"Be Stiff" is the third single by American new wave band Devo. It was released in 1978. The song was taken from the sessions for Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! produced by Brian Eno. Guitarist Bob Lewis wrote the music and came up with the title concept; bassist Jerry Casale penned the verses.
|Single by Devo|
|Released||4th August 1978|
|Producer(s)||A-side - Brian Eno; B-side - Devo|
|Devo singles chronology|
It became an anthem for Stiff Records, and a minor success in the UK. It was covered multiple times, including on a Stiff-released EP of their own artists' interpretations. It was performed in 1980 and live recordings appear on DEV-O Live and Devo Live 1980. It was also performed as an encore on the Freedom of Choice shows of Devo's November 2009 tour, and included in the setlist of their 2014 Hardcore Devo Live! tour.
An early demo of "Be Stiff" with a very different sound appears on the collection Hardcore Devo: Volume Two, recorded in either 1974 or 1975. In early 1978, Devo toured the UK for the first time, and Stiff Records released three Devo singles in a row: "Jocko Homo" which charted at number 51, Devo's wildly different arrangement of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" which reached number 41, and "Be Stiff" which rose to number 71.
"Be Stiff" was also produced in London in limited quantities on clear and yellow vinyl, released at the same time as five colored vinyl versions of "Whoops-a-Daisy" by Stiff Records artist Humphrey Ocean and the Hardy Annuals.
Covers and alternate versionsEdit
Following Devo's popular July 1978 performance at the Knebworth Festival, Stiff released an EP (catalog number ODD-2) featuring six artists from the "Be Stiff '78" tour performing versions of "Be Stiff". The artists were Lene Lovich, Mickey Jupp, Wreckless Eric, Rachel Sweet, Jona Lewie, and the Be Stiff Ensemble (led by Lene Lovich). A website devoted to Mickey Jupp offers the following review:
All versions were recorded on the Stiff mobile at a sound check during the tour one very cold October afternoon. Mickey Jupp's version is simply a twelve-bar. The guitar player, Peter Gosling, said, "We just played a twelve-bar a couple of times, Mickey wrote down some words and we recorded it the third time round. It was all over in half an hour." Wreckless Eric's version was done on the second play-through. He just sang the words, "Be Stiff" over and over again, then Brady suddenly decided to put in a bit out of Hendrix's "Purple Haze". "I fluffed it the first time but got it right two bars later," he reported. It's all there on the record. Rachel's version is plain country and Jona's is just Jona's. The final version on the album is the full blown live version. It was always moving to see five bands on stage laughing and joking their way through this last number in the set. The rhythm section is great... three drummers!
Live recordings of the song from Devo's 1980 tour have been released on DEV-O Live and Devo Live 1980 and an alternate demo version (erroneously labeled as an "alternate mix" of the single version) appears on the compilation Recombo DNA.
The version of "Social Fools" featured on the B-side of the single is a Devo-produced studio version. A second studio version produced by Brian Eno was later issued as the b-side of the "Come Back Jonee" 7" single.
Big Business released a cover of "Be Stiff" on their 2006 Tour EP II.
- Reynolds, Simon (February 17, 2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. p. 114. ISBN 9781101201053.
- Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 326. ISBN 9780879306076.
- Jones, Peter (August 26, 1978). "From the Music Capitols of the World: London". Billboard. Vol. 90 no. 34. Nielsen Business Media. p. 124. ISSN 0006-2510.