Bob Casale, Founding Member of Devo, Passes Away | Culture

Bob Casale, Founding Member of Devo, Passes Away |  Culture

Gerald Casale announced it today on social networks: this Monday his brother, Bob Casale, aged 61, had died, a sudden victim of a heart ailment. Another blow to the group they both founded, Devo; Last year, Alan Myers, the most effective of the various drummers who passed through the band, also died.

Devo’s is an archetypal rock story: the provocation-acceptance-commercialization-defeat sequence. They were born at Kent State University, an Ohio institution that entered the history of the United States in black letters in 1970, due to the death of four students during a demonstration against the Vietnam War. Somehow the slaughter reaffirmed the de-evolution, an initially humorous theory from Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh, and other friends: that modern society, instead of evolving, regressed to a state where humans settled for the role of alienated workers and robotic consumers.

They generated pamphlets and short films before finally establishing themselves as a musical group, already in the industrial city of Akron. Among the members who joined was Bob Casale, on guitar, and the aforementioned Alan Myers. They developed a provocative show and mechanized sound; They failed to be particularly popular with their countrymen, but they did arouse the curiosity of the London and New York music press. The joke was approved by Neil Young, Iggy Pop or David Bowie, who became Devo propagandists.

After self-publishing and releasing material on the British label Stiff, they were signed by Warner Bros (and Virgin, in Europe). Brian Eno produced his first LP, Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo (1978), facilitating its acceptance. They wore hilarious uniforms, jerked around, and had visual occurrences that would function as a passport to enter MTV’s front door in the video clip age.

However, underneath their clothing and conceptual rubbish, there was a solid electronic pop-making machine, fitting in with the festive spirit of the new wave: try to imagine some irreverent Kraftwerk, with acid humor. They got hits with Girl u want, Freedom of choice and above all, Whip it. They successfully manipulated Rolling Stones songs (Satisfaction), Johnny Rivers (Secret agent man) o Lee Dorsey (Working on a coal mine).

But Devo ended up biting off the forbidden apple. They moved to Los Angeles, after being defeated in a humiliating court battle in Ohio, after refusing to financially compensate Bob Lewis, one of their early ideologues. Life was much kinder in California but somehow they lost character as they integrated into the show business like some nice eccentrics.

They were able to transform some of their emblematic songs into advertising; They even recorded their hits for Disney, in self-censored versions, suitable for children to sing. They would acquire a reputation for being willing to compromise with the old enemy, corporate America: they even accepted that their plastic hats – those energy domes that looked like flowerpots – were transformed into a McDonald’s accessory.

Starting in the 1990s, the group had a sporadic existence, oriented more towards revival than creation. Mark Mothersbaugh set the tone with Mutato Muzika, a company dedicated to the lucrative business of creating custom music for TV shows, video games, movies, and whatever else was needed. Among his partners was the now-defunct Bob Casale, turned recording engineer. Despite the deteriorating relations between some members of the band, Bob always opted for the live performance and for looking for the original spark to record new songs. In the last twenty years, Devo only released one album with fresh material.

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Bob Casale, Founding Member of Devo, Passes Away | Culture