Certain Songs #310: Devo – “Jocko Homo”

devo are we not men Album:. Q Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo!
Year: 1978

While it wasn’t as much of a mind-fuck as Elvis Costello’s legendary performance, I still have vivid memories of Devo performing on Saturday Night Live.

First off, only a week after The Rolling Stones came on (and killed) as both host and musical guest, Devo did their utter de-construction of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (which almost made this list just for Mothersbaugh’s amazing “babybabybabymaybemaybembaybe” section) and later they did “Jocko Homo.”

Even now, “Jocko Homo” is a weird fucking song, so imagine how it hit me in 1978. I’d read about Devo in CREEM, of course, I don’t think I’d actually heard them until they played SNL. What even was this?

What it was, of course, was the sound of deevolution. Three discordant notes played off against three discordant beats. And almost instantly going directly to its classic question:

They tell us that
We lost our tails, evolving up
From little snails
I say it’s all just wind in sails

Are we not men?
(We are Devo)
Are we not men?
(D-E-V-O)

What gives “Jocko Homo” its power is that call-and-response. Mark Mothersbaugh asks the question over and over, always getting the same response. By the end of the song, he’s getting desperat, and starts phrasing the question in every single possible way he can, hoping against hope for a different response.

Are we not men?
Are WE not men?
Are we not MEN?
ARE we not men?

But at every turn he gets the answer he assumed and dreaded.

We are Devo.

In the end, it breaks him. In fact, he so caves into the inevitability of deevolution, instead of questioning his crew, he is now leading them, asking them to repeat the credo:

We must repeat
D-E-V-O
We must repeat
D-E-V-O
We must repeat
D-E-V-O
We must repeat
D-E-V-O

And that was 1978. Imagine how much more we’ve devolved since then! Oh wait, you don’t have to imagine: we’re going to elect Donald Trump as President.

“Jocko Homo” performed live in Paris, 1978

Original video for “Jocko Homo” (slower than the album)

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