My Top 1000 Songs #369: Uncontrollable Urge

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

It's impossible to explain to someone today what it felt like to first experience Devo as a kid. If your frame of reference is the classic rock of your childhood, and some emerging new wave/punk artists who are still mainstream friendly--the Clash, the Go-Go's, the Police--it completely upsets your equilibrium the first time Devo shows up on your tv set. Nerdy misfits with odd, matching costumes; herky-jerky choreography; music which is strange, jagged, yet still catchy enough to have you singing along. The videos--run on late night cable, other than "Whip It" garnering MTV airplay--and the vaguely disturbing video appearances on SNL cast-off Fridays. It was all a glimpse into a foreign world where music did not cling to the preconceptions your 14-year-old self had already locked into.

And I mean "experience" more than hear because, frankly, they've never been a band I've spent a lot of time listening to. For all the impact those early singles had on me, I didn't actually buy a Devo LP until many years later; and even then, rarely listen to them aside from the obvious singles. They were as much a video as a musical force for me, and even today, hearing Devo brings me back to being riveted to my tv set.

"Uncontrollable Urge," off their 1978 debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, best encapsulates that thrill of discovery. While the video for that record's "Jocko Homo" may have been what most caught my attention, "Urge" is a song you can enjoy without the visual context, a killer riff, almost straight rock & roll but for Mark Mothersbaugh's distinctive delivery. Though it's still intertwined, for me, with the live performance I saw in the Urgh! A Music War concert film (and probably that Friday's appearance).

Live from the Urgh film:
Live on Fridays:
Still incredible!