- Private Secretary
- I Been Refused
- Subhuman Woman
- The Rope Song
- Pigs Waddle
- Be Stiff
- O No
- All of Us
- Gorj Prayer
A complete front-to-back cover of DEVO’s performance on 1974-04-23. Maxwell Major explains the project:
What do you get when you cross a bunch of art nerds, the Baby Boom, a counterculture stressing an empire exiting its golden age, and untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from watching your friends get shot down for exercising their constitutional rights by the very State that claimed to uphold them?
You get DEVO, a musical group which was an art movement in its own right and would go on to trailblaze the concepts of performance art, music video, and even the genre of new wave itself. They were perhaps one of the most important groups of the 20th century and will remain relevant until the Sixth Mass Extinction reaches its finality.
But it took several years for DEVO to reach critical mass. In 1974, DEVO was still simply the name of a small collective of artists who had their eggs in many baskets, with music being just one of them. The opportunity arose for this collective to put together a live performance and demonstrate concrete examples of “De-evolved music”. Knowing from past experience that they could not simply rely on hired hands to play what was at the time considered “anti-rock and roll”, the core members looked to their siblings, who had musical skill and could understand the concepts being conveyed by their brothers.
The Daily Kent Stater reported thusly: “DEVO CLAN RETURNS TRIUMPHANT–Devo makes a triumphant return to the site of last year’s spectacle… This is your chance. This year’s performance will degenerate in the Governance Chambers (as is altogether fitting). Seats will be at a premium, so get there early… Don’t miss ‘Private Secretary,’ ‘I Been Refused,’ ‘Sub-human Woman,’ ‘The Rope Song,’ ‘Pigs Waddle,’ ‘Be Stiff,’ ‘Androgyny,’ ‘O No’ and ‘All of Us’ as performed by Gerald and Robert Casale, Robert Lewis and James and Mark Mothersbaugh… the incredible Devo…”
So it was on the 23rd of April, 1974–1,450 days after the National guard murdered four and wounded nine at Kent State University–that Gerald and Robert Casale, Robert Lewis, and James and Mark Mothersbaugh took the stage in the Governance Chambers, and introduced themselves as DEVO. The set was comprised of nine original compositions and a band which seemed set up like a rock group, but the music and visuals betrayed. “Jungle Jim” kept time with rudimentary tire factory drum beats in an ape mask. Gerald laid down relentlessly monotonous bass grooves, slinging himself around in a lab coat decked with dozens of painted tampons. One Bob dutifully provided mechanical rhythm guitar, and another Bob in a biker’s jacket retaliated with crude, angular lead work. And Mark, crowned with the Brainwave Poo-Poo Hat, garnished the whole thing with otherworldly blips, squawks, and blasts from an early MiniMoog synthesizer and a Clavinet. This was not rock and roll, rather it was a Mad Magazine and Wacky Packages parody thereof. Most of the audience members, thankfully, were of the avant-garde hipster type who were used to John Cage or Morton Subotnick. They understood the intent and the concept, and received it warmly.
After the Creative Arts Festival, DEVO experienced a slack period as life got in the way. The rent doesn’t pay itself, after all. A few more live shows were played in 1974, but these were in bars and nightclubs where regular old spuds hung out and didn’t want anything to do with this art music. It would be at the tail end of 1976 when things finally started to look up, as DEVO’s lineup stabilized, venues such as the Crypt and Pirate’s Cove took a chance with them, and a self-produced single made enough of a splash to get them the hell outta Dodge. The rest, as they say, is De-Evolution.
The events of the Second Creative Arts festival faded into a footnote in DEVO’s history, remembered only by those who were there. Out of the setlist that night, only “Be Stiff” was taken with DEVO when they got their break. Some 46 years afterwards, someone going through the DEVO archives came across an almost-complete recording of the concert by accident. A USB drive containing the recording was given to none other than Bob Lewis himself. On April 13, 2021, he uploaded the recording to YouTube and donated it to the archival group Booji Boy’s Basement. For the first time in nearly five decades, the beginning of the end was heard by human ears.
And it came to pass that a young musician by the name of Maxwell Major, AKA Max Devo and/or Zhir Vengersky, was told of the recording. He listened to it from start to finish every day for nearly three months. By the 77th listen he had resolved to produce and record a cover of every song performed at the show, in tribute to the band that induced the greatest positive mutations in his formative years. This is that tribute.
Maxwell also provided some recording details on the project:
All lyrics and music by Gerald Casale (1-6, 8, 9), Robert Lewis (1, 3-7, 10), and Mark Mothersbaugh (8)
Lyrics to “Androgyny” provided by Lewis, transcribed from original lyric sheet. GVC flubbed them during the live performance.
Production by Max in Ableton Live 10
All guitars processed through Positive Grid BIAS FX 2
“Jungle Jim”-style drums sampled from various Devo recordings, augmented with acoustic drums where necessary
Aria Pro II Jet Bass
Squier Classic Vibe Mustang
Custom L6S-style parts guitar
Behringer Model D
Samson Carbon 61
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
PreSonus M7 condenser microphone