A Playlist by Mark Mothersbaugh
This issue’s playlist comes from Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder of Akron post-punk art band Devo and composer of film scores for Wes Anderson and many others. Nearly every song Mothersbaugh has shared with Edible includes food in its title. Though it will come as no surprise to those familiar with Devo’s dadaist discography that a few aren’t “about” food at all. “American Pie.” American Utopia highlight “Toejam”: Do Not Eat.
Other selections are at least food-adjacent. The “Rock Lobster” or langouste, is edible, though B-52 Fred Schneider isn’t suggesting we consume it. (He’s suggesting we WATCH OUT FOR THAT PIRANHA.)
No eggs are eaten in the Beastie Boys’ “Eggman”; they’re thrown. James Brown’s jam mentions mashed potatoes—French fries, too. Mainly, though, “(Do the) Mashed Potatoes” commemorates Brown’s having been so eager to foment a dance craze that he camouflaged his own lead vocal and put out the song under a pseudonym—“Nat Kendrick and the Swans”—when his label rejected it. Mashing up long-gone McDonald’s and Burger King’s marketing slogans, “Too Much Paranoias” from Devo’s debut album yields satire that, forty-five years on, still stings.
In the blues tradition, a few of Mothersbaugh’s picks serve up extended carnal metaphors: Nat King Cole’s “Frim Fram Sauce,” regarding which Diana Krall once explained “It’s all about sex.” The Newbeats’ bizarre falsetto workout “Bread and Butter,” covered by Devo on the 9½ Weeks soundtrack. (Talk about dada.) Even— gasp!—“Lollipop,” by Sheboygan, Wisconsin’s squeaky-clean Chordettes. Unsurprisingly, their presentation of the candy-on-a-stick motif evinces more nuance than Lil Wayne’s lollipop (not included here), which “Shawty wanna lick lick lick lick lick.”
Mothersbaugh’s gumbo is rich. Too rich? Put a lime in the coconut and call me in the morning.
Adam Reid Sexton is the author of Desperately Seeking Madonna, Rap on Rap, and Difficult Listening: Art Rock Reconsidered (forthcoming from Routledge).