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"Whip It" is the hit 1980 single by the American new wave band Devo. It appears on the album Freedom of Choice. 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" (a song later covered by Nirvana). "Whip It" was Devo's biggest hit, and peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, number 11 on the Canadian Singles Chart and number 77 on the Australian Singles Chart.[3]

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.

Composition[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"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.[citation needed] On an episode of the VH1 show TrueSpin, Gerald V. 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 told Songfacts that the lyrics were written by him "as an imitation of Thomas Pynchon's parodies in his book Gravity's Rainbow."[4] 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 Jimmy Carter, as Mothersbaugh describes in an interview on To The Best of our Knowledge. However, many people took the lyrics at face value, interpreting the song as a paean to masturbation and sadomasochism, or a reference to inhaling nitrous oxide from whipped cream cans (taken from the name "whip-it", used to describe the nitrous chargers for whipped cream dispensers).

Promotion and release[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"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[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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 toArizona, 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.'"

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. Robert Mothersbaugh ("Bob 1") plays a Gibson Les Paul with an inverted horn, Robert 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 forced to abandon a television appearance after the host deemed the video offensive to women[citation needed]. 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.

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Whip It" was covered by The Del Rubio Triplets, and they perform their version in the Sliders TV series episode "The King Is Back" (season 1, episode 9, 1995).

Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for their 1982 album Chipmunk Rock.

In 1996 the musician Moby released a rock version of the song as a 7" B-Side and called it a 'death metal version'.

Former Korn guitarist Brian "Head" Welch's group, Love and Death, performed a cover of "Whip It" on their premier EP: Chemicals.

Powerman 5000 covered the song on Copies, Clones & Replicants.

Chart positions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1980-1981) Peak

position

Australia (Kent Music Report)[3] 77
Canada (RPM 50 Singles)[5] 11
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[6] 11
UK (Official Charts Company)[7] 51
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 14
US BillboardHot Dance Club Play1[8] 8

Notes:

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