Perhaps ace drummer-for-hire Josh Freese said it best in his tweet in tribute to former Devo drummer Alan Myers: "An underrated/brilliant drummer. Such an honor playing his parts w/Devo. Godspeed Human Metronome."
Myers died Monday of brain cancer. He was 58. He wasn't Devo's first drummer or their latest, but it was he who manned the kit during the band's prime years from 1978's debut, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, through 1984's Shout. Transitioning from live drums to electronic percussion, Myers' playing was a key element in the band's trademark sound, which continues to be influential to this day.
Here's a look back at some of Myers' most memorable musical moments.
It's long been said that Charlie Watts' swinging backbeat is The Rolling Stones' secret weapon. The same could be said about Myers' role in Devo, although as his "human metronome" nickname suggests, Myers played like a machine. Check him out in the video of Devo's classic cover of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
Here's another early Devo gem, "Uncontrollable Urge," from the band's debut album, performed live in 1980 on the long-gone ABC late night show "Fridays." As you can see, Devo was incredibly tight, anchored by Myers' drumming.
"Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA" is one of Devo's best tracks because it's actually two songs merged together to form one great tune. It's featured on the band's second album, 1979's Duty Now For The Future, but this clip was shot a year after that, on the band's Freedom Of Choice tour. Sticking with Devo's nontraditional approach, Myers' kit is set up stage right, on the lower level of a two-tiered stage, as he pounds away on a traditional drum kit. Myers keeps a steadfast rhythm through "Smart Patrol" and then cranks it up several notches without missing a beat at the 3:52 mark as the band transitions into "Mr. DNA."
"Whip It," which reached No. 14 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1980, is Devo's best-known song and video. Check out Alan here as he does it standing up on electronic drums.
One of the reasons Myers cited when leaving Devo in 1987 was a lack of creative fulfillment, but he continued to make music with a number of combos, including Babooshka, Jean Paul Yamamoto, Skyline Electric, and his daughter's band Swahili Blonde, which has also counted Duran Duran bassist John Taylor and former Red Hot Chili Peppers' guitarist John Frusciante as members. Just the other day, I was chatting with my pal Dean Goodman on Twitter about the merits of RCHP, when he mentioned Swahili Blonde, with neither of us knowing at that moment that Myers had passed away. Goodman had hired Myers as an electrician, a trade he engaged in to pay the bills while he was making music. Although the sound quality of this clip isn't great, it's visual evidence that Myers was still rocking it behind the kit. RIP Alan.