A recent DEVO fandom YouTube-rabbit-hole led me to a late 80s interview with Robert Mothersbaugh, Sr., father of DEVO members Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh. I found myself enamored with this interview which was not in-and-of-itself emotional in any way, but it inspired great emotion in me, as a viewer, watching this extremely straight-laced midwestern granddad describe his sons’ band and his pride in their accomplishments. For as subjectively weird of a band as DEVO were, Mr. Mothersbaugh’s almost-folksy, matter of fact descriptions of the band and their philosophy are extremely charming.
Mothersbaugh, who played the character of “General Boy” in a handful of DEVO videos and short films, explains how he was originally roped into playing the character: He was given the part when another actor couldn’t (or refused) to make it to a DEVO film shoot and it just so happened that the military jacket costume fit him.
In the interview which takes place around the time of the Now It Can Be Told album, Mothersbaugh discusses his opinions on changes in DEVO’s sound, explaining that he feels the sound of the band at that time was returning more to their roots, and that it had previously become in his words “too mechanized”—probably referring to the albums Oh No, It’s DEVO and Shout.
He talks about supporting “one hundred and one percent” the fledgling band, which included not just his sons Mark and Bob, but also his son Jim, DEVO’s second drummer before Alan Myers. He goes into some detail about Jim’s invention of synthesized drums for the band before going to work for the Roland company, developing MIDI technology.
He talks a bit about his granddaughter, Alex, being in the DEVO offshoot band Visiting Kids.
When asked about his son Mark’s artwork, the elder Mothersbaugh describes his son as a “genius” and later describes one of his fondest memories as seeing his sons “entertaining” on television for the first time.
If you are a DEVO fan, this charming interview is well worth your time.
David Yow and Steve Albini on the set of ‘Duelin’ Firemen’ (via Bogart9)
The video game Duelin’ Firemen would have blown minds if it had been released in 1995. Think the Jodorowsky Dune of games. Much of the cast is straight out of the pages of Mondo 2000 or Fiz: Rudy Ray Moore, Rev. Ivan Stang, Mark Mothersbaugh, Timothy Leary, David Yow, Steve Albini, the Boredoms, Terence McKenna, Buzz Osborne, and Tony Hawk all had parts to play.
But unlike other worthy computer games that were actually produced in order to suck away vital months of my adolescence, such as DEVO’s Adventures of the Smart Patrol and the Residents’ Bad Day at the Midway, Duelin’ Firemen never passed from becoming into being. All that remains is a seven-minute trailer and a seven-inch record with David Yow on one side and the Boredoms on the other, both embedded below. From 23 years ago, here’s Rev. Ivan Stang’s account of the shoot:
12.21.1994- Run-n-Gun! filming
by Reverend Ivan Stang
I’ve been in Chicago for the last week, and although I took the modem with me, I never had time to plug it in. I was being an actor in a CD-ROM interactive video game called DUELIN’ FIREMEN being produced for the 3D0 system by a group of SubGenius filmakers and computer animator/vr programmers called Runandgun. It’s a combination of multiple-choice filmed scenarios and v.r. game situations, all taking place in Chicago while the entire city burns to the ground. I have played two roles in it so far—first an evil Man-In-Black and second, Cagliostro the evil 1,000-year old Mason whose spells started the fire. What sets this game apart from anything else I’ve ever seen is the TOTAL MIND-RAPE HILLBILLY SPAZZ-OUT STYLE of it. It makes Sam Raimi look like D.W. Griffith by comparison… makes Tim Burton look like Ernie Bushmiller. It is sick, twisted, weird and ‘Frop-besoaked like nothing on earth. It stars Rudy Ray Moore aka DOLEMITE as the main fireman with cameos by Tim Leary, Mark Mothersbaugh, Terrence McKenna, David Yow of Jesus Lizard and all manner of local Chicago freaks and jokers. (YES! I spent the week WORKING with DOLEMITE. We DO BATTLE in a scene and you get to “PLAY” us in the game section. Now is that cool or what. Of course, you’re probably too SOPHISTICATED to even KNOW who Rudy Ray Moore IS!!! (None of the crew did, although the winos outside the set recognized his VOICE.)) The real stars are the animation, fx and sets. It’s like a LIVING-SURREAL CARTOON from the mind of a CRAZY MAN (in this case, director Grady Sein). The Runandgun crew are like this commune of crazed hillbilly technoids. I had the time of my life. The game won’t be finished till July ‘95, though.
The trailer’s quality reminds me of the way videos looked on the screen of my Macintosh Performa during the late Nineties, except that back then they were about the size of a matchbox. What I’m trying to say is: prepare your mind and body for ugly fat-pixel video…
Note: There has been some confusion about what happened at Sonos this week. After running this story, we were given reason to doubt that Mothersbaugh ever made these remarks. It turns out that he did say them—at a press preview of the Sonos event that took place one night earlier than the public event. Apologies to Daniel Maurer of Bedford and Bowery for casting his reportage in a negative light. The good news is that Mothersbaugh’s tapes appear to exist! Yay!
Yesterday, at an event hosted by Sonos at its Soho location in Manhattan, Mark Mothersbaugh divulged some news that has some fans of David Bowie positively salivating.
The “Song Stories” event was a tribute to Bowie, in which the lead singer of DEVO was joined by Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy, photographer Mick Rock, Motley Crüe‘s Nikki Sixx, and moderator Rob Sheffield. The idea was that each of the four guests would tell a story about Bowie and each story would be paired with a Bowie track.
According to Daniel Maurer of the Bedford and Bowery blog, Mothersbaugh let it be known that he had recently come across some tapes of a remarkable jam session that featured members of DEVO jamming with David Bowie, Brian Eno, and Holger Czukay of Can (!). “I haven’t listened to it yet because I just found this tape,” Mothersbaugh said to the startled attendees.
The recording stems from the sessions for DEVO’s first album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, which was recorded at the studio of renowned Krautrock producer and musician Conny Plank near Cologne, Germany. Brian Eno produced the album with occasional assistance from Bowie, who was filming the David Hemmings movie Just a Gigolo nearby. Bowie also remixed most of the album’s tracks. Apparently all the members of DEVO participated in the jam session, except for the band’s “bassist,” who had “missed his connecting flight because he was fighting with his girlfriend on an airport pay phone.” Presumably this refers to Gerald Casale?
In 1977, the wife of Michael Aylward, the guitarist in another noted Akron band, Tin Huey, sent Bowie and Iggy Pop a tape of DEVO’s demo songs; both musicians immediately became fans of the band and expressed an interest in producing DEVO’s first album. DEVO’s first gigs in New York took place on July 8 and 9, 1977, when the band played two sets per night at Max’s Kansas City. According to Mothersbaugh at Sonos last night, Bowie “came out on stage when we played our second show at Max’s” on the first night.
He came out on stage and goes, “This is the band of the future, I’m going to produce them this Christmas in Tokyo!” And we’re all like, “Sounds great to us. We’re sleeping in an Econoline van out in front on Bowery tonight, on top of our equipment.”
As Maurer writes, “Bowie ended up taking the band out on the town, putting Mothersbaugh up in his hotel room, and introducing the Akron, Ohio innocent to sushi.”
Mothersbaugh apparently found the tape after bringing his DEVO archive back to his studio. The jam session featuring DEVO, Bowie, Eno, and Czukay isn’t the only interesting tape he found, however. Mothersbaugh also found the 24-track master tapes used for the album, accompanied by Eno’s documentation of each song’s instruments, effects, and audio settings: “There’s these tracks down below that say things like: ‘David’s vocals’ and ‘Brian’s extra synths.’ And I’m like, ‘I remember turning that stuff off when we were doing our final mixes.’”
The band’s lead singer explained the band’s reluctance to use the vocal of a pop star as massive as Bowie by reference to DEVO’s paranoia of having their distinct sound messed with after so many negative experiences with hinky industry people and unauthorized releases.
Mothersbaugh indicated that he’ll have a listen to the tapes. “I’m thinking we should see what’s on those tapes. ... I’m really curious to see what the heck they did.” He joked by saying that DEVO “might have been more successful” if they had used Bowie’s vocal tracks.
Interestingly, Bryan Rolli’s account at Billboard of the Sonos event makes no mention of Mothersbaugh’s revelations, so we’ll see what shakes out.
Here’s footage of DEVO playing Max’s Kansas City that first night, July 8, 1977:
In 1982, DEVO, a band whose very existence at times seemed to be a prank on the music industry, had the brilliant idea, in the true spirit of de-evolution, to use one of the demented love poems of failed Ronald Reagan assassin, John Hinckley Jr., as song lyrics. Mind you, this was only a year following Hinckley’s attack which wounded Reagan, Reagan’s Press Secretary, and two Secret Service agents.
Hinckley was one of the most infamous names in the news at the time as the man who had tried to murder the president in a deranged attempt at wooing actress Jodie Foster.
Needless to say, DEVO’s record label, Warner Brothers, was less than thrilled with the idea of having to write royalty checks to the criminally insane man who tried to kill the President.
The song, “I Desire,” which appeared on DEVO’s fifth studio album, Oh, No! It’s DEVO, was adapted, with permission, from one of Hinckley’s poems—much to the chagrin of Warner Brothers and, as it turns out, the F.B.I.
As Mark Mothersbaugh recalled, “[Hinckley] let us take a poem that he had written, and we used it for the lyrics and turned it into a love song. It was not the best career move you could make. We had the FBI calling up and threatening us.”
In the book Are We Not Men? We are DEVO, Mothersbaugh states that “if people told us we couldn’t, that just gave us all the more determination… you know, Spinal Tap syndrome,” with Alan Myers adding, “I thought ‘I Desire’ was a good song. I think that was the cool thing. That was one of the better songs that came out on the last few records… I think that art is art.”
This week a seller on eBay listed the first royalty check stub sent to Hinckley from Warner Brothers along with an accounting statement and a letter explaining to Hinckley that his one-half share of the royalties for “I Desire” amounted to $610.22.
The seller, as of this writing, provides no provenance for the item, but we are assuming it is probably legit as who would forge such an item and sell it on eBay? This item certainly has an appeal to both fans of DEVO and fans of people who tried to kill Ronald Reagan.
You know the junkie truism about chasing your first high? For me, the record-shopping equivalent of the initial drug rush was turning over the Pixies’ import-only “Gigantic/River Euphrates” single and finding the Lady in the Radiator’s song from Eraserhead listed on the back. Their actual arrangement of “In Heaven” was not particularly inspired, as I found out when I got the CD home, but that didn’t diminish the thrill of the moment of discovery. What a miraculous world this must be!
As I subsequently learned during years spent hunched over record bins, trying to swindle the plane of gross matter out of another peak experience, Tuxedomoon and Bauhaus had covered “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)” years before the Pixies did. But they were all playing catch-up with DEVO, who obtained permission to perform the song from both of its writers during the very year of Eraserhead‘s release.
Peter Ivers and David Lynch co-wrote “In Heaven”; that’s Ivers’ voice singing the song in the movie. Ivers was the genius musician who recorded for Warner Bros. and Epic and hosted New Wave Theatre before he was murdered in 1983. His life is the subject of a book by Pixies biographer Josh Frank, who writes that Lynch and Ivers met with DEVO in Los Angeles in 1977 after the group expressed interest in performing their song. At Lynch’s favorite restaurant, Bob’s Big Boy, Jerry Casale recognized the Ivers in DEVO and the DEVO in Ivers:
Like Devo, Peter was always testing people, always playing, performing his one-man guerrilla theatre for whomever happened to be there. Had they met in Akron, Peter undoubtedly would have been part of Devo. Lucky for Peter, Casale thought, he wasn’t in Akron.
But he would be with them, at least in spirit, from now on: Devo would bring Peter’s song with them on tour, making it a staple of their live act. Whenever possible, Peter would come to the shows and cheer them on.
As lunch wound down, Casale asked Peter to transcribe the song. Among his friends, Peter was known for his crisp, meticulous handwriting, especially when writing out music. He would crouch over the page, with the concentration of a second-grader taking his first handwriting test. Peter grabbed a napkin from the booth at Bob’s Big Boy, and, temporarily shutting out everything else in the room, wrote out the chords and the words to “In Heaven.” He handed the napkin to Jerry as Lynch polished off his coffee and drew a last, long slurpy sip of his Silver Goblet.
Casale told Frank that DEVO played “In Heaven” every night on their 1979 tour. “Booji Boy came out, we played it on little Wasp synthesizers, and he sang ‘In Heaven.’” In this undated bootleg from that tour, Booji Boy prophesies the future. He tells how one day, DEVO will come back to jam some subsonic frequencies and “we’ll all shit our pants together.” Later, when the hour is ripe for murder, DEVO will return to “kill all the normal people.”
In this nineteen minute video, “Jerry” Casale plays the cynical straight interviewer of himself, “Gerald” Casale, bass player, vocalist, and spokesman for DEVO.
Gerald reveals to Jerry the secret behind the DEVO “energy domes” (erroneously referred to as “flower pots” by many spuds back in the day), the inspiration behind which was an art deco lighting fixture that hung from the ceiling in his grade school.
Gerald talks at length about the origins of DEVO at Kent State University, from the original concept creation with his friend Bob Lewis, to his meeting of Mark Mothersbaugh after seeing Mothersbaugh’s stickered artwork hanging in the halls of the school.
Gerald explains that the Kent State Massacre was the impetus for the creation of DEVO, conceptually and musically, as an experimental force and bulwark against the prevailing culture:
“After those killings at Kent State and the clampdown from the Nixon administration, you either had to go underground and stick to activism and possibly go to jail or be killed, or find a more creative and subversive way of reacting to the situation you found yourself in in the horrible culture.”
Gerald waxes nostalgic for the “democratic” early days of DEVO’s music when all of the members contributed to the minimalist “form follows function” vision of the band, but explains that the songwriting process went south when the technology they were using became “autocratic,” dictating the direction of the group. According to Casale, “Mark wanted it that way and I didn’t.”
DEVO’s biggest hit, “Whip It,” is also discussed, with Gerald revealing to Jerry that the basis for the song was Mark Mothersbaugh’s deconstruction of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” adding a two beat space to the song’s main riff, with Casale’s lyrics being inspired by Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.
In the mid-1980s Honda had a series of quite dauntingly cool musicians hawking their scooters. They had particularly playful, sexy commercial in which Adam Ant and Grace Jones flirt with each other and then presumably fuck because they are so preposterously vital and attractive. Others featured DEVO, Berlin, Lou Reed, and Miles fucking Davis.
The Adam Ant/Grace Jones ad was “racy” enough that there was an edited version. In the full version Jones bites Ant’s ear, an act that doesn’t seem especially interesting. In any case, there was second version that trimmed the ear bite. The video below features both versions.
Were the commercials successful? I don’t know, Honda is still in business so probably, yeah. Do you know anyone who owns a Honda scooter? Hmmmmmm.
References to Reed‘s Honda commercial are inevitably rather amusing. Mick Wall in his book Lou Reed: The Life writes:
New Sensations was so listenable that ... it attracted the attention of an advertising agency executive, Jim Riswold, then chief copywriter for the Madison Avenue [actually Portland] giants Wieden & Kennedy. ... So he approached Lou Reed to help make an ad for Honda scooters.
At the time, Riswold recalled, “advertisers didn’t put people in commercials who had a long history of drug addiction, and of course [Lou Reed] was a man who at one time in his life was married to a man, and that man was a transvestite, so I guess you could say he wasn’t your typical spokesman. But if you looked at who we were trying to sell scooters to, it was natural. Actually, when you look back at that commercial it seems pretty damn tame today.”
Actually, at the time it just seemed plain hilarious. Lou Reed in a TV commercial? Selling scooters?
As Wall points out later, it was doubly weird because in the title track of New Sensations, Reed rhapsodized about a competing vehicle, the Kawasaki GPx750 Turbo motorcycle, singing that “the engine felt good between my thighs.”
America’s TV heartland has already witnessed this curious image of a man, a skinny figure with gleaming skin and what remains of his hair curling all over his shoulders: his hands grip (what else?) a trumpet, his lithe form is slouched against a small Japanese scooter, his eyes stare out at the viewer with imperious disdain. Then the voice, emanating from that shredded, node-less killing-floor of a larynx, mutters, “I ain’t here to talk about this thing, I’m here to ride it.”
Watch the Honda scooter commercials after the jump….....
I was recently involved in a Facebook discussion of a stupid article that purported to rank “The 25 Worst Places to Live in America” or some suchlike crap. Conspicuously absent from the list were Gary, East St. Louis, and the entire deep south, but no fewer than SEVEN cities in Ohio took “honors.” As an Ohioan, I took a bit of umbrage—not TOO much since it was in the end just a clickbait article—but since a couple of those cities have experienced significant rebounds in recent years, the listicle seemed like it was based on outdated info, if it wasn’t all just an outright ass-pull. (A couple of the Ohio cities named really DO belong on such a list, I must say if I’m to be fair.)
On that thread, someone posted this WONDERFUL video of “The Akron-Canton Hometown Song,” a booster song recorded and vanity-pressed in 1962 at Cincinnati’s Rite Record Productions for Akron radio station WHLO 640AM. Credited to Terry Lee with backing vocals by the WHLO Hometowners, the one-sided record has no Discogs page, so it is now my mission to find a copy in the wild:
Is that not a delight? Between the word “Hometown” in the title and its goofy, totally guileless boosterism (“Akron, Canton, they’re sure okay!”) it made me wonder if it wasn’t an inspiration for “My Home Town”—not the droning Springsteen hit, but the song by DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh on the 1987 Ralph Records compilation Potatoes Volume 1. (There was never a Volume 2, though the 1989 CD reissue boasted an expanded track list.) It’s a parody of exactly the kind of optimistic civic pride expressed in the radio song, but with a cynical Rust Belt downer edge. The LP credits cite a 1976 composition date, going on to state that the song was re-recorded in 1986. I’ve been unable to find any evidence of an extant 1976 recording, but here’s the one that’s been around:
I love that song. I’ve had that album for almost as long as it’s been out, and I have belted that song out in the shower, changing the word “Akron” to “Cleveland,” which is my home town. The two cities are about 30 minutes away from one another, and their fortunes and declines have been pretty much parallel, so no other lyrical alterations are really necessary. Since Mothersbaugh is rather famously an Akronite, and he’d have been around 12 when that WHLO record came out, it didn’t seem unreasonable to wonder if he may have heard it on the radio? I mentioned my curiosity about that possible connection in the Facebook discussion and was rather swiftly corrected. THIS, I was advised, was a much more likely inspiration. Much, much, much, much, much more likely…
According to the magazine’s longtime editor Ira Robbins, the editorial assignment belonged to Scott Isler, “who set this thing up (after failing to get Marilyn Chambers to interview Devo).”
This was back in the days of no-Internet, when the U.K. audience and the U.S. audience could be considered two entirely unrelated entities. Trouser Press had an arrangement with New Musical Express to run the same material Isler had put together. Robbins noted that the encounter “proved to be a lot less entertaining or illuminating than we hoped it would be” and that “it took a lot of editing for Scott to fish out what we published.”
Even though they went about expressing it in entirely different ways, DEVO and Burroughs share an absolutely withering take on the accepted American empire as we know it. Burroughs responded to it with randomness, calculated perversity, and debasement, DEVO with a tongue-in-cheek insistence that the decline of the capitalist system was irreversible and indeed, salutary. Both placed the standard and stupid conformist stance of Middle America squarely in its sights.
Beat Meets Blank: A lovely spread from the NME version of the interview
By the way, “DEVO” is here defined as the two main spokesmen for the group, Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, who are both identified as fans of Burroughs in the intro to the piece. Unexpectedly, almost as soon as the interview is underway, Casale goes into a lengthy explication of DEVO’s goals and methods. Casale cites Burroughs’s 1974 conversation with David Bowie in Rolling Stone about “sonic warfare” and then the Casale and Burroughs speculate as to how much abuse it’s proper for an artist to put his or her audience through. Death is too far, surely, but “making them shit their pants”?
DEVO mainstay Mark Mothersbaugh is taking part in an group exhibition dedicated to “Pure Joy” that starts at the end of the month. Curated by Kii Arens, the show is called “For Goodness Sake,” and it runs from March 25 to April 21 at La La Land Gallery, which is also run by Arens. Among those participating in the exhibition are Peter Blake and Shepard Fairey.
With his knack for faux-inane pop (and also for promotion), Mothersbaugh came up with an ingenious and well-nigh irresistible idea for his contribution to the show: two new songs on a single pressed by Mothersbaugh himself, to be sold during the opening reception on March 25. The song will be played for the group present at the reception, and after that it belongs to the owner—a one-of-a-kind Mothersbaugh single with which the owner can do whatever he or she wishes. There will be no other way to obtain a copy of the single.
Arens’ statement on the exhibition is as follows:
As this new “cuckoo pants” year begins, I would like to invite you to take a well needed mental vacation with this new joy-filled For Goodness Sake group art show. The idea is clear and simple. Each artist is being asked to create a brand new piece that elicits nothing but Pure Joy.
With all that’s been going on around the world lately, this will be a refreshing change of pace and a positive new look for the future.
La La Land Gallery has partnered with Oxfam America for this show to donate to Syrian Refugees Relief.
Dangerous Minds readers might remember an item we did a couple years back, about Musique Pour Supermarché (Music for Supermarkets), a full album by Jean Michel Jarre for which there also exists just a single copy. This happened in 1983. Similar to Mothersbaugh’s single, the idea for the project came out of its relation to an art exhibition.
Jarre auctioned the record off after documenting that he had destroyed the master tapes and plates. A bit like the Mothersbaugh idea, there was also just one public playing of Jarre’s album, although in that instance it was on the radio, and yes, a good many listeners did think to record it.
There was, perhaps, not much to love about the 1996 soundtrack to the Jackie Chan vehicle Supercop, but—as you could also have said, justly, in defense of the 1983 soundtrack to the Dan Aykroyd vehicle Doctor Detroit—there was at least this: two brand-new tracks from DEVO were etched in its grooves. The pride of Akron contributed the theme song, “Supercop,” and an interpretation of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like A Hole.” These were, I believe, the first new recordings they released in the nineties.
The Clinton years were not a total famine for the dutiful spudboy; there were opportunities to see DEVO play, and there was even the DEVO CD-ROM game that sucked away months of my life I probably should have spent learning to write code, speak Italian, or build pipe bombs. But no matter how rosy those days look from our current perspective, that period was not so great for the DEVO fan, either. Jerry Casale put his finger on it at a 1999 show in Universal City, observing from the stage that, pace Prince, it would actually have been more fun to party like it was 1981, because back then there had been plenty of good cocaine, and you could still get a blowjob without going to jail (a reference to l’affaire Lewinsky).
As much as I like NIN records, Trent Reznor’s persona and lyrical concerns have presented obstacles to my entertainment now and again, over the years. I have a lot of thoughts about why this is, and I will expound upon them at length if you buy me a beer, but it probably comes down to a preference for the satirical over the confessional mode. In other words, because DEVO tends to place the emphasis on others’ stupidity rather than their own hurt feelings, they can sing “Head Like A Hole” without sounding merely aggrieved.
Just when you think you’ve seen everything DEVO-related, along comes “Energy Dome” hat adapters for your 45s! They’re adorable and perfect for that DEVO nut in your life who also loves vinyl. They’re made by the Oakland-based Contact Records record shop. From what I understand via Facebook, the only way to get one of these is by actually visiting the record store. They’re not shipping right now. There’s also no mention of a price.
Dangerous Minds has writtenabunch about the USA cable network’s transcendentally great Night Flight, an weekend overnight programming block that aired in the ‘80s, and which can justly claim credit for warping a lot of young minds and giving budding mutants a lot of places to start looking for suitably outré cultural produce. In the 21st Century, that show has morphed into a streaming video channel and a website not terribly unlike…Dangerous Minds. (Hardly a surprise, that, as our pooh-bah Richard Metzger once told The New Yorker that DM was partly inspired by Night Flight. And the log keeps rolling…) The programming was completely freeform and anarchic, and strongly bent towards the celebration of creativity and strangeness, especially via underground music and film—television had never been like that before, and never was again.
A highlight of every Night Flight broadcast was its “Take Off” segments—collections of music videos organized by a unifying theme, and supplemented with interviews and other informational content to flesh out the subject. I’m unable to find the “Take Off” segment that included this DEVO footage—it appears to have been scrubbed from YouTube by Warner Bros on copyright grounds—but I kind of don’t care, because what follows is the entire unedited interview. It’s dated 1981, and the plastic JFK pompadours the band members are wearing support that date. That was the headgear that replaced their famous Energy Domes on their 1981 album New Traditionalists. The provenance of the footage doesn’t lead directly to Night Flight. For the first two years that show aired, the “Take Off” features were made by a production company called Videowest, and bits of the interview turned up in a few places, including this clip about commercialization and merchandising in rock, which may have even been a part of the “lost” segment in question—“Take Off to Merchandising” featuring DEVO sounds plausibly like it could have happened.
This charming set of Christmas ornaments does a wonderful job of letting everyone in your circle know that you love St. Nick—and that the “Nick” in question is Nick Cave. Matthew Lineham designed them, and he’s done a wonderful job of working in “obscure Christmas memories and puns,” as he put it.
Many of his “obscure” references involve network Christmas programming from many decades ago. Siouxsie Sioux is transformed into Cindy Lou Who, the little girl from Whoville in Dr. Seuss’ classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Morrissey plays the part of “Snow Mozzer” and “Heat Mozzer,” the memorable characters from the 1974 stop-motion animated Christmas TV special from Rankin/Bass, The Year Without a Santa Claus. Former Oingo Boingo frontman and soundtrack maestro Danny Elfman appears as “Elfman on the Shelfman,” a reference to the 2004 children’s book The Elf on the Shelf. Robert Smith is perched atop Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and DEVO‘s familiar energy dome is cleverly done up as a Christmas tree.
Lineham calls the set “A Very New Wave Christmas” but he has sensibly gone where the name-puns and name recognition will take him rather than obey strict genre definitions. Bowie and Cave might not be your idea of “new wave” icons but they were active in the early 1980s, at least.
You can buy the rubber die cut bendable ornaments for $10 a pop (“Mozzer” pair $15), or $50 for the entire set, a significant discount. However, due to the unexpectedly high demand, Lineham wants purchasers to be aware that any ornaments ordered today will be shipped “sometime between Dec 21st & 31st,” so don’t bank on them being available for this year’s tree—however, there’s always 2017, 2018, 2019, and beyond to think of. These seem unlikely to go out of style anytime soon.
The Stranglers took a short break in between Black and White and The Raven. While JJ Burnel worked on Euroman Cometh, Hugh Cornwell went to LA to record Nosferatu with Captain Beefheart’s drummer, Robert Williams. Cornwell writes that the album got its name from a series of late nights:
I was buying a lot of cocaine at the time and we were constantly leaving the studios at five in the morning and going to sleep as day was breaking. I think that had suggested the vampire connection to me, hence the album’s eventual title, Nosferatu.
There are famous guests all over Nosferatu: Ian Underwood of the Mothers plays synth on a few tracks, the Clash (credited as “various people”) sing backing vocals on “Puppets,” and Ian Dury turns up as “Duncan Poundcake” on “Wrong Way Round.” Cornwell and Williams co-wrote one song, “Rhythmic Itch,” with their brothersbaughs from other Mothersbaughs, DEVO’s Mark and Bob 1.
For the next two minutes, you’ll be listening to a song recorded in late ‘78 or early ‘79 by Mark Mothersbaugh (lead vocals and Prophet synthesizer), Bob Mothersbaugh (guitar and backing vocals), Hugh Cornwell (guitar), and Robert Williams (drums and bass marimba). Have fun in punk/new wave heaven, or hell, as the case may be.