DEVO on SNL
October 14, 1978
Set: "Satisfaction," "Jocko Homo"
After seeing DEVO play their debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! live at the 9:30 Club in D.C Sunday night, I thought back to the first time I saw the Spudboys. I know my college pal and erstwhile Katatonix bandmate Tom Lehr turned me onto DEVO's music sometime during our late '70s school daze at Towson State University, but I don't recall seeing them before 1978, when I saw them with Tom at Georgetown University in D.C. and later at Painter's Mills in Owings Mills, MD with the fledgling Katatonix lineup of Katie Katatonic and Adolf Kowalski (a gig I vividly recall because when Mark Mothersbaugh came into the audience - which was pretty cool in and of itself, as wireless mics and guitars were a new thang - Adolf tore off a patch of Mark's yellow jumpsuit and gave it to me - I later had it laminated and carried it around in my wallet as a memento!).
But I'm pretty sure the first time I saw them was on the historic Fred Willard-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live, October 14, 1978. And when they played their robotic cover of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfation" it was both a visual revelation and a sonic epiphany. I got chills and the kind of nervous excitement kids get when all riled up and without their Ritalin...and I recalled where I was and who I was with just as vividly as I recalled JFK's assasination (yup, I'm old enough have seen that on black-and-white TV as well!), or initially seeing Blade Runner at the Timonium Theater, hearing about Pee-Wee Herman's sex scandal, or seeing the breaking news report about former Maryland Terps star Len Bias' coke-overdose death - for some reason these were and are the momentous, life-changing touchstones of my life to date. Each one filled me either with eye-opening awe or an unbelievable sense of great loss.
I was at party with a bunch of Deadheads and pot-head pixies. When Devo came on, it blew everyone's minds. They had no frame of reference to prepare them for this, for there are only two timelines in the course of human history: B.C. (Before the Coming) and A.D. (After Devo). Devo's performance gave the past the slip and plunged pop culture consciousness into its rightful role of Duty Now for the Future. Thanks Spudboys!
(Apparently, the SNL appearance was just as momentous for Devo as it was for the SNL cast and the rest of America. Mark Mothersbaugh started dating Laraine Newman and Gerry Casale later claimed that John Belushi "snorted the entire contents of the first gram of coke I ever purchased." And Dan Akroyd became a fan, later getting Devo to write the theme song to his movie Doctor Detroit.)
Unfortunately, I can't post a video clip of Devo's historic performance, as NBC-Universal has pulled all copies off the Internet.
*** But wait - this just in! ***
Thanks to Scott Huffines for finding me the "Satisfaction" video on Videosift!