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Devo: Shining it on at the Forum in 1981

Devo: Shining it on at the Forum in 1981

Dec. 10, 1981: Lights and flash feature Devo’s act at the Inglewood Forum.

Richard Cromelin reported in the Dec. 12, 1981, Los Angeles Times:

“Spuds yelled and threw things like beer bottles at Devo when they played. But one day in 1977 the Spuds cheered and threw fits because Spudboys in the cities realized that ‘We’re all Devo!’ “

That summary of Devo’s success story comes from the concert program which was sold at the Forum Thursday night. In the Devo glossary, Spuds are you and me–common folk, regular Joes–and “We’re all Devo” was the battle cry when this odd, novel band from Ohio was campaigning hard and heavy through the L.A. rock clubs. It meant, basically, “We’re all in on the joke.”

At first, Devo’s haywire science-student image, jerky rhythms and enigmatic but catchy slogans intrigued the arty-punk and avant-garde crowd. Then, perhaps surprisingly, Devo penetrated the van culture, spreading to a non-intellectual, but somehow turned-in segment of the rock audience.

This seemed to confirm Devo’s contention that the band’s “sound of things falling apart” did indeed strike a responsive chord on a subliminal level with citizens of the modern world–a chaotic but entertaining world in a state of de-evolution. In any case, they soon had enough of a following to periodically pack a hall like the 3,500-capacity Santa Monica Civic for wild, sweaty ceremonies for avid initiates.

Then came “Whip It.”

With the novelty hit, Devo went from being an oddity on “The Midnight Special” to being an oddity on “The Merv Griffin Show,” and now that core audience has been supplemented by enough mainstream listeners to put Devo in the arena-rock league. The band doesn’t really belong there.

Devo’s Forum show Thursday reflected its upward mobility in its polished visual and musical technology, but it lacked the old intensity and immediacy. Singer Mark Mothersbaugh prowled through the crowd with his cordless mike, but it seemed a perfunctory trek. Absent was the biological element, that primordial sense of slime that was once a large part of the fun. In addition, Devo’s faster-paced songs are simply the wrong fit for a basketball arena whose dimensions are tailored to the more deliberate tempos of mainstream rockers….

These photos by former staff photographer Iris Schneider were published with Cromelin’s article in the Dec. 12, 1981, Los Angeles Times Calendar Section.

Dec. 10, 1981: Devo on stage during concert at the Forum. Credit: Iris Schneider/Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA.

Dec. 10, 1981: Slick-wigged Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo’s lead singer, during concert at the Inglewood Forum. Credit: Iris Schneider/Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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