Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh spent 18 days at L.A.’s Cedar-Sinai hospital battling Covid-19 in June, he revealed in a harrowing interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Mothersbaugh thinks he may have contracted the virus in late May while working near strangers at Mutato, his music production company. He dismissed early symptoms as mere fatigue, but called in his wife when his fever hit 103. “A nurse came over the next morning and said, ‘You should be in ICU,’” Mothersbaugh recalled. “I said, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ She replied that she’d been a nurse for three decades: ‘You need an ambulance right now.’”
Mothersbaugh’s wife, Anita Greenspan, says that the nurse saved his life. He spent the next two weeks at Cedar-Sinai, relying on a ventilator to breathe, delusional through much of the ordeal. “There’s a bookstore I love where I get stationery supplies, and in my mind I had been there,” he said. “I was convinced for about two weeks that I had been hit by a brick by somebody in Little Tokyo.”
“I felt blood from being hit,” he continued. “I was handcuffed to a parking deck downtown. I had this whole elaborate story of how these kids sold me to an ambulance company that then got some sort of a payment for delivering Covid patients to their ICUs. I totally believed it.”
Mothersbaugh’s family was unable to visit him in the hospital. They stayed in constant contact through video and tried their best to keep him sane and grounded, especially after he tried to escape while in a delusional state and nurses had to strap him to his bed. “If you have anyone that you know who’s in ICU with COVID, contact them and keep them in touch with the outside world,” Mothersbaugh said, “because it’s easy to lose track of where you are and why you are. I had no idea I was on a ventilator for 10 days. Time meant nothing.”
About a month before Mothersbaugh’s illness, he called Rolling Stone to break down 10 key TV and film scores from his long career. In unpublished remarks from that interview, he revealed that Devo were supposed to go on a mini-tour this year before the pandemic hit.
“We were slated to do three or four shows in September,” he said. “One of them [the Cruel World Festival] was centered around Morrissey. There was also a festival in New York and something in Cleveland.”
Devo hasn’t toured since 2014, although Mothersbaugh has been contemplating a farewell outing for years. “I just couldn’t get enough momentum going around it with other people who had different interests,” he said. “I tried to make it something really big.”
“It would be like a day with Devo or a weekend with Devo,” he continued. “It would almost be like an Easter Egg hunt where they’d be events going on around the city we were at. That would be more interesting than just going and watching Devo perform songs from the Seventies and Eighties one more time. But it didn’t happen.”
Even without an epic farewell tour, Mothersbaugh is still at least somewhat open to the idea of stepping into his trademark yellow suit and red energy dome for Devo shows once the pandemic ends. “It’s like putting on your high school cheerleading outfit and going out and doing the songs again,” he says. “On one hand, when I’m out there on stage, I love playing them. But on the other hand, the whole thing seems like, ‘Well, yes, That’s what I did when I was 20. I’m 70. Let’s move on.’ But I’m sure there will be more shows somewhere down the line. Also, who knows, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might begrudgingly let Devo in, so that’ll give us an excuse to get together.”
In the meantime, Devo fans should be happy that Mothersbaugh is back at home and recovering from his nightmarish ordeal. “Before Covid, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m starting to feel about 50 now, and I’m 70,’” he told the L.A. Times. “When I was in the hospital, I was feeling like I was about 90. And now I’m back to 70, and I’m trying to get back to 50. That’s my goal.”