Whip It (Devo song)

"Whip It"
Single by Devo
from the album Freedom of Choice
  • "Snowball"
  • "Turn Around"
Released August 13, 1980
Format 7"
Length 2:37
Label Warner Bros.
Producer(s) Robert Margouleff
Certification Gold (Canada, US)
Devo singles chronology
"Girl U Want"
"Whip It"
"Gates of Steel"
Freedom of Choice track listing
"It's Not Right"
"Whip It"
Music video
"Whip It" on YouTube

"Whip It" is a song by the American new wave band Devo, written by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale. It was the second single from the band's third studio album, Freedom of Choice (1980). There were two 7" single releases of "Whip It", one backed with a remix of the track "Snowball" (which appears on Freedom of Choice) and one backed with "Turn Around". "Whip It" was Devo's biggest hit, peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and No. 11 on the Canadian Singles chart. As a single it reached No. 77 on the Australian Singles chart,[3] but it was also the key selling point of the DEV-O Live EP, which reached number one in that country's singles charts.[4]

It is ranked number 62 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s as well as number 15 on the same channel's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the '80s.


"Whip It" is built on a motorik beat, similar to tracks by Neu!. The lead instrument is a Minimoog synthesizer. The bass is performed with a custom six oscillator synthesizer, custom made by Moog Music for Devo. The whip sound was made with an EML ElectroComp 500 synthesizer, Neumann KM 84 and U 87 condenser mics.[5]On an episode of the VH1 show TrueSpin, Gerald Casale revealed that the lead guitar riff from "Whip It" is based on the riff from "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison with the beat moved to the back.

Gerald Casale states that the lyrics were written by him "as an imitation of Thomas Pynchon's parodies in his book Gravity's Rainbow."[6][7] The lyrics evoke a working class desire to pull oneself up and to overcome adversity. The song has violent undertones, and Devo has often described it as about then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter, as Mothersbaugh describes in an interview on To the Best of Our Knowledge. According to MusicNotes.com, "Whip It" is composed in the key of E major.[8]

Promotion and release

"Whip It" debuted at a live concert on December 29, 1979, in Santa Cruz, California. The first performance included a synthesizer solo taken from the early Devo song "Chango." This performance was recorded and is available as a bootleg. A demo version was recorded in 1980 and later released in 2000 on the compilation Recombo DNA released by Rhino Handmade.

Music video

Devo funded the music video for "Whip It" with $15,000 USD of their own money. The main visual of the video, Mark Mothersbaugh whipping the clothes off a woman, was inspired by an article in a 1962 issue of Dude magazine. In an interview for Songfacts, Casale explains "There was a feature article on a guy who had been an actor and fell on hard times, he wasn't getting parts anymore. He moved with his wife to Arizona, opened a dude ranch and charged people money to come hang out at the ranch. Every day at noon in the corral, for entertainment, he'd whip his wife's clothes off with a 12-foot bullwhip. She sewed the costumes and put them together with Velcro. The story was in the magazine about how good he was and how he never hurt her. We had such a big laugh about it, we said, 'OK, that's the basis for the video. We'll have these cowboys drinking beer and cheering Mark on as he's in the barnyard whipping this pioneer woman's clothes off while the band plays in the corral.'"[6]

In the video, Devo wears black, sleeveless turtlenecks, and their famous energy dome headgear. When the video begins, all the members, except for Mark Mothersbaugh, wear the turtlenecks pulled over their faces. During the performance, each member lowers the turtleneck. Bob Mothersbaugh ("Bob 1") plays a Gibson Les Paul with an inverted horn, Bob Casale ("Bob 2") plays a red Rheem Kee Bass, and Alan Myers plays a set of Synare 3 drum synthesizers.

Not surprisingly, the S&M overtones of the video caused controversy. Devo was cut from a January 30, 1981, appearance on the television show The Midnight Special hosted by Lily Tomlin. After viewing the video Tomlin deemed it offensive to women, and according to Gerald Casale, "She promptly cancelled us off the special, she said she wouldn't go on if Devo was on her show."[9] Despite this, "Whip It" received heavy rotation on MTV after its introduction in 1981.

The video was featured in the 2005 video game Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3.

Track listing

  1. "Whip It" - 2:38
  2. "Snowball" - 2:29
  3. "Gates of Steel" - 3:27
  1. "Whip It" - 2:37
  2. "Turn Around" - 2:10

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1980–81) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[3] 77
Canada (CHUM)[10] 3
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[11] 11
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[12] 11
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[13] 51
US Billboard Hot 100[14] 14
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play1[14] 8
US Cash Box[15] 13
US Record World[16] 17


  • 1 - With "Gates of Steel" and "Freedom of Choice".

Year-end charts

Chart (1981) Position
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 94

Sales and certifications

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[18] Gold 75,000^
United States (RIAA)[19] Gold 1,000,000[20]

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. Flick, Larry (1 February 1997). "Moby Rocks Out On Elektra's 'Animal Rights'". Billboard. 109 (5): 9. ISSN 0006-2510.
  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".
  3. 1 2 Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 88. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  4. Barnes, Jim (1996). The Book: Top 40 Research (5 ed.). Berowra: Barscan Music Research. p. 174. ISBN 0-646-25736-6.
  5. Nagy, Evie (2015). Devo's Freedom of Choice. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-62356-317-2.
  6. 1 2 "Whip It by Devo". Songfacts. Retrieved May 5, 2009.
  7. Itkowitz, Colby (March 25, 2015). "This '80s pop star is miffed that Majority Whip Steve Scalise uses his song". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  8. "Whip It By Devo – Digital Sheet Music". MusicNotes.com. BMG Rights Management. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  9. "Gerry Casale Interview Part 6.mov". YouTube. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  10. CHART NUMBER 1242 – Saturday, November 01, 1980 at the Wayback Machine (archived November 7, 2006). CHUM.
  11. "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0279." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  12. "Charts.org.nz – Devo – Whip It". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  13. "Devo: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  14. 1 2 "Freedom of Choice – Awards at Allmusic". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  15. CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending NOVEMBER 22, 1980 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 13, 2012). Cash Box magazine.
  16. Artist-D at the Wayback Machine (archived August 20, 2009). Record World. Geocities.com.
  17. "Top 100 Hits for 1981". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  18. "Canadian single certifications – Devo – Whip It". Music Canada.
  19. "American single certifications – Devo – Whip It". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  20. Huey, Steve. "Devo – Whip It – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
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