My father, the man who loved show tunes and symphonies, dug Devo. For years, his love of the video for “Whip It!” made absolutely no sense to me. Then I read “Freedom of Choice” and it became crystal clear.
Part of the 33 1/3 series, the book is focused on that particular album, with some reference to earlier and later works. The story is told song by song, with references to the music (I am no musician, so that part means nothing to me), the lyrics, and of course, the Mothersbaughs, Casales and Alan Myers. At 184 pages, it’s a quick and entertaining read. And oh-so-apropos to our current presidential election.
For those too young to remember, Devo gained popularity in the early 1980s, just as Ronald Reagan, the entertainer turned politician, began his eight-year term. Sound familiar? Conservatism and consumerism reigned – the decade later became known as the Go-Go ‘80s. Greed was good and conformity was even better. From that was born the idea of de-evolution, or Devo, the backlash against the stupidity of the American public.
While Devo had plenty to say about their fellow man (and woman), they were also keenly aware of their participation in corporate America via the music business. Freedom of Choice does a great job of exploring that dichotomy. And without intending to do so, since the book was published shortly before Trump announced his presidential campaign, it’s a great reminder that history does indeed repeat itself.
These boys were brilliant and many of us recognized that back in the day. But their style and social commentary were lost on many, who saw the act as a gimmick. Rock critics either got it – or they didn’t.
Certainly my Dad did. And it took me reading this book to realize that a middle aged man could look right past those crazy red, inverted flower pot hats and appreciate the intelligence behind their schtick. My father was a very smart man. On the other hand, maybe he just liked the whips!