Devo took its name from a shortened form of devolution – as the band quipped that mankind wasn’t evolving, it was devolving. In memory of Casale, we dedicate today’s Twofer Tuesday selection.
While the band only had one legitimate hit, 1980’s “Whip It,” I plan to lead with their near miss “Working in the Coal Mine.” From the movie “Heavy Metal,” “Working in the Coal Mine” was a reworking of Lee Dorsey’s Top Ten hit from 1966.
I remember this record especially well as we played it at WCIR in Beckley, WV and the record, I believe, charted locally in 1981 at #2. It was a big hit in coal mining country that didn’t translate well everywhere and nationally it peaked only at #43.
For the promotion of the record, Jay Brooks, our Elektra/Asylum regional rep out of Pittsburgh, came down to do a photo shoot with Ron Hill and me. We went into the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and took photos of the three of us holding the album, the single, and pick axes. All three of us wore miners’ helmets as well.
We also had some photos taken with a retired coal miner who served as the tour guide. Our photo appeared on the cover of Elektra/Asylum’s promotion department’s in-house magazine. Unfortunately, I have that packed away somewhere – so I can’t share it here. Parts of this song always bothered me as the abrupt rhythm changes sounded like the record was skipping. I wonder how many albums were returned because of this.
Besides their Energy Domes, Devo is best remembered for their only hit proper: “Whip It.” Released in the fall of 1980, “Whip It” was the band’s only foray into the Top 40. Peaking at #14, the single appeared on “Freedom of Choice.” Although the band had released several singles, two EPs, and two albums prior to “Freedom of Choice,” “Whip It” was the band’s introduction to the mainstream public.
Bob Casale plays bass in the official video; however, the bass parts were played on a custom Moog synthesizer. The whip sounds were also created via synthesizer. Highly memorable, the guitar parts were directly inspired by Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman.” Listen hard and you’ll hear the similarities – although the phrasing is much different.
RIP Bob Casale – thanks for some very interesting music.