Friday, August 24, 2012

Devo -- "Come Back Jonee" (1978)

Jonee went to the pawnshop
Bought himself a guitar
Now he's gonna go far

A couple of weeks ago, 2 or 3 lines featured Devo's "Gut Feeling/(Slap Your Mammy)."

I had a hard time choosing between that song and "Come Back Jonee," the track that follows it on Devo's debut album, Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!, but I eventually chose "Gut Feeling."

Then it hit me: I'm in charge here . . . I can feature both songs if I want to!  (If you don't like it, go find a different wildly popular blog to read.)

"Come Back Jonee" (pronounced "Johnny") was clearly inspired by Chuck Berry's classic 1958 hit, "Johnny B. Goode."  (Just listen to the very Berry-esque lead guitar licks.)

With the possible exception of a few Elvis Presley songs, is there a more iconic fifties rock 'n' roll song than "Johnny B. Goode"?

Berry's hit is perhaps the most covered song in pop music history.  (Wikipedia lists almost a hundred artists who covered it, including the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Elvis, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Prince, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Marty McFly and the Starlighters -- that's the band that played at the high school dance in Back to the Future.)

Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly
The line about "a country boy named Johnny B. Goode" was originally written as "a colored boy named Johnny B. Goode," but Berry changed the lyric to increase his chances of getting on the radio.  

The Devo song begins with a nod to Berry's hit:

Come back Jonee
Jonee be good
Treat her like you should

While Johnny B. Goode lived in a log cabin in the Louisiana backwoods, Devo's Jonee seems to have been a city boy -- after all, he bought his guitar in a pawnshop and drove his Datsun on an expressway.

Like many guitar heroes, Jonee wasn't very nice to his girl:

You gotta love 'em and leave 'em
Sometimes you deceive 'em
You made her cry
Jonee, you're bad

But karma's a bitch, and Jonee eventually paid the price for making his girl sad:

Jonee jumped in his Datsun
Drove out on the expressway
Went head-on into a semi
His guitar is all that's left now

If you're too young to know what a Datsun is, let me explain.  Datsun was a brand name used by an old Japanese automobile company, DAT Motorcars, which was taken over by Nissan Motor Co. in 1933.

Datsun B210 (circa 1975)
When Nissan entered the American market in 1958, they called their cars Datsuns.  But the company decided to phase out the Datsun brand and replace it with the Nissan name.

The rebranding strategy was announced in the U.S. in 1981, and the company took several years to fully implement the name change (at a cost of about $500 million).  By 1986, the transition was complete.

At the time, I remember a lot of business experts saying Nissan was crazy to abandon the well-known Datsun brand name in favor of Nissan.  I guess it worked out OK in the long run, but I remember that I was not entirely accustomed to the new name in 1990, when I bought a black Nissan Maxima.  (Best car I ever owned, with the possible exception of my first one -- a 1970 Olds Cutlass two-door with the 350 V8.)

1990 Nissan Maxima (not mine)
By the way, Nissan just announced that it is going to revive the Datsun name for the inexpensive models it sells in India, Indonesia, and Russia.

Here's the truly demented music video for "Come Back Jonee."  (Note the one-octave synthesizer Mark Mothersbaugh plays.)

Click here to buy this song from Amazon:

No comments:

Post a Comment