Essays on Technology and Culture

The Human Metronome Rests

Early Wednesday morning, I could not sleep. As I am wont to do during bouts of insomnia, I found myself checking my various social networks. That was when I came across a status update on Facebook, linking a post from drummer Josh Freese. He reported that Alan Myers, former drummer for DEVO, who played on their best records in their prime, had died of brain cancer. I was devastated. DEVO was, and continues to be my favorite band, and now the first member of the group has passed.

Though Alan hadn’t played with the band since I was a toddler, his drum beats formed the sonic glue to the greatest albums of DEVO’s career. Video of DEVO performing with Alan shows him typically barely moving behind his kit, all action in his forearms, a machine: The Human Metronome. I long hoped that some day, DEVO might reunite with Alan, perhaps for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction—wishful thinking on both counts. More realistic was the idea that I could find him and have him sign my copy of In The Beginning Was the End, the pseudoscience book that inspired the band in the late 70s. I already had the other four members sign my copy, but now both dreams have been dashed.

For an idea of Alan’s sheer rhythmic excellence, and beat-precision, just listen to DEVO’s cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” from their debut album, though really any song from DEVO’s first four albums shows Alan’s skills at their peak. They called him the Human Metronome for a reason. Now, the metronome rests. Duty Now for Eternity, Alan.

Read DEVO’s own tribute to Alan Myers at Rolling Stone