(excerpt from Chapter Seven of Rock and Roll Medicine©)
Fall of 1981, the first show is on October 14th and I’m looking forward to it. Jim, Bette, and I first saw Devo at the Lawrence Opera House in ‘78 and they were a hoot. At that show in support of their album, “Are We Not Men?” they wore yellow vinyl rain suits with the signature red Devo hat. Jim and I bought a yellow suit from the merchandise booth and have pictures of us all taking turns wearing it on a camping trip we took to the Ozarks once.
It is a chilly but beautiful day when Debbie, Larry, and I load in at Memorial Hall. We’d hoped to load in the night before but another event scheduled there has prevented that from happening. The show isn’t going to be terribly difficult, food for 25. The band shows up after lunch and begins a sound check at four that lasts two hours. The current album is called, “New Traditionalists.” It’s always fun to see sound check when you have the band to yourself and get a private show. And these guys are serious techno-types who want everything perfect. They play the entire set and are still playing at 6:30, when people are starting to arrive at the venue. They are very professional, but in an irreverent sort of way.
Oddly two young school friends of Ambre’s have requested autographs. Aaron and Walt are Devo fans, but aren’t allowed to go to the concert. After sound check the band finally comes off the stage to have dinner. Larry has made his roast beef dish again, since I have informed the production manager it is a specialty of ours. It is almost as big a hit as the Reuben sandwiches for lunch.
The show is unique and so tight. People know Devo mostly for their song, ‘Whip It’, but they have an extensive catalog of complex high-tech music. Devo is comprised of three Mothersbaugh brothers and two Casale brothers, who started out at Kent State about the time of the National Guard shooting of four students in 1972. The inspiration for the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song lyrics, “Four dead in Ohio.” The tragic event convinced them of the de-evolution of the human species, hence the name Devo.
As Mark Mothersbaugh, who is the most recognizable name and face of Devo and is always in character as the quirky techno-nerd keyboardist finishes eating, I am working on the bill in the tiny production office. I ask Debbie if she would mind getting a couple of autographs for Ambre’s friends. She agrees and disappears up the ramp. After a few minutes, I hear some commotion in the hallway and wonder what can be happening. Debbie bursts into the production office with a person wrapped around her. She is carrying Mark Mothersbaugh. He has jumped on her, arms around her neck and legs around her waist.
I find this hysterical
while Debbie is out of breath and has a look of astonishment on her
face as she has
him from the stage all
the way down the ramp into the hallway where I am. Mothersbaugh unwraps
himself and hops down, asking me in short jerky words, what he should
sign. I hand him two pieces of paper and tell him it’s for two
ten year old boys. He moves in robotic-like motions and on one he writes, “Flip
till you drip…be stiff.” and on the other he scrawls “If
the spud fits, wear it.” He then looks back at Debbie like he is
ready to mount her for his ride back upstairs. She shakes her head, takes
a step back and says, “No way.”
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