Devo - Satisfaction SNL 10/14/78

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A lot of younger people don't realize how polarizing this version of Satisfaction was, especially when it was played on Saturday Night Live in the Fall of 1978. I was in 10th Grade and I still remember the school bus on Monday morning literally buzzing with a reaction as lines were drawn pretty stark between those who thought it was terrible, those who thought it was incredible, and those who didn't know what the fuss was all about. Although the later group didn't really participate in the on-bus discussion.

By 1978 classic rock and roll had a stranglehold on popular music. Sure here in the hinterlands we had maybe heard of The Ramones or Sex Pistols, but hadn't really heard them. To see this weird band take such an integral part of the rock and roll canon like Satisfaction and turn it into some sort of robotic freak music was unheard of and it was hard to get your mind around what it meant.

I just love this performance. The yellow suit, the eyeglass, but especially the herk-jerky movements that remind me of Disney animatronics such as The Country Bear Jamboree. Pay particular attention to the end as the guitar player drops his guitar, lifts his hand...holds it... then bows. Like a robot that just got turned off.

I think the reaction was so strong on that bus because kids realized that if you could do that to such an iconic song, then anything was possible musically and some were terrified of that notion while others thought it liberating. That we could actually see it on our TVs, that it was happening in our rec rooms and not in some dank club in NYC meant that it could happen here too. And it was. Unbeknownst to probably everyone on that bus is that just 25 miles to the east bands such as The Suicide Commandos and Suburbs were just beginning to take the same attitude toward their music, while others such as Paul Westerberg and Bob Stinson were still listening to the Beatles and the Stones, but were playing and writing different kind of songs of their own in their bedrooms.

Kids kind of hated this version but were excited by the opportunities it presented. The old ways making music were crumbling and not everything that was rock and roll meant listening to acts that played at Woodstock or were part of the 60s. The door was wide open for interpretation and although it took me a few more years, I would end up running through it at full throttle.

11 Comments

Free - fantastic video. Growing up in Eau Claire, WI, I appreciated any music that made the metalheads angry. Devo made the metalheads angry, so I loved Devo.

Thank you. How cool were these guys?

I was amongst the meatheads. I felt shocked and betrayed that anyone would treat the Stones with so little respect. I had the same reaction to Patti Smith covering My Generation on SNL. It just didn't seem right ...

Even better than the recorded version, which only goes to show they weren't just a concept but a great band. Devo, Gang of Four--they created a downside of the world '70s funk that's still what gets at least me to dance.

While I missed this performance when it first aired, I was definitely a rocker in 1978. Beatles, Stones, Led Zep, Thin Lizzy, The Boss. At that age, I was too shallow to see past the band's flower-pot hats, and thus wasn't buying in. I wanted my rock and rollers to look like rock and rollers. A few months later I would discover the Ramones, The Clash and the Jam. All of whom passed not only the musical test, but they looked like rockers. It wasn't until I was close to 30 that I finally "got" Devo, and realized what a groundbreaking act they had been. I still hate their look, though.

This is just a great video. The jerky/twitchy movements are done perfectly and it really creates a powerful vibe. You almost believe Devo ARE robots.

I saw the original airing of this show; I was 16 at the time. I thought it was the worst cover of any song I had ever heard in my life. One of my friends went away to school in Boston that fall and came back in the Spring with this mix-tape of music I had never heard before...Dead Kennedys, Human Sexual Response, B-52s...and suddenly I 'got' it. I must've played Devo's 'Be Stiff' EP a thousand times.

I remember seeing this in High School. I was into all the current rock radio stuff of the time and I was just blow away. I went out and got their albums right away. I still loved all the current rock stuff (It wasn't called classic rock then...that name classic rock came later) but now a new door had opened for me. This was back when SNL broke new acts. Now they just feature whoever is on the charts.

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This page contains a single entry by Freealonzo published on February 15, 2010 7:53 AM.

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