silent all these years, Bob Lewis spins a tale of early collaboration at  Kent State University that reaches much farther back than any official Devography. Manager, co-founder, guitarist, writer, armchair anthropologist…the story of DEVO is incomplete without his chapter. Hear now the Truth about the Truth about De-Evolution.


The Beginning Was The End

The time: The late 1960’s. The arena: Kent State University, soon-to-be target range for the Dick Nixon Precision Riflemen and campus creative
hotbed for Bob Lewis and Gerry Casale, DEVO’s founding members.

What were the first records you two ever bought that changed the way you did things?

It had to have been “Charlie Brown,” that’s the first record I can think of that had an anti-establishment theme to it. Jerry was very much into blues
and black music.

What was Jerry doing musically at the time, at Kent?

He was playing in a band called Haymarket Riot and wearing puffy sleeve shirts and a Prince Valiant haircut, doing the sensitive poet thing, because
that is what the chicks dug at the time. There was a very big beatnik / straightlaced dichotomy at play in what we did from the beginning.

Your major was Anthropology, and Gerry’s was Art. What were your goals back then?

Well, I wanted to go to Olduvai Gorge and dig up skulls. Gerry came at his Art major from a graphic design standpoint. He was very much into content,
into meaning and message. For instance, he would attend art galleries and opening with a friend of his who would wear a rubber ape mask, a real garish
thing. Gerry had this guy on a leash, literally. When they came to a piece that they liked, the guy in the mask would leap up and down. But if they

Uh oh. The Poot Dance.

Right, he’d dance the poot. You gotta dance the poot.

(Note: The “Poot” is referenced in the central DEVO anthem “Jocko Homo” cf. “Teachers and critics / All dance the Poot”)

Describe the Poot dance, using no more than three phrases.

Uh, squatting, loping rondo.

Describe the original meetings at Kent that was the genesis of DEVO. Was it fairly common for Art students to be mixing with Anthro students? Seems very
unlikely by today’s standards.

Yeah, there was a cafeteria in Kent where all the freak types went, there would usually be a small core of people there all the time, that’s where we
got together most of the time. You had a wide variety of people, most the first from their families to be attending college…

So the idea was a bunch of newly liberated kids on a campus, screwing off, across all kinds of lines..

Yeah. You know, back then it was $175 a quarter, gas was 20 cents a gallon and I had a couple of jobs where I was pulling in about $150 a week. That
was a shitload of money in those days, that was when there was all kinds of money in America. There was a lot of room to indulge, and a real anarchic
atmosphere to indulge in.  See, I was born two years after you got out of High School, and to me, the idea of a unified art group such as DEVO today would be a little unlikely because so many students have to work like dogs at shitty jobs just to pay rent.  Back then it was all different. It really was like a playground, prosperity was everywhere and prices were low. I don’t think DEVO could have come out of any other environment.

What was the first project that you and Gerry worked together on?

The Honors College at Kent had a literary publication called the Kent Quarterly, and in ’69 or ’70, they changed the name to”The Human Issue.” We
hated the name, but we did some art for the magazine. Gerry had a rubber stamp made, a graphic of missionary position sexual intercourse, the “fuck
stamp.” We made stickers, and stamped these on the magazine envelopes and customized them with dialog.

That’s pretty DEVO. Or proto-DEVO. When and how did the Anthropology / De-Evolution ideas get worked in to the aesthetic?

That would have been in fall of ’70, because there was a visiting professor from England at Kent named Eric Modrum.. He had some interesting leftist
views on stuff, that prompted some discussion, and we then latched on to the joke concept of de-evolution. Of course, it has turned out to not be a joke,
we have Clinton and Dole running for president today, I mean… The DEVO philosophy was meant to be applied in the same way that deconstructionist
theory is applied so that you could at create a DEVO spin on whatever aesthetic, event, item, product happened to be in front of you.

So it was expressed primarily in the form of these “college bull sessions” I keep hearing so much about.


How did it become tangible?

It was in the lyrics, the first crude recordings going back to ’69. By ’72, we were writing it down, treatises, manifestoes, etc. Musically, it was
Gerry on bass, myself on slide guitar and a guy named Peter Greg on guitar. Around ’70, we’d do primitive versions of Automodown, I Need A Chick, I Been
Refused, and Beehive. There’s an acetate somewhere of those sessions, I think Gerry has it. We’d record on an Teac 4-track, and this beatnik guy
would run the gear.

What was his reaction?

Well, how excited did beatniks get about anything? Besides, we hadn’t learned to improvise yet.

How did the hippie/yippie brand of counterculture relate to the counterculture of DEVO? Was DEVO a reaction, a refining, what?

Well, we were more of your Noam Chomsky / B.F. Skinner types, you know, “We’re only smart monkeys, let’s not get too snotty”. Which had the ability
to piss off the SDS and the Young Republicans equally. And we are. We’re the smartest, meanest monkeys. The anthro ideas worked in to the art in that
way, and it was universally unexpected by both mainstream and counterculture. Musically, we were reacting to the excesses of rock at the
time, you know, Yes, Bachman Turner Overdrive…there was a kind of an advantage to applying the DEVO philosophy to music. It could mask a myriad
of musical inabilities, allowing us to say “we want it to sound that way”. We liked Captain Beefheart, Robert Johnson, even Frank Zappa – but we wanted
to be more subversive, we wanted to fool the audience into liking the music.

I always got the feeling that DEVO was built to appeal to the high-minded academic as well as Joe & Jane six-pack. Would you agree, and was this

We wanted to go as high as we could, and fucking low as we possibly could. The lowest of the low.

Were you intentionally building an art form with this odd idea of wide appeal for primarily commercial reasons, or was it an aesthetic exercise

It was an aesthetic exercise first that had built within it, the opportunity to create wealth. That wealth would be rolled back into the aesthetic, so it
would be kind of self-perpetuating. DEVO was a unified theory of art and commerce, and that’s fairly clear to fans who paid any attention to the
ideas that DEVO presented.

Would it be fair to say that the genesis of DEVO would have to have occurred in an environment that fostered SDS and yippies as well, that it couldn’t
have existed without the presence of that counterculture?

It would be hard to separate it out of the time amber in which we are imprisoned, but distrust of authority, distrust of common sense ideas about
stuff, these were ideas rampant at the time there.

Did DEVO extend that distrust also to the left?

We had an affection for them, but all of us perceived that bullshit rhetoric wasn’t gonna get anything done. My impression was, if you wanna blow
something up, hey, I’ll drive, but please, no more meetings! Another way it affected the continuation of DEVO was that had it not been for the shootings
at Kent State, it would have been debatable that DEVO would have manifested itself, Gerry and I would have probably continued into Grad school…

How did that affect the DEVO?

Because I had never seen anyone get their head blown off before. It crystallized the sense that something was seriously wrong, and there was no
simple fix, and the causes of the problem were extremely deep. We kept on because what we were saying only made more sense as time went on…


Popeye’s Big Punch Knocks Bluto Cold – Gettin’ that big ream, legal-style

Bob became the band’s manager, occasionally filling in for Bob Casale on guitar through the 1970’s. In 1974, he became DEVO’s full-time manager. The
De-evolutionary bios and manifestos and writing of the time is largely his, as is the vast majority of the effort expended in the documenting and
fostering of DEVO as a rock / art unit.

According to Bob, after the recording of the Warner Brothers Debut album “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!” in Berlin, the exposure of Gerry Casale to the starmaking machinery of Los Angeles resulted ultimately in the first major glitch in the band’s rockstar trajectory.

Bob:  During that period, I would be the point man with Stiff records (DEVO’s original label), find pressing plants, financing for the films and the
singles, book the shows, all that. Warner Brothers had sued Virgin over the fact that DEVO had basically signed two deals. Richard Branson (Virgin chief
shark) had signed them, yet Warner Brothers had paid the six figure money for the recording of the Are We Not Men? Album. The suit ended up with
Branson and Virgin taking the band’s record in the UK and Japan, and Warner Brothers taking it in the US. Branson got 50% of all DEVO music publishing
in perpetuity for the pittance of $70,000 upfront.

I had heard of a story where Branson had flown Mark and Bob Casale down to Jamaica or something during all of this, brought them into a boardroom, lit up a huge joint and said “Johnny Rotten has just left the Sex Pistols. We want him to sing for DEVO.” Did that really happen?


Man. Go on. How did you and DEVO end up parting ways?

I remember talking to Mark on the way back from the Are We Not Men Sessions. On the way back we had set up a gig in London, where I delivered
the final 10,000 singles on Stiff. On the way back from New York, listening to the way that Gerry was talking, the first I had seen him after the Berlin
sessions, it was apparent that Gerry was acing me out. Warner Brothers had simply told Gerry that their manager was now Elliot Roberts. I talked to
Mark about it, and he said that Gerry was the boss. It wasn’t a high-pressure thing, it was just a quiet resignation on the rest of the band’s part. Mark said “He’s got to do what he has to do, and so do you.”

What did you plan to do? At what point did you believe that you had something to protect legally?

Right away. I asked them to change the name of the band, to relinquish all of the intellectual property related to DEVO. The General, the bios,
manifestos, graphic design, philosophies, characters, even the Poot. Gerry wasn’t interested. So, in the fall of 1978, I filed the lawsuit Lewis v.
Casale, Mothersbaugh, Mothersbaugh, Casale, Myers, DEVO, Inc. I sued them for theft of intellectual property.

We had some fine legal talent, and we could bitch-slap the LA lawyers with it, but the crushing blow was from a kid from Ohio. It had gotten around,
only locally that I was suing the band for theft of intellectual property, and I got a phone call from this guy who had been a kid in high school
during one of DEVO’s very first performances at the Akron Art Festival. He interviewed DEVO for his little magazine.

Funny how familiar that sounds.

He calls me up and says “I have a tape you might want to hear.” So he comes in and it plays this kid asking Mark the question “So who thought up this
whole De-Evolution thing?” And Marks says “This guy right here, Bob Lewis.”

Bailiff, clear the courtroom!

When we played that in court, I could see the table where Gerry and the WB lawyers were sitting, I could see them sort of deflate. They settled
immediately after that.

What was the settlement amount?

Ah, I’m not at liberty to divulge that.

How about a ballpark? Five figures? Six? Seven?

Into the six figures. And Warner Brothers of course told them “Don’t worry, we’ll pay it- you’ll pay us back LATER.” And of course they did.
Unfortunately for DEVO, and I take no personal pleasure from the whole episode, that really soured the whole relationship between the band and the
label at the time, since it came right on the heels of the Virgin / WB lawsuit where Branson was such a shark. As a result of the whole mess, DEVO
never got pushed, never got the attention from the label that they deserved.

How badly did this affect your relationships with the band?

There was no animosity, but there were hurt feelings. It was bad for a few years, but we’re all on friendly terms now. The DEVO philosophy even
affected that, since everybody knew that Gerry was just fulfilling his genetic destiny, to be a kind of weasel. He can’t help it, and we all knew
that. I’m friends with all of them today.

I keep hearing that it’s very hard to work with Gerry…

Well, Mark was commissioned to be the frontman, it was thrust upon him, he didn’t want to do it really. Gerry wanted to be the frontman, but he was
commercially unacceptable in that role.

How do you mean?

He couldn’t…he couldn’t restrain himself, he couldn’t hide his disdain. Gerry is filled with anger about the stupidity he sees around him, and that
wouldn’t make for frontman material.

Were there settlement terms that had you promise to keep quiet about it?

Yes, I was not to divulge the true nature of the authorship of the intellectual property that comprised the DEVO philosophy, so as not to
damage the potential of the band or its career.

Well, it’s out now, Bob. All over Wind-Up.


Itchy Itchy Goo Got Me Thinkin’ Of You – The Wrong Girlfriend Protocol and DEVO

Let’s talk about the post-settlement creative progression of DEVO. What the hell happened to the band’s sound as they moved away from guitar-driven rock and into synth dependence? Where did the guitars go?

What it boiled down to is that Gerry got pissed at Bob Mothersbaugh for dating and then impregnating and marrying a woman named Maria. [Bob and
Maria are the parents of Alex Mothersbaugh, the blond-haired girl featured on the cover of the Shout! record. Cute kid, meh record. -r] Around the
time of Freedom of Choice, Gerry punished Bob, isolating him and making him obsolete, giving him fewer responsibilities. Of course, the guitars then had
to be replaced with the keyboards, Gerry got into playing bass keys and he had his brother Bob doing them as well. What resulted were gloppy records
like Oh No! and on, guitar-free and drum-free DEVO. The problem is, all those synths had the same ranges. The earlier stuff, despite its poor
recording is the most interesting.

Huh. The common answer for this from both Mark and Gerry over the years has been that DEVO had done everything there was to do with guitars, that they were bored with them and had to move on. How do you reconcile that?

It’s bullshit.

At what point do you believe DEVO strayed the farthest from the musical or promotional ideals you had all created?

Probably the flowerpot hats on Merv Griffin. But even that period had its great advances. I remember Gerry hearing “My Sharona” by the Knack around
that time and saying “We’ve gotta do something like that.” What resulted was “Girl U Want.”

[Shock, stunned silence, great appreciation of the genius of DEVO. Go ahead, play em’ back to back.]

Uh…wow.. What are your impressions about Lene Lovich covering “Be Stiff”, and what are the implications of a woman singing the line “wet women waste your food?”

It was cute, I liked it. You know, Stiff Records put on a tour of bands that did nothing but play that song, so I was used to hearing a lot of different
versions of it. A later girlfriend of Gerry, Toni Basil “Oh Mickey, you’re so fine” – MTV ed.] also put a version on one of her records, so now every
quarter, I still get a couple of bucks.

As long as the fairer sex is on the table so to speak, give me your take on lines in your early work with DEVO such as “Baby Talkin’ Bitches”, “I Need A
Chick”, “The Rope Song”, “I Been Refused…”

DEVO was actually a celebration of womanhood. Look, it is war out there. Women are to be respected and feared at the same time, and that is what we
put forth in our lyrics. We were the only honest treatment of the gender relationship in rock music.

Who among you was the first to get laid as a direct result of DEVO?

Gerry, 1978 at Max’s Kansas City in New York.

Today’s best rock such as Brainiac or Six Finger Satellite (also known as “panic rock”, if the Wind-Up Editorial Phrase-Coining Machinery is to be
trusted) owes a great debt to the fab five of Akron, OH. If this jaunt into De-evolution has piqued your interest, go hit the Web and consume as much information as you need from The DEVO FAQ. Or, if you have the patience to suffer through a Usenet newsgroup, check out There’s sure to be a small resurgence of appreciation of the band and its art as they have just been booked to come out of retirement to play 6 dates of sets of older material on the West coast leg of Lollapalooza. Go ahead, because now, you know the Truth.


How To Not Suck At Pinball With Greg Dunlap

You may have heard of TED, an elite technology and science conference where awesome presentations are given in a short format.  Similarly, this clip comes to us from GREG, an elite conference in Seattle, the entire schedule of which lasts a mere five minutes, focused on issues of particular interest to rockers.*  Curated by Greg Dunlap, Chicago expat, guitarrorist, software developer and longtime pal, GREG ’10 is quite the standout.  This year’s topic?  How To Not Suck At Pinball, one subject among many a Greg Dunlap, PAPA competitor is eminently qualified to discuss.  Neither deaf, nor dumb, and only mildly farsighted, that kid sure plays a mean pinball.

*conference description possibly embellished



rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

July 2020