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Relocating to Los Angeles from its Akron, Ohio, home in 1978, Devo went on to become one of the most identifiable outfits of the so-called new wave movement. Its performance of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” that same year on “Saturday Night Live,” where they jerked in unison while wearing matching yellow decontamination suits, remains a touchstone moment of ’70s music culture. At the time, they’d recently signed what turned out to be a bad deal with Warner Bros. Records in the U.S. and Virgin in Britain, the combination of which Casale says continues to limit the ways in which Devo can earn money from its own music. That corporate interests control aspects of the band’s intellectual property only proves a point they warned against decades prior. The upside of the band’s first contract, Casale says, was the artistic freedom it afforded. Still taken from Devo’s “Duty Now for the Future” promo video (Devo Archives) “We controlled the studio time and the price of the producer, how money would be spent on promotions. We had the power to use promotional publicity that was [budgeted] for T-shirts, in-store stand-up cardboard displays — this and that — and videos,” Casale says. The band took full advantage, and “The Brand” is teeming with examples of how Devo harnessed the weight of the major-label marketing machine in service of its formative aesthetic, which drew from postwar business communication templates that favored rhetorically dense corporate-speak instead of long-haired rock ’n’ roll posturing.
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