Devo In Jail: Bassist Gerald Casale Talks 1982 U Of H Arrest
For a bunch of geeky-looking guys from the Midwest, Devo sure has a knack for trouble. In this week's print feature, bassist Gerald Casale tells Rocks Off how the 1970 National Guard shootings at Kent State University near the band's hometown of Akron, Ohio, "transformed me and... ended up manifesting itself creatively as the Devo aesthetic. "
Something we had to leave out, unfortunately, was his story of a mid-'70s Halloween party in Cleveland, where Casale and Devo front man/co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh brawled with a crowd blasted on booze and nitrous oxide. They later snuck back inside the same party, in street clothes, to watch free-jazz cadet Sun Ra play one song for half an hour: "It was called 'Only 25 Years Til the 21st Century,'" Casale remembers.
The real prize, though, is that Casale told us the entire story behind his onstage arrest during - well, mostly after - a show at the University of Houston. We now take you back to Cullen Auditorium on the evening of Nov. 30, 1982...
Rocks Off: You were arrested onstage?
Gerald Casale (laughs): Yeah. Yes I was.
RO: What happened?
GC: Typically, back then - and this shows you how skinny and healthy we were - we would play two shows in one night many times. For some reason in Houston, the way they booked the shows, they booked one and it sold out quickly, and then they booked a second for the same night just an hour and a half later after the first show.
Devo's most recent album at the time of the U of H shows...
Each show is about an hour and 20 minutes, and we played the first show, and it's super hot and we're kinda wasted because the show was very energetic and choreographed. So we're all trying to relax, and somebody comes back and says, 'It's so packed out there, it's even hotter than the first show.'
Then we go out for the second show, and it's a sea of people. There's no aisles left, there's people in the aisles, everybody's standing up, it's wall to wall packed like sardines. We launch into our set and they're going crazy.
Right when we hit the finale for the encore portion, some cops show up on the side of the stage and the audience can't see. So when the lights are on during the song, I look over and I see 'em, and they're waving at me and motioning to me like, "You! Get over here!"
When the song's over, we have a very professional, worked-out, rehearsed light show, and the lighting man doesn't know what's going on out there in the front of the house, so he cuts all the lights on the last note of the song. I'm in the dark, going over there, but I can't really see this guy but he's grabbing me by my stage clothes going, "You get out there and you quit right now. You tell 'em Devo's not going to play for them anymore."