So Long, Alan Myers…

The former drummer for Devo has died after a lengthy struggle with cancer.

Myers was the band’s drummer from 1976-86, easily the band’s best period. Beneath the band’s cartoonish robofacade, there was remarkable musicianship going on. While Myers was with the band, they would do songs with sections in 7/8 (“Jocko Homo”), 11/8 (“Timing X”), and 6/4 (“Pink Pussycat”), and he would pioneer the use of electronic percussion (often hand-built) as something other than a special effect.

However, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Myers’s talent was his ability, like that of Ringo Starr (whom he cited as an influence), to come up with beats that seemed perfect and obvious, but which “normal drummers” just wouldn’t think of. The unhinged factory beat of the band’s cover of “Satisfaction” is insanely quirky, but absolutely suits the band’s deconstructive take on the Stones’ warhorse. Likewise, his work on “Snowball” (a favorite of mine) does the seemingly impossible — it takes the mechanical and makes it groove.

He could also play straight-ahead punk rock, of course — check out the medley of “Gut Feeling” (still perhaps my favorite punk song) and “Slap Your Mammy” on the first album and the band’s 1980 live DVD. Devo famously described itself as “the beautiful sound of things falling apart.” But with bassist Jerry Casale, Myers formed a highly underrated rhythm section that let things fall apart — together.

So long, Mr. Myers — thanks for the music.

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About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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