Despite my illusions of being a full-time musician and parents that seemingly would allow that flight of fancy to seed (and grow!), around 1978, it dawned on me that I needed some kind of job. My friend Liam Vogel had gotten a cool gig with the Licorice Pizza chain in their main warehouse. He said I could work there, too. Problem was, it started at 8AM… way too early for me with my music schedule. “No problem,” says Liam… I think they’ll make an allowance for you to start at 10.” Now, we’re talking!
It’s a warehouse job. Lifting, sorting… driving forklifts. But the beauty is, we’re lifting, sorting and forklifting records! There were maybe 40 people working in the facility… every one of them has *something* to do with music; players, managers, agents, etc. Because they ARE there, it’s a pretty safe bet that none of them are very successful… but we were all giving it the ol’ college try (which is a misnomer if there ever was one!).
Lunchtime would be fun listening to everybody’s stories. One guy, who came to work in the music industry from Cleveland tells us… “Tonight at the Starwood there’s going to be a band from my hometown. You’ve never seen anything like it. You HAVE to go!”
So go, we did… en masse. There was no opening band. Instead, there was a movie screen, like the small family ones we all used to have, and a projector. The sound was fed through the PA so it was powerful. The film was ‘The Truth About De-Evolution,’ I hadn’t even seen the band yet but, already, it was like nothing I had ever seen. By the end of the film, the Starwood audience were howling… laughter, screams, hoots… what a reaction. Then, the band hit the stage.
I can’t really do it justice… the images of Devo are probably all burned into our collective consciousness by now… but seeing and hearing them for the very first time, with no prior warning as to what they were up to was quite a mindblowing experience. They were far more raw and punky than what they were to become after the release of their first album… they smoothed out their look and their sound quite a bit. But all the material from the first three records was already there. I distinctly remember them doing “Mr. DNA” and Bob Mothersbaugh going absolutely bonkers with the guitar solo… he jumped up on the very flimsy railing on the side of the Stage and walked across it menacingly as he played… it was a dangerous move worthy of Iggy in his prime. The yellow suits were there and later, stripped off to reveal the all-black workout gear. I remember “Praying Hands.” I remember “Soo Bawls.” “Satisfaction.” Fantastic!
I bought their self-recorded single, “Jacko Homo” b/w “Mongoloid” the next day. Played it to death. The folks were probably glad that I had a job and spared them from listening to any more DEVO around the house (at least, in the daytime… poor parents!).
Saw DEVO several more times in the weeks that followed. They never disappointed live and every show seemed a bit different. The excitement built in Hollywood until they were actually signed to a recording contract. The last night they were at The Starwood, I saw Phil Lynott, Brian Eno and David Bowie in the upstairs VIP section.
The rest, as they say, is history. All I can tell you is that in the days before signing to Warner Brothers, DEVO were the most creative, challenging and frankly, wonderful band that I had ever seen. The steam lasted, at least for me, through two albums. After “Whip It,” well, it got kinda middle of the road. But hey… They told us they were devolving, right?