In 1972, Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale, were two art students at Kent State. Along with Bob Lewis, they formed a band based on a theory of 'De-Evolution', a theory that mankind had continued to regress as evidenced by the herd mentality. The band was named Devo, and it had a jerky, mechanical sound that would become their trademark sound. The trio had developed the theory of American society as a rigid instrument of repression that forced all citizens to act alike in perfect uniformity. They thought of it as an elaborate joke, till witnessing the Kent State killings by the National Guard. It seemed to make a valid point.
They started working in earnest on songs and recruited Mark's brothers Bob-guitar and Jim-drums. Bob Lewis eventually became their manager and Jerry's brother Bob joined as an additional guitarist. Jim Mothersbaugh left the group, and was replaced by Alan Myers on drums. They continued to refine their sound releasing a few home-recorded singles on their own Booji Boy label, and create more disturbing approaches as Mothersbaugh wearing a baby faced mask as 'Booji Boy' the symbol of infantile regression. They dressed as identical clones with plastic hair and performed many sonic experiments with homemade synthesizers, toys and other home appliances. They scored the short film 'The Truth About De-Evolution' that one a prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. David Bowie and Iggy Pop, who were so impressed that they secured a contract with Warner Brothers for Devo, saw the film.
Their first major album 'Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!' produced by Brian Eno was released in 1978. It was a call to arms for some, and others were threatened by its sound and imagery. In 1979 Devo released 'Duty Now For The Future' which was another strong effort. But they broke through into the mainstream with their Freedom Of Choice album in 1980 that contained the gold single, 'Whip It!'. The song represented a high point in their somewhat unpredictable songwriting, and produced a video that became a huge hit on the brand new MTV network. It had low budget sci-fi look transposed on a farm with undertones of S&M. Their mainstream commercial success was shortlived, however with New Traditionalists released in 1981. This album was darker and not what the public wanted from a novelty band. They resigned themselves to cult status and released two more albums Shout and Total Devo that were considered to be of low quality.
In 1990 the band broke up and the members went their separate ways. Mark Mothersbaugh went on to compose the theme songs for a number of television shows including Peewee's Playhouse, MTV's Liquid Television and Nickelodeon's Rugrats. He also played keyboards for The Rolling Stones, sang backup vocals with Debbie Harry, and programmed synthesizers for Pat Benetar. He opened Production Company called Mutato Muzika, which employs his fellow Devo Members. Then they did six dates on the Lolapalooza tour in 1996, which gave them a new audience. They have since put out a CD-ROM game, a two disk anthology and selected dates for Lolapalooza tours.