Q: Are we not in a Mad Libs simulation? A: We are! The Devo cuties have found themselves sharing headlines with the man who tried to kill Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley Jr., after he alleged on Twitter that the art-pop auteurs never financially compensated him for incorporating one of his creepy love poems into their song “I Desire,” which appears on the 1982 album Oh No! It’s Devo. (The track’s vibes can perhaps be best described as “Fred Willard in I Think You Should Leave energy.” Good organ!) “The album is still selling worldwide, especially in Japan and Europe,” Hinckley Jr. wrote October 24. “I haven’t seen royalties in 35 years. What’s the deal?” The deal, Devo member Gerald V. Casale told Newsweek on October 26, is that Hinckley Jr. is trying to whip up something from nothing. Casale says the band received his permission to use the poem at the time, in addition to that of the poem’s dedicatee, actress Jodie Foster, whom Hinckley Jr. was obsessed with, on the promise Devo wouldn’t endorse his actions. Hinckley Jr. also received a co-writer credit as part of the arrangement, which appears in the album’s liner notes.
“I saw it and I showed it to Mark Mothersbaugh. We couldn’t believe how inspired and pathological the poetry was, given what he had done. And this poetry was all love poems to Jodie Foster,” Casale explained, noting how the duo were “blown away by the poetic sociopathy” of the words. “We did take two verses from one love poem and then I wrote subsequent verses that completely twisted the meaning of his verses on their head. So that the [narrator] is telling the girl to run from him because he’s a dangerous guy.”
Casale added that he couldn’t speak to Hinckley Jr.’s claims of not receiving royalties, as he doesn’t maintain an intimate relationship with the record companies, publishing companies, and performing-rights organizations that handle that aspect of the industry. “It’s possible that he’s not lying,” Casale said. “We’re not talking about a lot of money here. Believe me, it wasn’t a hit. But certainly it’s not because of Devo that he didn’t get his money.” If you’re curious, Hinckley Jr. has been enjoying a social-media presence since being granted unconditional release last month. He tweets a lot about his love of classic rock and trying to get new subscribers for his YouTube channel.