Original DEVO drummer Alan Myers died two days ago after being stricken with cancer. I find it amazing that in this modern-a-go-go world that the exact nature of the affliction or even his age is not publicly known, but these are mere details. What is important is that he was the engine that propelled DEVO during their glory years. It can be argued that it all went pear-shaped for the band once his twitchy rhythms were replaced with the 4/4 tyranny of Fairlights® and drum machines sucked the swing out of the spud-boys. How many other Americans can you name that were delving into Krautrock rhythms like he was in the late 70s? Klaus Dinger would have been proud of the streamlined Apache rhythms as evidenced on their top-selling “Freedom Of Choice” album. They were possibly the only band on these shores that was delving into the motorik mindset that early.
His penchant for berserk time signatures all but made the band from their point of inception. Without his rhythms, their transgressive cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” would have never been possible. But a drummer needs to know the rules before he can break them. He had the nickname “The Human Metronome” because the early days of the band were thrilling as the Akron dwelling spuds attempted to become machines with primitive, homegrown technology. The group’s salad days were when they played gear specially modified by Jim Mothersbaugh, the band’s tech genius who later worked at Roland and helped develop the MIDI spec. With Myers on the drum seat, using primitive, modified Syndrums, the group were at their most alien.
By the last album with Myers, he’d been supplanted with technology and as a consequence, the band’s sound became rigid and bland. One gets the idea that the group’s brain trust were actually shooting for that outcome, though. Today, Gerald Casale tweeted regrets over how and why Myers left the band and that 20/20 hindsight must sting a little. So let’s remember Alan Myers and dug out your copy of “DEVO Live” and give it a spin.