Earlier this month, Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh participated in a “Song Stories” event at the Sonos Store in New York City which paid tribute to David Bowie nearly two years after his passing from cancer. During Mothersbaugh’s segment, he revealed the existence of an unreleased recording containing a jam session featuring members of Devo, Brian Eno, and the Thin White Duke.
According to Bedford + Bowery, the story came up when Mothersbaugh shared that he’s unearthed several tapes from the recording sessions for Devo’s debut album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, which was produced by Eno with assistance from Bowie. Apparently, Devo’s bassist had missed a flight “because he was fighting with his girlfriend on an airport pay phone,” so everyone else at Conny Plank’s studio in Cologne, Germany made the best of it. “Devo jammed with David Bowie, Brian Eno, Holger Czukay [of Can], and a couple other odd Germans that were electronic musicians that happened to be hanging out there,” Mothersbaugh shared.
Bowie originally approached Devo in the summer of 1977 after their set at Max’s Kansas City, telling the band he’d like to produce them and even promised to pay for the sessions when they said they didn’t have a record deal. During their second show that night, Bowie came out on stage and said, “This is the band of the future, I’m going to produce them this Christmas in Tokyo!”
Eno ended up handling the bulk of the production in Germany because Bowie was filming Just a Gigolo, but the UK singer purportedly still found time to record unreleased vocals. Mothersbaugh said he recently found the 24-track master tapes for Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, and they contain “tracks down below that say things like: ‘David’s vocals’ and ‘Brian’s extra synths.’ And I’m like, ‘I remember turning that stuff off when we were doing our final mixes.’”
Mothersbaugh explained that Devo ended up removing Bowie’s vocals because they were “totally paranoid about people interfering with our stuff” after dealing with sketchy managers and unauthorized releases.
Not all hope is lost, however, for those who want to hear the unreleased material. “I’m thinking we should see what’s on those tapes,” Mothersbaugh said. “I’m really curious to see what the heck they did.”
Other guests on the panel included Nikki Sixx of Motley Crüe, Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy, and photographer Mick Rock. Devo’s most recent album is 2010’s Something For Everybody. Since then, Mothersbaugh has kept busy scoring films like Thor: Ragnarok.