FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Released: May 1980
Label: Warner Bros.
Cover art: Artrouble
Told by Mark Neel
My dad was a bit of a music head. He had a great system: Tall Harman Kardon speakers, the Carver amp, all the nice stuff. He was a huge audiophile from the day I can remember. I grew up going to Stones concerts.
My mom was a huge Beatles fan, so we grew up with them. I know every lyric to every Beatles song. So we were exposed to great music. We loved it, my brother and I did, but it wasn’t the same as us going out and discovering it.
My brother is Greg, 13 months younger than me. We were like Irish twins, really. Either best of friends or fighting like cats and dogs. We lived in Fort Collins, Colorado, but we were in L.A., visiting my grandmother. I would have been in seventh grade. I convinced her to take us to the music store. That was our coup for the trip, to come back with the latest Devo album. It was a red album; a picture of them with the red trapezoid hats and the helmets.
We were already listening to a lot of Devo. They had come out earlier with “Duty Now for the Future” and we had seen them live. It was the first show we convinced my Dad to take us to: 1978 at Macky Auditorium in Boulder.
My parents were separating around then. It was the 1970s, the waterbed phase. All that craziness and all that shit blew up on all of them. The divorce kind of forged our relationship, my brother and I. When you look at the hierarchy of family, he’s the closest relative I have who I can count on. Not that you can’t count on your parents, but at that time, you don’t think you can, because all of a sudden the divorce is blowing up, that whole dynamic.
So for me, the album is the breakout of how I’m now becoming my own person, or we’re becoming our own people. We were heavily ingrained into my parents’ music culture, and Devo was kind of the start us being able to branch out on our own, and bring new music into the equation. We actually turned our Dad into a huge Devo head.
Devo and Human League and Ultra Vox were true New Wave bands. To me, New Wave was really taking the synthesizer and making it the lead instrument, not the guitar, which was very unusual. That’s kind of that what I think allowed them to break free of rock, so to speak.
It’s a great album. It was a deep track album. “Whip It” is the best known, but it’s probably the weakest song on the whole album. “Girl You Want” – a great song. And “Chains of Steel.”
But it was also kind of a demarcation in our growth in terms of music. Foreigner, Boston, Kansas, all that stuff was still under the general rock genre. It was the thing that we shared with our Dad. Devo was really us branching out, and adding to the family music collective. Because Pink Floyd was awesome, but that was my dad’s band.
Mark Neel lives in Castle Rock, Colo. and still has the album. Interviewed by Stewart Schley on June 21, 2017.
Image by Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=210392