In 1988, after four years of dormancy and a record label change, DEVO unleashed Total DEVO upon the spuds and spudettes of the world. As a huge DEVO-tee since the early ’80s, I was beside myself with excitement.
Then I heard the first single, “Baby Doll”, and nearly cried.
The previous DEVO album, Shout had been such a profound disappointment (excepting the genius, mutated remake of Hendrix’s “R U Experienced?” and a great album track called “The 4th Dimension”) that I thought a four-year layoff would help the band who was once responsible for such classics as “Girl U Want”, “Mongoloid” and yes, “Whip It” recharge their creative batteries.
“Baby Doll” depressed me. It was more of the same, professional, smooth synthpop DEVO had been reduced to. I wasn’t looking forward to the rest of Total DEVO, but as a true fan must, I soldiered on. Unfortunately, nothing else on the album (which was among the first purchases I ever made in the still-emerging CD format) struck me, and Total DEVO sat on the shelf.
For 17 years.
2003 rolled around and saw the long-awaited release of DEVO’s video compilation DVDThe Complete Truth About De-evolution (which, missing “Experienced” and “Dr. Detroit”, is not quite Complete). I sat entranced by the band’s subversive genius, and when the video for “Disco Dancer” came on, it hit me – the song may seem on the surface to be about a disco dancer waking up ten years too late from hibernation and trying to fit in with the modern world, but dig deeper…it very well may be about DEVO themselves and their place in pre-grunge alternative music:
I’ve been sleeping twenty years or more
I remember a long time ago
Now I’m back to change your mind
Now I’m moving right in time
In a world that’s turned unkind
I can see what’s going on behind my back
Now it’s one of my favorite DEVO songs. I still hate “Baby Doll”, though.
And since I haven’t posted a Brain-Melting Video in a few weeks, please enjoy Jermaine Jackson and DEVO, performing “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” in 1982. Yes. Oh, yes.
“Disco Dancer” peaked at #45 on the Billboard Club Play Chart in 1988.
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