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Album: Freedom Of ChoiceReleased: 1980
Devo was formed by Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale when they attended Kent State University in the early '70s. This was the first single released off their third album. Says Casale, "Devo didn't sit around and try to write hits, but when people liked it and wanted to key on that, we thought it made sense, we thought it was an easy song to like - it's very poppy, it's got a good hook. And it had subject matter that is more typical because here's Devo talking about girls." This didn't do very well, but their next single, "Whip It
," became a surprise hit when it went into heavy rotation on MTV.
Casale: "It's about the essence of desire - what does the girl really represent for the guy? She represents this aching desire. She's the object that motivates the guy to do everything he does, so we're just describing the attributes of the power of the female. She sings from somewhere you can't see, like the famous myth of the sirens that used to lure the sailors to their deaths by singing to them in the night and they'd go try to find these girls that didn't really exist, and the boat would crash on the rocks and they'd die. It's the girl playing with the guy on the end of the string."
Robert Palmer and Soundgarden both recorded this in the '90s. Jerry Casale directed all Devo's videos and has worked on videos for many other artists, including the last Soundgarden video before they broke up - "Blow Up The Outside World
." Regarding their cover, Casale says, "It's a head-scratcher. How could you listen to 'Girl U Want' and do that version of it?" (Check out our full Devo interview
This is as good a place as any to share Devo bassist Jerry Casale's tale of how decadent the early-'80s music business got in the book MTV Ruled the World - The Early Years of Music Video: "We'd go into the office with a meeting with our A&R man, and at 5:00, he'd open his desk drawer, because people still sat at these old-style desks, as if they'd have typewriters, and he'd yank out a vial, and just casually while he's talking, tap out some lines, and kind of gesture like, 'Cocktail hour, anybody?' It was common. Everybody successful thought this was the drug of privilege. No losers did it. It wasn't addictive. It was just great. There was a restaurant called Roy's, where you could have a booth, draw the curtain, and the waiter would bring you lines. It was an arrangement where you were paying a big tip for a 'white dessert'."