Essays on Technology and Culture

Bob Casale

It seems like yesterday when I wrote about the passing of Alan Myers, DEVO’s Human Metronome, though it was only eight months ago. Alan’s passing was a shock, but it paled in comparison to the news that broke last week. Bob Casale, better known as “Bob 2,” suddenly died from heart failure. In many ways, Bob 2 is often the forgotten member of the band. He’s not the face of the band like Mark, or the mouthpiece like his brother Jerry. He doesn’t get the spotlight like lead guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh (Bob 1). Yet, he was integral to the DEVO sound, whether creating the iconic, geometric riff to DEVO’s cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” providing the synth textures in DEVO’s electronic-focused songs, or his occasional vocal roles.

Ten years ago this summer will be my anniversary of seeing DEVO in concert for the first time. I considered it to be a lucky break, then—my favorite band on a rare reunion show. Even as old men, they put on a better show than most bands I’d seen before or since, and they only got better with each subsequent show. I saw DEVO six times in all, six more times than I ever expected. At the last two shows: a complete performance of their 1980 album Freedom of Choice, and a show to promote their new album Something for Everybody, Bob 2 had a chance to take the spotlight. In the former show, he delivered the blistering vocal bridge to “Mr. B’s Ballroom,” and in the latter, a solo line in the new song “What We Do.” Each moment was a highlight of the show, but there are more wonderful moments: Bob bouncing in time to Jerry’s bass opening to “Mongoloid,” his speedy switch from keys to guitar in a performance of “Shrivel-Up,” the key change at the end of “Going Under…”

I met Bob 2 briefly after a show in New York City, sheepishly handing him my copy of In The Beginning Was The End, the bizarre pseudoscientific book that was an early influence on DEVO. He was surprised. “Oh, wow! You have the book,” he said, taking my Sharpie and signing an understated “Bob 2” on the reflective cover. On the inside, his brother and his bandmates had each signed their names years before. After he signed, I took the book back, shook his hand, and walked away star-struck to wrap the book back up and put it in my backpack. It’s sitting in a box, in storage, with a scrap of yellow suit from Bob 2’s pant leg that I got ahold of at my second ever DEVO show in 2005.

Though I was at work on that terrible Tuesday, my mind was not. I spent most of the day listening to the DEVO discography, and commiserating with other DEVO fans in various places online. In August, there are plans for a DEVO fan convention in Cleveland, the first one since 2010. I attended in 2008, but in 2009, the organizers brought out Bob 2, who not only did a Q/A session, but was gracious enough to cook lunch for a small army of DEVO fans. How many members of how many bands would cook for their fans?

Jerry mentioned in Bob’s LA Times obituary that DEVO was planning a 40th anniversary Summer tour, performing songs from what fans call the “Hardcore” era, songs written from 1974 to 1977, before DEVO had a record contract. There were other things happening under the DEVO banner too, but all of that might be over now. I’ve lost a hero, a key part of my favorite band, the band that changed my life. More importantly, Mark and Bob 1 have lost a friend and a band-mate. Jerry lost a brother. And all this loss has come too soon. I’m still trying to process it.

Michael Pilmer, DEVO’s archivist, is collecting donations for Bob’s funeral expenses. Please give.