New York (AFP) - Devo's 1980 song "Whip It" was one of the iconic tracks of the New Wave era, with the whipping in question meant metaphorically.
But the band is now planning a more literal use of the imagery -- in a campaign against the use of big cats by circuses.
The song -- set to a futuristic synthesizer line -- features the refrain, "I say whip it / Whip it good," taken to mean a general effort to conquer a problem.
"We were writing a song about being able to prevail over adversity -- and that's how it's really being used here," Devo bassist and songwriter Gerald Casale told AFP on Friday.
The Ohio-born artist voiced concern for the future of animal life faced with human encroachment.
"There are just so many incredible species on the brink of extinction," he said.
He said the band was offering the song for use by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and also donating unspecified proceeds from "Whip It" to the rights group.
Ringling Brothers, one of the best-known circuses, plans to retire all of its elephants by May and move them to a conservation center in Florida after persistent protests by activists over the use of the giant pachyderms in the "Greatest Show on Earth."
After the victory, PETA -- which opposes animals in entertainment as cruel -- said it was launching a new campaign to end the use of lions and tigers.
Devo won a cult following for its early synthpop style and its ironic science fiction outfits, which included wearing red terraced "energy dome" hats that resembled flower pots.
The band earlier played with the lyrics of "Whip It" in a controversial video that appeared on newly created MTV that featured the sadomasochistic whipping of a woman.