“The Beginning was the End”: Robert Casale Dead at 61
Jeff of Hyperbubble shares this tribute to Devo founding member Robert “Bob 2″ Casales.
It was October 14, 1978, and I had just finished watching a Journey concert on PBS. Journey had a cool lead singer with an unbelievable range, virtuoso musicians, sexy stage moves, great hair, tight pants, and a snappy logo. Their set reassured me that I knew what Rock’n'Roll was all about.
Then I flipped the channel to catch “Saturday Night Live,” and my life was changed forever.
A band from Akron Ohio called Devo appeared on a stage that was covered in Hefty-bag black plastic. Their singer looked like a science fair geek and yelped in near monotone. The band sounded like a skipping record. They twitched and jerked around as if they had just emerged from electro shock therapy. All of the members had five-dollar barbershop haircuts and wore loose-fitting yellow radiation suits emblazoned with what looked more like a stencil than an actual band logo. During their encore, they stripped out of the suits into embarrassingly tiny gym-shorts and knee-pads, and repeated “Are we not men? We are Devo.”
I thought I was going to throw up. I could feel my brain bashing about my cranium, trying to escape. But it was no use. I had been more than subverted…I was beautifully mutated.
Devo were a dangerous band when they emerged. They challenged everything we were led to believe about not only rock ‘n’ roll, but also about being a human being. Their lyrics supported the concept that mankind was not evolving, but (Devo)lving. Devo wrung the romance out of love songs, boiling them down to the swapping of bodily fluids and DNA encoding. They lampooned our leaders, and forced us to think during a time when thinking really hurt. Most of all, Devo weren’t cool. If you liked Devo, you were an instant outcast, and vice versa.
In interviews, the band were usually represented by “the leaders,” Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, which led non-Devotees to believe that they were the masterminds behind the whole band. But the contributions by Gerald’s brother, Devo co-founder Robert Casale, also known as “Bob 2,” were great. He was a multi-instrumentalist, a skilled producer, and co-writer of some of the band’s best tracks, including “Jerkin’ Back ‘N’ Forth” and “That’s Good.” As a member of the production company Mutato Muzika, Bob also contributed to TV and film soundtracks such as Mama’s Boy, Envy, The Groovenians, and Grass.
Robert’s friends, family and many Devotees are saddened today by the announcement of his death at age 61.
Bob’s brother Gerald Casale, in a Facebook post, remembered Bob as “my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got… His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.”
Mark Mothersbaugh released a statement saying, “We are shocked and saddened by Bob Casale’s passing. He not only was integral in DEVO’s sound, he worked over twenty years at Mutato, collaborating with me on sixty or seventy films and television shows, not to mention countless commercials and many video games. Bob was instrumental in creating the sound of projects as varied as “Rugrats” and Wes Anderson’s films. He was a great friend. I will miss him greatly.”
Bob Casale will be missed, but certainly not be forgotten. He and the Spud Boys have created a day-glo pop art legacy. These days you can buy Devo Halloween costumes at Target, hear the once controversial song “Whip It” modified for Swifter Sweeper commercials, and giggle at Gerald’s appearance in Delta’s new In-flight safety video. Kids are through being cool. It really happened…We’re all Devo.