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328- Devolutionary Design

2018-11-06 | 🔗

It’s hard to overstate just how important record album art was to music in the days before people downloaded everything. Visuals were a key part of one's experience with a record or tape or CD. The design of the album cover created a first impression of what was to come. Album art was certainly important to reporter Sean Cole, one particular album by one particular band: Devo. This is the story of Devo’s first record and the fight over the arresting image of a flashy, handsome golf legend on the cover.

Plus, Katie Mingle gets the backstory of the Langley Schools Music Project LP, a haunting and uplifting outsider artist masterpiece.

Devolutionary Design

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars, it's hard to overstate just how important record of them or was to music before we downloaded everything Our experience with a record or cd used to be visual. The design of the record cover was your father impression of what was to come. I would stare at the Florence on the cover and pour over the liner notes. The first time I put an album on it was a ritual not saying that era: music was better, it wasn't. It was just different. The art on the records try to encapsulate the essence of a ban in then. That essence was transferred to you, because you were a fan and it became part of your identity to leave that's what it felt like It is certainly important to my friend and Rapporteur Sean Cold WAR. Certain album in one certain banned in particular the Roma. Were you ever depot fan? I was.
Medieval appreciate it appreciate her. I don't there was really a fan like I listened, unlike the songs, I heard I remember with it when I was a kid, I remember that we were not a dvd movement who is not a devoted. I remember The hats in particular. Memory of them doing a cover up. I can yet no satisfaction by the rolling stones on security at live where these yellows hazmat suits. You know like they were really weird. Yes, weird, yes, so This story is about that depot. Album, though the one they were promoting on that's our night light performance. You saw more specifically it's about the album art of that record. Because the story of the image that ultimately ended up on the cover of that record is this. Crazy, rabbit hall that I fell down before we get there. I just need to cover. Some some things about diva that you may not know do you know, where the name comes from. I'd, do not sit so a lot of people. Think of
Cuba. Is this really silly? You know nutty, ban and jumping round, but they were actually very serious and had a very considered philosophy, and that was that the human race is in a state of de evolution, hence diva so their songs or all the whip. It like the songs, are mostly by corporate control and blind conformity. And they were actually visual artists before they before they wrote any songs. This was in there, They seventys in Akron Ohio. So I talk with one of the founders of Devoe, Jerry Casale. I who says like back, then they were. They were mostly trying to figure out what the evolutionary art would look like you know, because we were very very enamored and put off at the same time by pop culture you're like the lowest end of like add graphics, terrible tv commercials. We were drawn to kitsch and occasionally they would go shopping for catch so
walking through the Kmart nope. It was the predecessor to Kmart, was click and says Mark mothers by is another member of the banned. This is probably the point to mention: This was more than four decades ago end and not everybody's memory is is to clear who is owed to independent of what department store there and there in a department store they are, they are in a department store. We were looking for supplies we were collaborating ANA visual art pieced together and walking through the sports section and there these six practice. Golf balls in clear plastic pouch, sealed shouted, the top. With they'd cardboard display head took a new picture this it's like that. Play head with a hole in it that that hangs on a hook Yes, I can picture it kind of like the racks with bags of generic. Candy at the gas station, like a clear bagful, a candy into says, gummy bears at the top right so on that display, head is an illustration,
these smiling face of cheeky Rodriguez. And who was Tt Rodriguez. She's. U rhetoric! As one of the most famous golfers in history, he was like I don't know what you ve rhetoric is was like. You was that he was. He was like that he was like the eldest of golfer uses. Like a big show man I saw it. I just love that it was a picture of him in front of a golf ball. So heads kind of hay load by a big gulf, all kind of imitating something that I had already been printing, which was human heads. One of the moon and it made us laugh we chuckle. We have to have that in course. Gulf was almost symbolically like the most lean kind of the. Bush, pursuit that you could have especially that time, Unless your parents are rich, you didn't get to go golfing. If we ever imagined ourselves on a golf course, it was probably as a caddy in how boring look, then
tv, and they announcing that the one day who stood out was cheeky because he didn't fit with the rest of the golfers at all. He wore these loud pants. Inter Branch birds, and he had this famous hat that only he wore which had a specific hat band well you know Anima straw, Panama, gonna, yeah, so debate by those gobbles they bought. The Gulf balls Mark used, the chief She image in a manifesto. He was writing about being, according quote spud boy in the rubber town of Akron, but other than that. Nothing really happened with it until We were already putting out ourself produce single, be stiff oh, I like us on its it. This is favorite. Mine is so it's it's like this kind of joking anthem celebrating
little rules, stiffness like up tightness, talking about televangelist politicians and how stiff their somehow, I dont really remember the moment, but we had the idea putting Chee chee on that cover. And so they used that picture of Chee Chee on the cover the forty five of the policy and it was like this commentary on on commercialism and in our obsession with selling and in this case selling plastic golf balls, and the American out of the golfer so be stiff nineteen. Seventy, eight and others do not famous there. This obscure art rock band, but and about four months later, Debo gets there big break Warner Brothers sign, the ban to their first full length album and that Gordon Jerry, is where the real de evolution began. We ve laid that a thing out and working up to this moment and then comes the
real diva twist that only a corpse nation could provide, in other words, we're talking about. We become part of so there are about to be. Forty radio in broadcasts on the tv screens of Middle America. What was that first record called the long title? It's called question: are we question: are we not men answer we are diva, and this is their first me- they album. This is their first have exactly right. So Mark and Jerry than the other members of the banned there? There look well that that picture of cheap, he worked so well on the single. Let's just stick with it. You know it's kind of our brand. Now, let's just put that on the on the cover of the full length record in this is like picture of cheese. Your address. Are they the original picture? From that thing they bought it came? Are they just took that lifted it directly and put it on
held them and they're gonna pay, as it has on a major label, our ok, so they had to California in a movie montage, they music here, Beverly, hillbillies, whatever and and they go to Warner Brothers, H, Q and there. This is like the process back then, and maybe now I don't know but like their heading from department. Department and Warner brothers. You know dealing with all of the new album things that need to happen more told to go. See I think Rick serenely was his name any seem to be an ok guy, Disney ART, debarment, yeah.
He's ahead of the article was creative director at one or brother records. He seemed to like what we were up to the one ban that I appreciated the most was diva. I ought. I love the fact that they just never took anything very seriously. Do you remember that first meeting with them? Not only do I remember it, I have a polaroid of it. We show me image he he chuckles. I thought it was clipboard. Yeah teaching does look a lot like clipboard and I guess I never asked we found out that it was him. Time later, who I guess what it I just wanted it evoke four year absurdity I mean You have to think about what was going on back in the day. Our work you know on album covers, had rules attached to it most of them albums were delivered to little mom and pop music store. It's all around the country rain, and there be some Katy would come
four o clock after school and his job was to open up the Box of Records from Warner. Brothers are clear: There were not and then rack them right, so the One thing that they told all of us in the art department is don't screw, that up a rock band has look like a rock band country. Western has to look like country western. They better have cowboy hats on, otherwise they get Miss racked and then, if people- find them in the rack. The shower they're interested in they don't buy it, but in Devos Case- Music was so unusual rain that it could have something completely absurd on the cover and make perfect sense so, even though it makes no sense that a picture of a flamboyant golfer stolen from a package of golf off? Is the mass got even though it does make perfect sense, because those who exactly is there was just like pick something impossible and and Rick is
just site like he loves, work, loves working on this on this with them. There they're doing all the little designing things than giving in the light of the fund, with the double Linda today, staff and he now getting getting everything ready. He laid it all out, Spectre colors, you know did whole serious thing where they give you a transparent, that's a mock up right and we approve it. And in about two days later we get this call and it's a big crisis. The calls from the vice president of business Affairs for Warner Brothers, David Byrne, Who was a guy that you would cast in a movie about music business as a villain, whereas the hero withheld it depends on your point of view. It was there
They smart, very good at what he did in played Hardball and the first communication imo golfer and I'm a fan of golf and I know Chee Chee Rodriguez. I've met Chee Chee Roderick's. You cannot use Chee Chee Rodriguez. That is completely totally false. This is David Berman. I told you not. Everybody's memory is Crystal clear regarding the story. Not Have I never? I have never seen Chee Chee Rodriguez other than on television. I'm not gonna make honourable friend of mine. I never met him. I've never spoken too. I'm not gonna. Give you this company suit. That part is accurate, does David Berman but may be being sued? Yes, he did play hardball but he says his objection was purely a legal one. Purely in California was Crystal clear. You use somebody's name or whiteness for commercial purposes, without their permission had nothing to do my being a golf or other, then, because I will I knew that it was clearly teach you our biggest, but it wasn't the fact that he was a likeable it could
in war seventeen it. I would have done the same thing who is Rory sabotaging he's a golfer, but nobody likes worry seventeen. Why does nobody labour or seventeen? I know now also seventeen. He was born in nineteen. Seventy six and would have been two years old when this diva worker came up anyway. This all as a real blow to the band were dumbfounded crestfallen. We don't know what to do. And but of course, were stubborn, we're not giving up so they like that, right Chee letter and ask is permission. But in the meantime, in open court gears are rolling and money has been paid and you know Warner brothers is expecting product, so Devos like let's come, with a plan b. And they had this idea that actually involves another piece of de evolutionary art was an artist rendering of what the last four presidents would have looked like. Had you combine them,
so Ford, Nixon, Johnson and Kennedy all of their faces. Mashed together, Mark Mothers I just have this picture lying around and it was this hideous bizarre ass it had joined, Kennedys Hairline had Lynn, Johnson's ears and Richard Nixon knows TAT. The man brings. That image to the Warner Brothers our department idea that why couldn't we just mute H, each his fate is so that it isn't chee chee anymore. So what did they end up doing to cheese phase so, basically, like it was like building a mister, potato head toy like they grafted Johnson here is a Nixon's who was head? Business reverse the mouth he doesn't Actually I should say that the David Berman from who was in business first at the time he doesn't remember the image being altered. So I sent
in the original, Chee Chee image from the from the Gulf Balls and the potato head collage just so he could. He could compare them looking at it today I wonder why approved because to me still looks like J G per. Obviously, I must have an historic is only about three weeks later a letter comes back from cheese representatives saying yes, cheat. You thinks it's find to use that image. He just wants fifty records at Christmas time to give out to his friends and family, He wanted to say to his friends and family left leg. Look I'm on a record right. He like that, and this is my mother's bar, and so it was at that point. It's like we couldn't go backs it already printed the cover. So now we had this mutilated potato face for an album cover.
And it didn't really looked like the handsome chee chee anymore. So I'm sure he was quite surprised when he got a box of a minimal. All our efforts were in fact in earnest, but what it looked like in the inn is the Debo hid, meanly, tricked Chee Chee Rodriguez and put out something that made him look hideous. It was you know it's a mess no, they did send Chee Chee a couple thousand dollars also submitted as well as the records it wasn't the total loss for him, but then they just then they never heard from him again. Silly ever got his take on the job market or even the songs on the Elmer anything like which is my raining question and all of this I really want to know if Chee Chee ever listened to that record and what he thought of it. That would be the big question Why don't you interview Chee Chee Rodriguez, hello, Illatici, Rodriguez, who's, this its she hit? Sean can reach Chee chee at a country club, naturally
in West Palm Beach Florida is in his early eighties. Now still handsome still play golf. Not professionally. Does a lot of philanthropic we're through his foundation, and an annual charity of em really and honour to talk to you by the to you Johnny its Sean, but that's ok, oh, you felt like the vast Johnny I love is sweet. I love him. She says he remembers getting this letter and he says he did give out those records to his friends and family, Did you notice, when you got the record, that it didn't quite look like you that much they look like me. I look at a blush, should look like be a little bit unleashed a leash? They had looked like me, but you know we think about them messing with his face and he had no, that they were worried, he was gonna, sue them show them. Well everybody the war by somebody shewn about damage at their show crooked, that that they show people in need.
The people of virtue them. I thought I was told that this young people trying to make a career away than I could help him and that's it because I like to do so for good every day of my life, and I want to leave the the earth, but I found so even young sort of avant garde, punk musicians. You want to help you did you. Listen to that record, yeah. I listen to one time. Just once I put her work you didn't like it No, I didn't like it. I like fraction, Catherine knocking Golan. Do they mean It was my favorite. You know Kashmir. Because staunch support to rally up music is something too. Are you down, The most important question answered he did he did not like it right and like it but, as I was talking about equal but there's like a kind of greater question here, which is lake like what did you think about
his face or mutated version thereof being on the cover of this appeal, the lipstick, weirdo art rock bands first record like did that like did, that makes sense to him and it did away because, because Chee chee now because he's teacher he knows how much he stands out, Array and Howard, how an outlandish he is None of that is lost on him an and in fact it's easy said. Its purpose form golf governs show business and when you stay? You gotta, give the people a show and dash dash, what they want. They did, they walk, came out and give the people a good time. So that is the similar. Ready between you and diva? Yes, sir? away and it really makes sense that they used you on the cover of their record there were geniuses
it takes a junior to recognise another wow, you guys down almost diabolical there. He asked me and she, the bottom the volcano planning. Then you have a vision of the human race has shed and of the human race. Exactly one could argue that again, Jerry Casale what we were put through by David Berman, actually achieved something here better than just using a found image. So what you're saying is corporate interference plus the faces before american President's whom prosecuted the Vietnam WAR and its aftermath, and this wonder fleet dandies. Golf legend. All of this is to have their yeah. It's our depot than the original Gigi imaginable. That's what I'm saying it's devote action like you know.
Example of what we are talking about here? It is So this whole story takes place at the beginning of Devos Career and they go on a play, for gates, extremely famous. They were just nominated being Rock Rural Hall of Fame. Do they think about tried to measure how much their origin story in a mark mothers by. Actually, furtive raise that when we were talking I really, I don't think anybody ever tried to measure how much cover had in the successive Debo, but it could possibly have been the tipping stone. The ditch like, I changed everything and gave us a chance to have a public career. So, just in case, thank you cheeky
they remain here. Store is not over. There is one more diabolical diva twist years, Turkey. Sadly, I have to say that now that I'm a senior citizens. I completely changed my attitude about the game, a golf. You did not really you I like it. I really I've changed so much from those days in who got to play it and how its played, in those guys, really our athletes. I know, I thought I would hear a member of Devos say that I know. Here's a hears, it doubly hideous secret. Unfolding right now, I really like professional football
a version of this peace originally aired on the inverse port show only again special thanks to Jerry Wallack conceived of a story in Hue Brown, who else John call with the research around the time diva, was putting out their first singles. In the mid nineteen seventies, a music teacher in Canada was making his own d. I why records with a bunch of his elementary school students and the result, was a hunting and,
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in fifty percent, faster than for other burglar alarms, you can set it up yourself with no tools needed or they can do it for you and has only fifty cents. A day would know contracts visit, simply saved outcomes. Last night you'll get free shipping in a sixty day risk free trial. You got another, lose go now and be sure to go to simply say that complex nine nine. So they know that our show is at you that simply saved outcome. Slash nine nine. In Canada, in the nineteen seventies, music, teacher, name: HANS Finger recorded sixty of his elementary school students singing in Indonesia, whom he pressed a few vinyl records. Those recordings and handed them out to parents. The link the school music project was little known until a record collector name Brian Land found one of those albums and authorised, or in the year two thousand Lynn shared with some people and eventually bar none records. Gay a proper release. The records cover.
You should a collage of black and white pictures of the students, singing strumming, guitars, plain drums and clapping along the album was, old innocence and despair, the ring discovered recordings were ahead. Salon, music critic, Stephen Haydn wrote gloomy title, innocence and despair is no lie. The echoing Helping renditions of this feel good music gives off a powerfully aching melancholy. It's the sound of youth, frozen on tape, fades inexorably away. Here's the music teacher in Langley School Music project HANS finger talking to Katy mingle in twenty ten before I was teaching and Langley. I I played in a heavy metal banned. It never occurred to me to be a teacher. Was really good student myself it's ok, but I would not like us she about them. To be honest with you, I knew nothing.
Kids music. I knew nothing about teaching. I knew nothing about everything. You know. I'd hair edge attitude toward ninety eight comes off. I went to Langley and I started to change. I was getting really know philosophy at all about eating. I had I can't really say I thought about a lot. I had a lot of ideas about music, but certainly not about teaching you know. For me, I mean I've been playing, and since I was like eleven or twelve years old- and it wasn't like anyway taught us it wasn't even like anybody said all. This is the way that's the way you do, which is sort of get it, and I've been doing music like that. Since I was a little kid, so
when I went into teach music, it never occurred to me that I was going to teach anybody how to read notes or that I was gonna- teach anybody how to pass the test The only thing I ever tried to teach children is really is just to fall in love with making music that that was me Michael. I just. What songs I knew and and I was very into David Bowe. In those days I was wearing Davy pop. I was into a fills all feel Spectre records Brain Wilson and it wasn't until now. Later did I realise that dumb songs with dramatic,
You know I have gotten a teaching job originally because I was with my girlfriend and then she was having a baby and I needed it ain't job and by the time I got this, job we're breaking up, and I think that in the back of my mind You know I was feeling like a loop at last Contrary to what people think a lot of kids. Aren't that happy there I've troubles they got problems at home. We feel lonely. They can feel isolated and the music can contract that feeling into them know whether or not the day lately literally understand the words. I'm not sure sure that so important I don't think Sheila when she was seen desperado.
We knew what a lot of those references were about, but she certainly captured the feeling of the song. Yes, Why so hi so when I heard other school fires and things we sounded so different in so weird. We can't be any good. If we listen to all those people, they really know how to sing. I never thought of it in terms of air space.
Because it was good Al Assad of in terms of especial oftentimes, I would have sixteen. Ninety kids in my class and it'll be all over the place. No really, we have instruments and we had no quick, and so I brought in all the equipment from my band, which were you Marshall, amplifier based guitars and all kinds of things that kid's across really like that so there wasn't much room and kids were practically on top of it. Another agenda, I just sort of arranged them. According to height and What
I always felt like my music teaching that I always wasn't outside or music teacher. You know I mean I never. I never really participated in a lot of the music teaching events and all that kind of stuff. I was always like us all. I ll end unto myself your people. I was useless this term like thinking outside the box. In all that, but I think for me I didn't even know there was a box. You know I mean it does have the sort of the children of the corn here does it does have a feeling? Well, I think we were kind of like a little call. You know so. Became kind of a kind of an underground, hidden, New York. Twenty four scanty, who is David boys producer, had heard it enter
I think he thought it was a new wave banned from New Jersey condemn. It can quite believe it was a budget, little kids. Some farm country in Canada yeah. I have students the silky music to this day there always in touch with me, I jam with some of them once in a while. Felt that the whole success of this was really vindicating kind of experience it made me feel really like I can't do something. So it's
great, I mean when you know what I'd always taught by students in a really positive way and then, when somebody suddenly is positive about what you're doing like that, and it gives you a great feeling
our own tv mingle talk the HANS finger, the Langley School music project in twenty ten for the show resound produced by the third coast, international audio festival. He wanted you're innovative documentaries from all over the world. You must subscribed to the Resound podcast and here are some. On facts. I resounded third coast for three years and during that time I heard Delaney home an intern in two thousand six. It was our first radio job and then, when I left, Then he took over and she hired Katy mingle, eventually of the show herself now we'll work here, If you like us, you'll, take recent, Ninety nine percent invisible was produces week by Sean Coal in Fitzgerald and Katy Mingle, Nixon Tech production by Sharif, Useth music by Sharia for coal studies, the digital director. The team include senior editor, Delaney Hall Average often turn. Joe Rosenberg Vivian leave me roman Mars. We are, but
Ninety one point, seven K, L W in San Francisco produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown, Oakland. California, Ninety nine percent, invisible is a member of Radio Tokyo from Pierre acts of fiercely independent, collective of the most innovative show is in all of pot casting you can find them all at Radio Toby. I doubt it you can find the show enjoins gusts about the show on Facebook and Twitter me at Roman Mars and the show at ninety nine p I or or uninstall tumblr and ready to bid you thinkin. I need more. Ninety nine. Behind my life, we have old episodes, new articles about design every couple of days on our website, it's nice the eye dot, Org. No
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.