Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How Chi Chi Rodriguez Wound Up on a Devo Album Cover

I'm old enough to remember the band Devo, one of the new wave innovators of the 1970s. Crazy outfits, silly hats, weird and sometimes wonderful music. You know I'm familiar with them because one of their songs is quoted in this blog's title ("whip it good").

But I had no idea that the cover of Devo's first album consisted of a rendering of Chi Chi Rodriguez. Until I saw this tweet, that is:

The title of that album is Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (buy it or stream it on Amazon). It came out in 1978 and, while now considered a classic and very influential, it got mixed reviews at the time. It includes Devo's famous (or is that infamous?) cover of the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction.

But, again, we're not really concerned with the music or even the band here so much as with that album cover art: Why Chi Chi Rodriguez, of all people? No, he didn't have any connection to the band. So what's he doing there?

It's really as simple as this: The band happened to see that image of Chi Chi on a golf product, thought it was eye-catching, and used it. But what was the golf product? Turns out it was a headcover for a Cobra wood. Here is that original Chi Chi image, on the original product, that caught Devo's eye:

(Image source: Club Devo)

The band plopped the Chi Chi image onto the cover at first without actually having permission from Rodriguez or any representative. That explains why the image on the album cover is a slightly tweaked version to the one appears on the Cobra headcover packaging (although you might have to look closely a couple times before you'll see the differences).

But according to Gerald Casale's The Complete Truth About De-Evolution, Devo did eventually get Rodriguez's permission to use the image. After that, Devo used the original, unaltered image of Rodriguez from the Cobra headcover on the sleeve of its single Be Stiff:

Here, you can listen to Be Stiff, which is actually one of the more approachable Devo songs for people who are not familiar with their unusual oeuvre:

Now, remember, Chi Chi didn't actually have anything to do with the band, it was all just happenstance that Rodriguez wound up on the album cover. But if you want to dive deeper into Devo, here is the full Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! album:

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