Freedom of Choice (album)

Freedom of Choice
Studio album by Devo
Released May 16, 1980 (1980-05-16)
Recorded October 1979 – early 1980
Studio Record Plant, Hollywood, California
Length 32:14
Devo chronology
Duty Now for the Future
Freedom of Choice
DEV-O Live
Singles from Freedom of Choice
  1. "Girl U Want"
    Released: April 24, 1980
  2. "Whip It"
    Released: August 13, 1980
  3. "Gates of Steel"
    Released: October 6, 1980
  4. "Freedom of Choice"
    Released: December 29, 1980
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic link
Robert ChristgauB+[4]
Rolling Stone link(Not Rated)
Smash Hits6/10[5]

Freedom of Choice is the third studio album by the American new wave band Devo. It was originally released in May 1980, on the labels Warner Bros., and Virgin. The album was recorded between October 1979 and early 1980, at the Record Plant, in Hollywood, California. "Freedom of Choice" saw the band moving in more of an overt synthpop direction, even though guitars still played a prominent role. The album was co-produced by Robert Margouleff, notable for his synthesizer work in Tonto's Expanding Head Band and with Stevie Wonder. It contained Devo's biggest hit song, "Whip It."

According to the band's commentary on the The Complete Truth About De-Evolution DVD, the lyrics of "Whip It" began as a tongue-in-cheek anthem for then-president Jimmy Carter. The lyrics were also inspired by Norman Vincent Peale's 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking and the "can do philosophy" espoused within.[6] Devo co-songwriter and bass guitarist Gerald Casale also told Songfacts that the lyrics were written by him "as an imitation of Thomas Pynchon's parodies in his book Gravity's Rainbow."[7]

"Mr. B's Ballroom" is a lyric re-written version of an earlier relationship-focused song called "Luv & Such," which can be heard on the Rhino Entertainment two-disc rarities collection Recombo DNA. The lyric of "That's Pep!" is based on an early 20th-century poem by Grace G. Bostwick.[8]

In 1995, the band recorded a new version of "Girl U Want" for the film Tank Girl. An entire alternate demo version of Freedom of Choice was released in 2000 on the compilation album Recombo DNA. This demo version lacks "It's Not Right," "Ton o' Luv," "Don't You Know" and "Freedom of Choice," but it includes demos of the "Whip It" b-side "Turn Around" and three unreleased tracks ("Luv & Such," "Time Bomb" and "Make Me Move").[9]

In 2009, another demo surfaced entitled "Red Shark." This was an early version of "It's Not Right" with alternate lyrics and was offered as a download-only track for fans who purchased tickets to the Freedom of Choice album concerts.[10]

Promotional music videos

Devo produced three music videos for the album. "Whip It" was based on a 1962 issue of "Dude" magazine that lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh had found in an antique store. The magazine contained a story about a dude ranch where the owner would whip his wife's clothes off. The video also played on the popular misconception that the song was about sadomasochism.[6] "Girl U Want" saw the band performing on a television set in front of a live audience. The colors of the video were heavily saturated. In "Freedom of Choice," the band appeared as aliens. This video also featured professional skateboarders of the day.


The Freedom of Choice tour was the most ambitious Devo tour up to this time, with dates in Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Canada.[11] While the stage set was still relatively minimalist in keeping with previous performances, the stage was now illuminated by industrial walls and towers with flashing lights. In addition to the infamous red energy dome hats, the band also wore new Tyvek costumes, consisting of grey shirts and pants with long red strips of tape attached to them. Later in the set, Devo donned red, triangular vinyl vests, each one emblazoned with a letter of the band's name in yellow (as well as a hyphen), which can also be seen in the promotional video for "Freedom of Choice."

The Freedom of Choice tour was captured on several different releases. The first was a promotional LP of an almost complete gig from August 16 at the Fox Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, part of the ongoing Warner Bros. Music Show series. This performance was recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show.[12] Shortly thereafter, a distilled version of that LP appeared as the DEV-O Live mini-album, containing six tracks from the album. In 2000, Rhino Handmade issued a limited edition CD of Dev-o Live, containing both the mini-album and the LP on one disc.

In 2005, a performance from the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, California from the following night was issued as Devo Live 1980.[11] This was released in DualDisc format, with one side containing the show in DVD format and the other containing an edited version of the show's audio in CD format.

2009 Album Tour

On September 16, 2009, Warner Brothers and Devo announced CD re-releases of Freedom of Choice and Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, as well as a tour performing both albums in their entirety on back to back nights.[13] These concerts also featured stage set-ups similar to those used in 1978 and 1980 and featured the band wearing their original touring costumes.

The encore performances for the Freedom of Choice show were "Be Stiff" and "Beautiful World," the latter of which featured the Devo "mascot" Booji Boy on vocals.

The opening act for this tour was comedian/performance artist Reggie Watts and, for certain dates, JP Hasson (aka JP Incorporated, aka Pleaseeasaur).

Critical reception

On the Billboard charts, Freedom of Choice peaked at #22 on the Pop Albums chart. "Whip It" hit #8 and #14 on the Club Play Singles and Pop Singles charts, respectively. The album received very positive reviews upon release, and is widely regarded as one of their finest efforts. Writing in Trouser Press, critics Scott Isler and Ira Robbins described the album as "the band's most evocative pairing of words and music".[14] AllMusic's Steve Huey praised the album, calling it "their most cohesive, consistent material to date".

The popularity of "Whip It" garnered the band a number of television appearances, including The Merv Griffin Show,[15] American Bandstand and two appearances on the sketch comedy and variety show Friday's. A planned appearance on The Lily Tomlin Show was canceled when Tomlin saw the video for "Whip It" and objected to the content.[6]

Track listing

All tracks written by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, except where noted. 

Side one
No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "Girl U Want"    2:55
2. "It's Not Right"  Mark Mothersbaugh 2:20
3. "Whip It"    2:37
4. "Snowball"    2:28
5. "Ton o' Luv"  Gerald Casale 2:29
6. "Freedom of Choice"    3:28
Side two
No. TitleWriter(s) Length
7. "Gates of Steel"  
8. "Cold War"  
9. "Don't You Know"  M. Mothersbaugh 2:14
10. "That's Pep!"  M. Mothersbaugh 2:17
11. "Mr. B's Ballroom"  M. Mothersbaugh 2:45
12. "Planet Earth"  G. Casale 2:45
Total length:
Additional tracks
Bonus tracks on CD releases
  • In 1993, Virgin Records paired Freedom of Choice with Devo's fifth album, Oh, No! It's Devo, and issued them together on one CD with two bonus tracks: "Turnaround" (the b-side of the "Whip It" single) and "Peek-a-Boo! (Dance Velocity)" (a remix issued as the a-side of the "Peek-a-Boo!" 12" single).
  • In 2008, the album was digitally remastered and released as part of the box set This is the Devo Box in Japan.
  • In 2009, the album was digitally remastered for the first time in the United States and re-released on CD by Warner Bros. Records. Released on November 3, the "Deluxe Remastered Edition" CD included the Dev-o Live mini-album as bonus tracks:
No. TitleWriter(s) Length
13. "Freedom of Choice Theme Song" (Live)  2:46
14. "Whip It" (Live)  2:41
15. "Girl U Want" (Live)  2:56
16. "Gates of Steel" (Live)
  • G. Casale
  • M. Mothersbaugh
  • Sue Schmidt
  • Debbie Smith
17. "Be Stiff" (Live)
  • G. Casale
  • Robert Lewis
18. "Planet Earth" (Live)  2:32
  • On December 23, 2009, Warner Bros. Records issued the Ultra Devo-Lux Ltd. Edition box set.[17] This box included the "Deluxe Remastered Edition" CDs of both Freedom of Choice and Devo's first album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!. In addition to the aforementioned Dev-o Live mini-album, Freedom of Choice also included three additional bonus tracks:
No. Title Length
19. "Snowball" (Demo) 2:49
20. "Gates of Steel" (Demo) 3:28
21. "Time Bomb" (Demo) 2:54

All three tracks had been previously released on the compilation album Recombo DNA, although this version of "Time Bomb" includes an alternate vocal track sung by Jerry Casale.


Production team

Chart performance

Peak positions


Year Chart Peak Position
1980 Billboard Pop Albums (U.S.) 22
1980 UK Album Charts 47
1981 Australia (Kent Music Report)[18] 5


Year Single Chart Peak Position
1980 "Whip It"/"Gates of Steel"/"Freedom of Choice" Billboard Club Play Singles 22
1980 "Whip It" Billboard Pop Singles 14[19]


Several songs from Freedom of Choice have been covered by other musicians, most notably "Girl U Want," which has been recorded by the Mummies, Superchunk, Soundgarden, Chancho en Piedra, Robert Palmer, and Zombie Ghost Train. Japanese Devo-tees Polysics also lifted the main guitar riff of "Girl U Want" on their song "Each Life Each End".

The album's title track has been covered by 16Volt, The Aquabats, A Perfect Circle, Lagwagon, Snapcase, Psychotica, Big Drill Car, Fu Manchu, and the Frustrations. Collide and Face to Face recorded versions of "Whip It," which has also been performed in concert by numerous musicians including The String Cheese Incident and Pearl Jam. The song was also covered for the NME 2008 Awards Compilation by the band Does It Offend You, Yeah?. The band Love and Death covered the song in 2012. "Gates of Steel" has been covered by The Hex Dispensers, Skankin' Pickle, Supernova, Yo La Tengo, Groovie Ghoulies, Shihad, Junkyard Dogs, The Flaming Lips,[20] The Men, and Snapcase.

The "Whip It" B-side "Turn Around" was covered by Nirvana and included on the rarities collection Incesticide in 1992.


  1. Nagy, Evie (June 19, 2010). "How To Get Ahead With Advertising". Billboard.
  2. Perrone, Pierre (July 6, 2013). "Alan Myers: Drummer with art-rockers DEVO". The Independent. Retrieved July 22, 2013. Devo (...) went on to score unlikely but influential hits on both sides of the Atlantic, most famously in 1980 with the synth-pop classic "Whip It".
  4. Christgau, Robert. "Devo". Robert Christgau.
  5. Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (May 29 – June 11, 1980): 30.
  6. 1 2 3 Devo (2003). The Complete Truth About De-evolution (DVD). Rhino Home Video.
  7. "Whip It". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  8. Bostwick, Grace G. (May 1924). "That's Pep!" (PDF). Ohio State Engineer. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
  9. Devo - Recombo DNA
  10. Devo Demo Bundle on Grooveshark
  11. 1 2 Devo Live Guide - 1980
  12. Warners Bros. Music Show - Devo
  13. Warner Brothers and Devo press release on re-release and tour
  14. Isler, Scott (1991). Robbins, Ira A., ed. The Trouser Press Record Guide (4th ed.). New York: Collier/Macmillan. p. 185. ISBN 0-02-036361-3. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  15. Devo on The Merv Griffin Show
  16. "The De-Evolution of Akron's Music", Beacon Journal, 2000-09-10, retrieved 2009-12-01
  17. Ultra Devo-Lux Ltd. Edition
  18. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 88. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.

External links

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