Duty Now for the Future

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Duty Now for the Future
Devo - Duty Now.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 1979 (1979-07)
RecordedSeptember 1978–early 1979
StudioChateau Recorders, Hollywood
LabelWarner Bros.
Devo chronology
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
Duty Now for the Future
Freedom of Choice
Singles from Duty Now For the Future
  1. "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize"
    Released: 1979
  2. "Secret Agent Man"
    Released: 1979
Alternative cover
International cover
International cover

Duty Now for the Future is the second studio album by American rock band Devo, released in July 1979 by Warner Bros. Records. Produced by Ken Scott, the album was recorded between September 1978 and early 1979 at Chateau Recorders in Hollywood. The majority of the songs on the album had been performed in Devo's live set as early as 1976.[1]


The "Devo Corporate Anthem" song and video are a nod to the 1975 film Rollerball, in which games are preceded by players and audience standing solemnly while listening to a regional "corporate hymn."[2] "Secret Agent Man" is a cover (with modified lyrics) of the song by P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri and performed by Johnny Rivers in 1965. An early demo version of "Secret Agent Man" had been featured in Devo's award-winning 1976 short film The Truth About De-Evolution.

Production and recording[edit]

Duty Now for the Future was produced by Ken Scott. Like Brian Eno, who had produced Devo's debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, Scott had also worked with David Bowie, most notably on the records The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and its follow-up, Aladdin Sane. Scott heaped praise on the band, claiming they were "quite professional in the studio" and that he "loved every minute of it."[3]

Scott discussed his role in the recordings and how Devo came to choose him for the album: "I consider my job to put the act across in the best way possible, in the way THEY wish to be perceived. I hate it when I'm part of the final equation. The act was signed for their talent not mine. I just wish the modern A&R people saw things that way. I know they chose me because of the Bowie records I did, but I don't know if it was a direct recommendation from Mr. Jones. Devo always wanted to learn. That's why they worked with each producer only once. Took what they needed and then time to move on."[4]

One prominent aspect of Duty Now for the Future is in the manipulated sound of the guitars. According to Scott, to record the solo for "Secret Agent Man," "We overloaded mic amps and fed the signal through headphones which were taped to the mic."[3]

Devo bass guitarist and co-songwriter Gerald Casale corroborated this approach in an interview with BAM magazine in 1979. "A guitar can only do what a guitar does. It's like only one tiny piece of a synthesizer. On this album, we did much more with the guitars, too. Sometimes you don't know that they're guitars."[5]

However, more recently, Casale has been critical of the sound of the album, particularly in a Reddit chat on June 25, 2013: "I love the songs but I loathe Ken Scott's production. He 'de-balled' us." [6]


The American 12" album cover was jokingly dominated by the album’s Universal Product Code. The colorful Janet Perr artwork satirized the new requirements for these bar codes. Until that time, album covers were seen as an entire art form unto themselves. Consequently, the new mandates for UPCs splashed across every work of album art were a subject of much protest as an infringement upon artistic integrity and an Orwellian symbol of the impersonal modern age.

The photograph of the band was taken by photographer Allan Tannenbaum for the Soho Weekly News in New York City. It was used in the album artwork by simply taking it from the front page of the newspaper in the exact same dimensions, unbeknownst to the photographer. When he discovered this, he contacted the record company and was paid for the use.

The rectangular image of the band originally came perforated and could therefore be removed from the "offending" barcodes surrounding it.

The inner sleeve included the lyrics of all the songs printed in a single block of closely printed text. In addition to other artwork, the sleeve also featured a West Hollywood address from which one could request information and news about the band. In addition, an address was included to allow purchasers to order a copy of the 'Devo-vision" videocassette from Time Life. This tape was never actually made available from Time Life and was a few years later issued under the title "The Men Who Make the Music" via Warner Home Video.

Promotional music video[edit]

Devo produced one music video for this album. "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize" combined animation with blue screen effects of the band performing. In this video, Devo chiefly wore white shirts and pants and silver 3D glasses. Also of note is the appearance of Alex Mothersbaugh, the daughter of guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh.[7] Alex would later be featured on the back cover of Devo's 1984 album, Shout.

A short clip of the band standing at attention and then saluting was filmed to accompany "Devo Corporate Anthem" and was used in concert performance.[8]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[9]
Christgau's Record GuideB–[10]
Rolling Stone(very negative)[11]
Smash Hits6/10[12]
The Daily VaultA[13]

Duty Now for the Future was on the Billboard charts for 10 weeks, peaking at No. 73. It was received less enthusiastically than their first release, Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!. Dave Marsh, writing in Rolling Stone, condemns it completely, feeling that "inspired amateurism works only when the players aspire to something better." [14] In their review of the album, Smash Hits described it as "unimpressive", but noted that the "change of style definitely grows on you".[12] They went on to say that, although the album was more accessible, it was "lacking the zany magic of old".

The AllMusic review, written more than a decade later, takes a longer view. Reviewer Mark Deming writes that "their second album captures the group in the midst of a significant stylistic shift" while acknowledging that the song "'Triumph of the Will' embraces fascism as a satirical target without bothering to make it sound as if they disapprove."[15] KROQ-FM/LA long-time disc jockey Jed the Fish, admittedly a huge fan of Devo, sees the album as playing "catch-up," fleshing out many more songs from their immense volume of demo recordings.

Cultural significance[edit]

A seminal new wave synthpop album, Duty Now for the Future was eventually heralded as one of the first pop/rock or AOR releases of a major record label to rely heavily on synthesizers, which went on to be widely used in the subsequent new wave genre of the 1980s. As an offshoot of punk rock, new wave music had consisted primarily of guitar-based songs derived from traditional rock and roll and blues scales and riffs, as represented by Devo's punk contemporaries the Sex Pistols, Ramones and the Clash.

Legendary Punk Rock icon Henry Rollins is among the many musicians that praise the album's innovations. Rollins' short-lived Infinite Zero reissue label (an offshoot of American Recordings) was responsible for the first U.S. CD release of Duty Now for the Future in 1994. The album had been continually overlooked by original label Warner Bros.


Starting only a few weeks after the conclusion of group's previous World Tour, the Duty Now Tour was significantly shorter and only covered the US and Canada.[16]

As with all DEVO tours, the show opens with a showcase of their short films, "The Truth About De-evolution", "Satisfaction", "Come Back Jonee", and the then newly filmed "The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize".[17] The rest of the show was structured in 2 halves, the first half consisting entirely of material from the new album, unreleased songs (Such as Going Under), and singles, during this half the group were dressed in white shirts with gray pants and silver visor style glasses, following this half, a short film would play, an excerpt from "The Men Who Make The Music", in which a dispute with their record label causes them to return to their yellow radiation suits.

After the short film concludes the group return to the stage dressed in their classic radiation suits, the second half of the show is a shorted version of their 'Are We Not Men?' setlist, in which the yellow suits would be torn away until Jocko Homo. As an encore Booji Boy performs two songs "In Heaven Everything Is Fine" from Eraserhead, segued into the unreleased "One That Gets Away".[18]

Concert Dates
Date Venue Notes
First Leg (1979)
06/21 Max Bell Arena, Calgary, AB, Canada Originally booked at The MacEwan Hall Ballroom at the University Of Calgary
06/22 S.U.B. Theatre, University Of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
06/24 Pacific National Exhibition Gardens, Vancouver, BC, Canada Pointed Sticks opened
06/25 The Place Tavern, Seattle, WA
06/27 Warner Theatre, Fresno, CA
06/28 Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA
06/29 Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA
07/01 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA
07/04 Rainbow Music Hall, Denver, CO
07/06 Lawrence Opera House, Lawrence, KS
07/07 The Music Box, Omaha, NE Charlie Burton & Rock Therapy opened
07/08 Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN
07/11 Uptown Theatre, Milwaukee, WI
07/13 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL
07/14 Masonic Auditorium, Detroit, MI Flirt opened
07/15 Shea's Buffalo Theatre, Buffalo, NY
07/16 Rex Danforth Theatre, Toronto, ON, Canada DEVO performed twice this day
07/18 Triangle Theater, Rochester, NY The Flashcubes opened
07/19 Walsh Center, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI
07/20 Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA
07/21 The Palladium, New York, NY
07/23 Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA
07/24 Washington, DC
07/25 The Mosque, Richmond, VA
07/26 Aycock Auditorium, University Of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
07/27 Agora Ballroom, Atlanta, GA
07/31 Texas Opry House, Houston, TX
08/02 Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, TX
08/03 The Palladium, Dallas, TX
08/25 San Diego State University Open Air Theatre, San Diego, CA
08/26 Campbell Hall, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
09/22 New-No-Now-Wave Festival, Minneapolis, MN DEVO performed in disguise as 'Dove', a christian alter ego group. Concert filmed.[19]
10/02 Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, Hollywood, CA Television appearance, only professional footage from the tour.

A short British tour after this was cancelled.

10/13 Rockpop, Unterföhring, Germany Television appearance, lip syncing to 'The Day My Baby Gave Me a Suprize" Only appearance outside the US and Canada.
Second Leg (1979)
12/28 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA DEVO performed twice on this date, the first time as Dove, opened by The Beat
12/29 Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA Early songs from 'Freedom Of Choice' begin to enter the setlist. The Beat Open
12/31 Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA DEVO performs as both themselves and Dove, opened by X.

Excerpts from the Dove set are heard on 'Recombo DNA'

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."Devo Corporate Anthem"Mark Mothersbaugh1:16
2."Clockout"Gerald Casale2:48
3."Timing X"M. Mothersbaugh1:13
4."Wiggly World"
  • B. Mothersbaugh
  • M. Mothersbaugh
6."Strange Pursuit"
  • G. Casale
  • M. Mothersbaugh
7."S.I.B. (Swelling Itching Brain)"M. Mothersbaugh4:27
Side two
8."Triumph of the Will"
  • M. Mothersbaugh
  • G. Casale
9."The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize"M. Mothersbaugh2:42
10."Pink Pussycat"
  • M. Mothersbaugh
  • B. Mothersbaugh
11."Secret Agent Man"
12."Smart Patrol"/"Mr. DNA"
  • G. Casale
  • M. Mothersbaugh
13."Red Eye"
  • M. Mothersbaugh
  • G. Casale
Total length:38:56

Additional tracks




Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ "DEVO Live Guide – 1973 to 1977". huboon.com.
  2. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2010). Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews. Soft Skull Press. ISBN 9781593763947. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Ken Scott (2 July 2007). "Ken Scott – Devo – Duty Now For The Future". NewsgroupHoffman Music Forums: Music Corner Steve Hoffman Music Forums: Music Corner Check |newsgroup= value (help). Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  4. ^ Ken Scott (2 July 2007). "Ken Scott – Devo – Duty Now For The Future". NewsgroupHoffman Music Forums: Music Corner Steve Hoffman Music Forums: Music Corner Check |newsgroup= value (help). Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  5. ^ Bam Magazine. 18 May 1979. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Gerald Casale (25 June 2013). "I'm Gerald Casale, founding member of DEVO. Ask me anything!". Newsgroupreddit.com. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  7. ^ Devo (2003). The Complete Truth About De-evolution (DVD). Rhino Home Video.
  8. ^ bruskimon (9 April 2006). "Devo Corporate Anthem" – via YouTube.
  9. ^ AllMusic Review
  10. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: D". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 24, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  11. ^ "Duty Now for the Future – Album Reviews – Rolling Stone". 12 April 2014. Archived from the original on 12 April 2014.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  12. ^ a b Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (June 28 – July 11, 1979): 25.
  13. ^ Feldman, Mark (2019). "The Daily Vault Music Reviews : Duty Now for the Future". dailyvault.com. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  14. ^ Dave Marsh (1979-09-20). "Duty Now for the Future – Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  15. ^ Mark Deming. "allmusic (((Duty Now for the Future > Overview)))". Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  16. ^ "DEVO Live Guide - 1979". huboon.com. Retrieved 2020-01-02.
  17. ^ DEVO - live in Dallas, TX, USA 1979-08-04, retrieved 2020-01-03
  18. ^ "Devo Live Guide - 07/21/79 - The Palladium, New York, NY". huboon.com. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  19. ^ Dove, The Band Of Love - New-No-Now-Wave Festival (1979), retrieved 2020-01-02
  20. ^ "Warner Bros. Records and DEVO Announce the Release of Re-Mastered Versions of "DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE" and "NEW TRADITIONALISTS" from Ohio Art-Rock Pioneers". marketwire.com.
  21. ^ a b "Devo – Duty Now For The Future". Discogs.

External links[edit]