Up until 1980, Devo had been a bit of an underground phenomenon. There wasn’t really any act out there similar to these upstarts who thrived on a quirky look, a devotion to de-evolution and a sharp guitar-led rock style with some humor to it. But as the new decade started, Devo were primed for a breakout with their all-important third album, ‘Freedom of Choice.’
The History: Recording in Hollywood during the fall of 1979 and early 1980, Devo’s ‘Freedom of Choice’ found the group incorporating more of a synth-led sound, while further honing their new wave tendencies. While relationships were always a fertile ground for exploration, the band also delved into the political issues of the day for inspiration as well.
The Song(s) You Know: The band’s biggest hit, “Whip It,” arrived courtesy of the ‘Freedom of Choice’ album. The track peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and had one of the most popular videos of the day, with many being introduced to the flowerpot hats and sleeveless black turtlenecks through the clip. Using a Minimoog synthesizer and a Roy Orbison-inspired guitar line, the song stood out when compared to anything else out at the time.
The Song(s) You Should Get to Know: Did you know “Whip It” wasn’t the lead single from ‘Freedom of Choice’? That honor actually went to a track called “Girl U Want,” a catchy rocker that did earn some radio play but is often overlooked in the annals of Devo history. Meanwhile, the more guitar-driven “Gates of Steel” and the infectious ‘Freedom of Choice’ title track also deserve closer looks.
The Conclusion: Though they did release two albums prior, ‘Freedom of Choice’ is the band that introduced many to Devo thanks to the massive success of “Whip It.” The band then parlayed that into five more studio albums over the next decade before taking a break until 2010’s ‘Something for Everybody’ disc. For those looking to dig into the band’s history, this should be the starting point before jumping over to other efforts.
Devo’s ‘Freedom of Choice’ album is currently available here.