The dawn of the ‘80s was an amazing time for DEVO. After a late-1979 Saturday Night Live appearance made them notorious among the normals, the resolutely weird and misanthropic Akron, OH band managed an actual pop radio hit with “Whip It,” from the Freedom of Choice LP. That song probably remains their best known work among civilians who consider the band a one hit wonder.
Those civilians do kind of have a point. Though they’re inarguably among the most influential bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and their still-growing cult is as ardent as any band’s, DEVO would never experience that kind of mass-marketplace success again, and they remain a connoisseur’s buy. But while they had the world’s ears and eyeballs, they did their best to spread to the masses the prophetic, only half-satirical “Theory of Devolution” that gave them their name. One of the funniest moves they pulled to that end was to serve as their own opening band in the guise of “Dove, the Band of Love.” To satirize the devolution-proving emergence of that puritanical, self righteous, money-hungry, and censorious strain of Christian Evangelicalism that was beginning its pernicious spread through American political and cultural life—and which remains disturbingly powerful still—Dove (an anagram for DEVO, if you didn’t catch that) performed tepid, bowdlerized, Jesused-up versions of DEVO songs, wearing cheap leisure suits and accountants’ visors.
Dove’s Evangelical satire was so spot-on that they earned a cameo in the seriously underrated 1980 Dabney Coleman spoof film Pray TV. It’s not unlike “Weird” Al Yankovic’s UHF, but it beat “Weird” Al to the punch by nine years, and it’s centered around televangelism.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Attention all spuds: DEVO in concert 1980