R.I.P. Alan Myers, the Human Metronome

Slate's Culture Blog
June 26 2013 2:04 PM

R.I.P. Alan Myers, the Human Metronome

devo
Devo on the cover of their album Freedom of Choice. Myers stands second from the left.

Alan Myers, one of the foremost drumming talents of the punk and new wave era, died on Monday from cancer. Myers is best known as the drummer for Devo; he was featured on six albums and live tours during the height of their creative and commercial success, from 1976 to 1986. Their iconic 1980 single, “Whip It,” is marked by Myers’ shuffling high-hats and metronomic kick-snare combo.

Indeed, Myers was fondly referred to as the “human metronome” by bandmate Gerald Casale. His role diminished over time as the band gradually embraced more straightforward rhythms and electronic percussion, but Myers’ almost super-human power and precision were the pumping robot heart of Devo’s harder-rocking early material. Myers’ deconstructed drum part on the bands’ radical interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” is especially memorable. You can watch it below in a 1978 performance on Saturday Night Live.

Advertisement

During this era, Devo’s live act was both weird and powerful, and Myers’ drumming was an authoritative presence, pounding the band’s message of de-evolution straight into the audience’s cortex.

In their book We Are DEVO! Jade Dellinger and David Giffels write that the band reacted to the rock music of their early years—acts like the Rolling Stones, in other words—with an “intent to strip out one kind of artifice (white artists acting like black men) and replace it with another (white artists acting like robots).” Alan Myers’ idiosyncratic jerky grooves, evocative of a robot learning to dance, were one of the essential musical tools they used to achieve their particular and unforgettable sound. R.I.P., human metronome.

Chris Wade is a video and podcast producer for Slate and occasional contributor to Brow Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 19 2014 1:56 PM Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo Expect more political earthquakes across Europe.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 3:24 PM Why Innovators Hate MBAs
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 3:07 PM Everything Is a "Women's Issue"
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:03 PM Kern Your Enthusiasm: The Ubiquity of Gotham
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.