Like Rachel Sweet, Devo also hailed from Akron, Ohio but that was where the similarities ended. Forming in 1973 they began tapping into – and drumming up – a new wave of pop, inspired by everything from electronics and 60s sci-fi to the DIY ethos of punk and surf.
“We recorded and produced our first single in Ohio, Jocko Homo backed with Mongoloid,” remembers Devo’s Gerald Casale. “It came to Stiff’s attention after Bomp Records, Greg Shaw’s independent label in LA, picked it up. We made a foreign distribution deal with Stiff.” The first fruit of this was the Be Stiff EP (released on the bands Booji Boy imprint), which contained a bizarre, funky Talking Heads-style deconstruction cover of the Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
“Rather than being a homage to their label, Be Stiff (the EP’s title track) was written in 1974, long before we heard about Stiff,” says Casale. “It was a satire of fear-driven, uptight people in America - nothing ever changes…” But Be Stiff became a fitting anthem nonetheless and spawned various cover versions from elsewhere on the label as part of the 1979 Be Stiff Tour. “Of course we thought most of them were stupid and missed the point of the original,” Gerald says, “but we expected that to happen!”