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Opinion

Devo fans meet ‘Bob 1’ at Canal Park

5/29/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

Devo guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh, who met fans at Canal Park, is no stranger to Main Street. “I had a marvelous station wagon that I bought from somebody, and every morning I had to pour machine oil in the engine. And one day I drove down Main Street, and from Polsky’s to O’Neil’s, all the way down was white smoke,” he said.
“It makes us look a lot better than we really do,” said Bob Mothersbaugh of the Devo bobblehead, given away May 24 at Canal Park. “I see some Mark (Mothersbaugh), I see some Jerry (Casale), I see some original drummer Alan (Myers). It’s a good amalgam of everybody.”
Photos: Craig Marks
Bob Mothersbaugh would eventually find his calling as a member of Devo, the daring and innovative Akron/Kent band that would change the rules of rock in the 1970s.

The game of baseball, Mothersbaugh knew early on, was not in his future.

“When I was in elementary school, I tried out for Little League,” he said. “They gave me a bat, and I got up in front of this older kid who was pitching. I watched seven pitches whiz by me faster than I could even think about swinging, and they said, ‘Nope, you’re out.’”

On May 24, Mothersbaugh was back on the diamond, throwing out the first pitch at Canal Park before the Akron RubberDucks’ game against the Reading Fightin Phils. He was there as part of the Ducks’ “Celebrity Saturday,” along with Mountain Man (Tim Guraedy) from the TV show “Duck Dynasty.”

The RubberDucks had already scheduled a Devo bobblehead promotion for the evening, but the event became extra special when Mothersbaugh accepted an invitation to appear. Part of the money raised by his appearance — fans could pay extra for a meet-and-greet session with the rocker — will go to help the family of Bob Casale. Casale, a longtime member of Devo, died from heart failure in February.

“I’m heartbroken about losing Bob,” said Mothersbaugh. “I’m Bob 1, he’s Bob 2. We were the same age. We both have older brothers that kind of bossed us around, as older brothers do. He was a good friend.”

Casale’s brother is Devo member Gerald Casale. Mothersbaugh’s older brother is Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo’s lead singer and a much-in-demand TV and movie composer.

In June, Devo will go out on a short tour that will feature their early songs, the ones before “Whip It” and their cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No”) Satisfaction” entered the band into public consciousness. (There is no Ohio tour stop.)

“We started rehearsing, and it’s surprising how much you don’t remember after 35 years,” he said. “I’m lucky I did my homework and can tell everybody what parts they’re supposed to play.”

This is not music for novices.

“We did weird timings,” he said. “We would hold a chord for three beats or five beats or seven beats instead of four or eight. And we listen to it now and go, ‘What were we thinking?’”

Mothersbaugh, 61, answered his own question.

“I know what we were thinking,” he said. “It was actually, we didn’t want to be like every other band. We enjoyed stuff that would make them go, ‘What?’”

“What?” may not have been the only response.

“In the early days, we played a lot of places where people didn’t like us,” he said. “But they didn’t just not like us. They hated us.”

Mothersbaugh recalled one bar owner who had booked the band for two sets.

“After the first set, he says, ‘Yeah, this isn’t working out so well. You guys, maybe we can just skip the second set.’ And we were like, ‘We love playing. We want to play the second set.’ (And he says,) ‘No. I’ll pay you not to play the second set. You’re rattling the waitresses. They can’t work the cash register.’”

This summer, those songs from the early days will be played for audiences with an understanding of the band and its legacy. Mothersbaugh is looking forward to it.

“Who knows?” he said. “It could be an amazing thing, because, for the past 20 years, we’ve played the same songs live. So this is going to be really exciting and cathartic, and something great might happen.”

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