This is one of those unique artifacts from a bygone aural era, when technological innovation was ad hoc & DIY meant by any means necessary. DEVOTEES is an incredible album – an incredibly weird album – that captures a moment in time, after punk’s “year zero” yet before “new wave” became smooth and overproduced.
This album also gives a hint of what KROQ 106.7 FM was doing at the time, how free form it was and willing to take chances putting out an album like this…after running a listener contest for content submissions. Hands down, the best track on the LP is “Jocko Homo” (there are 2 versions on the LP), arranged for touch tone telephone and recorded by…The Touch Tone Tuners. In 1979 lotsa folks still had rotary telephones, and although touch tone phones were clearly the new normal, there was still a kind of novelty about it. I remember playing out “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the 9, 6 & 3 buttons.
That these guys took the time to pick out buttons on the phone to arrange the “Jocko Homo” melody is pure genius. They also aped the Mothersbaugh / Boojie Boy vocals but made them as raw an unrefined as the touch tone melody. The “doodoodoodoodoodoodoos” at the beginning and end of the song are attempts to evoke the primitive synth sounds bookending the DEVO original. TTT’s version sounds like it was transmitted across the galaxy on frayed telephone lines, suggesting both innovation and primitivism. The Touch Tone Tuners’ message might be that humans crave technological innovation only to look back and appreciate simpler times.
For more info, Dangerous Minds has an excellent piece up from 3 or 4 years ago.