Dats Total Devo

100_4009.JPGThis is a junk blog artifact. Obscure release of a well known band on a dead format tape product. It's Total Devo by Devo on DAT tape. WTF? Yes, it's the only DAT released by Akron's own spud band and it was one of the few hundred albums that got released for a format that seemed great but failed to be a commercial success.

DAT or Digital Audio Tape came out in the early 90's as a tape format you could record digitally too. A real boon to anyone that wanted digital recording quality in a compact version. It was smaller than a Sony 8MM tape which was Sony's small camcorder format. The problem with DAT is that it was an even smaller VHS or 8MM mechanical tape system. Therefore, if you wanted to have a portable DAT, you still needed room for a rotating head, let alone the power it would consume. Therefore, only for the richly rich recordists.  Now the bright peeps over at Phillips came out with a competing format called Digital Compact Cassette. DCC was like a cassette, only it recorded digital data. Even fewer of those were released because they were also expensive, very few portables were released. The biggest flaw with the DCC format was that they were able to play normal cassette tapes. When you put in a Certron tape to play your family from the 1970s, it was enough to dirty the heads and make your DCC not play/record DCC. Therefore consumers saw it as unreliable. Radio Shack was a big proponent of the $600 DCC, but when we had ours under the neon "The Technology Store" sign in our store, the door of our DCC would not open.  I think our closeout demo was marked down to $300 but I left Radio Shack after a few months of working there. 


DCC was a complete failure, but not as bad as the DIVX format that was the DVD you could own, or not. Both are on the technology short lived pile. DAT lasted a lot longer. Why? Because before there was digital computers with TONS of storage, DATS provided that storage that was unavailable with a hard drive. By 1994 or so, if you wanted to archive a three hour radio show in good quality, radio stations were using DAT. Most professional recording studios would master to DAT to make their CD/Tape masters. We have a DAT master of the album we put on cassette for my band Spudlok. I think DAT lasted until a few years ago when everybody finally switched to a completely digital format. My friend Boomer gave me a Tascam DA-30 machine which he got when a studio THREW IT OUT!  I had some DAT tapes recorded in 1997 when I recorded all my bits off of tapes when I was let go from WIOT. I mastered all of them on computer and since it's become part of my stack of junk. Same with the pro reel to reel TASCAM tape deck Boomer gave me. All stuff I used in the 90's that sits collecting dust in my audio artifact collection.

100_4012.JPGBeing a Devo fan in the late 80's to early 90's was not a really popular thing. Devo reformed with a different drummer and came back on a small label called Enigma. They released a lot of independent bands and had a big budget for the return of Devo after Devo was given the shaft by the brothers Warner. The final album was Shout! on Warner Brothers and well, was thin. It had some popularity on college radio, but other than that, appeared Devo was done and Warner's did very little to promote the album. The original drummer left for a lucrative business as an electrician. Meanwhile Mark started "Mutato Music" with pretty much all of the other DEVO's and built a hell of a future as not a band.

However, there was enough demand, and with a new drummer, DEVO recorded new material and got a contract with a new label to start DEVO on a new second level. Hence "Total Devo". I listened to the album a LOT, and loved "Disco Dancer". However, it was a commercial failure and the band says that, without selling Warner album levels, Enigma became less supportive. That this album was released on DAT at all is a curiosity. I haven't opened it, keeping it sealed if ever it's worth more than $10. I could have bought this on vinyl record, and did a few years later as a cut out. It's funny to think that the vinyl will last 50 years and in another 10, this DAT version likely won't even be able to be played.

I believe SONY was the last to give up DAT as they were professionally used for way too long after digital storage became cheap. Maybe there are even players still being made, just like VCRs, but if they are, they are not long for the world. I like having a bit of my radio history as junk.

ARF! -Ric