The Tubes will go down in the rock history books as one of the most
exciting, in-your-face tight-knit group of musicians who epitomised the
hilarity of popular American culture by making it into a the ultimate
rock'n'roll extravaganza. Their live shows involved mock bondage rituals,
simulated sex, 12-foot high rock stars by the name of Quay Lude singing
'White Punks On Dope', exploding televisions, chainsaws and an array of
semi-clad dancers. Some say they were about 15 years ahead of Madonna, and
light years ahead of the politically correct.
In the tradition of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, the Tubes were one
of the first bands to write and perform songs in a head-on theatrical
onslaught. They simply didn't entertain, they shocked audiences into
submission. The Tubes were one of the pioneers of the rock video years
before MTV became a household name, and used the medium in their early
performances. The band tapped into the American zeitgeist and ridiculed
its materialistic values, superficial advertising methods, took a poke at
religious fundamentalists and often questioned sexual taboos. They took
popular culture by the scruff of the neck, turned it upside down, and made
it into entertainment.
Their outrageous performance-art concepts ranged from titillating,
tongue'n'cheek pornography to straight-laced, black tie all-American
conservatism, all of which frequently clouded the fact that they were, like
Frank Zappa, technically gifted musicians in their own right. As the band
progressed into the 1980's they shed the controversial theatrical
spectacle in favour for a more stripped down live setting that showed them
in a more musical light, that ultimately brought them long overdue
commercial success in America.
The nucleus of the band originated in Phoenix, Arizona in the late '60s,
where Bill Spooner (guitar), Vince Welnick (keyboards) and Rick Anderson
(bass) formed 'The Beans' (alternately billing themselves as the Radar Men
from Uranus). The aspiring trio eventually relocated to the post-
psychedelic haze of San Francisco in 1972. Once there, the Beans recruited
guitarist Roger Steen (guitar) Prairie Prince (drums) from 'The Red, White
& Blues Band'. The first real incarnation of 'The Tubes' was born when the
original members recruited Michael Cotten (keyboards) and former roadie Fee
Waybill (lead vocals).
From 1972-1975 the band toured continuously before A&M Records signed them
to a major recording contract. Prior to the signing, the band earned
devoted cult following on the strength of Spooner's parodic songs and the
group's surreal live show extravaganzas which verged on uncensored
burlesque that took in everything from rock, pop, heavy metal, country and
disco. Word of mouth about the electrifying live experience of the concerts
travelled fast, and soon the Tubes earned the reputation as the must-see
rock'n'roll band of all time.
The concerts featured the ever-versatile Waybill adopting a variety of
larger-than-life personas ranging from the crippled Nazi Dr. Strangekiss,
country singer Hugh Heifer, and his most infamous character, the legendary
Quay Lewd - an androgynous drug-inflicted British pop star sporting an
outrageous Ziggy Stardust blonde wig and two foot high platform boots.
Their debut album 'The Tubes' (1975), produced by Al Kooper, was critically
acclaimed, and included the classic tracks 'White Punks On Dope', 'Mondo
Bondage', and 'What Do You Want From Life', followed by 'Young And Rich'
(1976), which featured the songs 'Don't Touch Me There' and 'Slipped My
Disco'. Both albums introduced audiences to some of the most scathing;
satirical songs that ridiculed the hypocrisy of white trash America. The
erotic fetish themes of 'Mondo Bondage', the naughtiness of 'Don't Touch Me
There', the hilarious quiz show parody 'What Do You Want From Life', and
the ever-controversial anti-drug anthem 'White Punks On Dope', helped to
form an integral part of the band's historic 1977 blockbuster concerts.
By the time the band's third album, 'Now' was released, the Tubes met
British exile and former promoter of the Isle of Wight Festival, Rikki
Farr. A fan of the band, Farr was convinced the UK was ready for the Tubes,
and shrewdly persuaded them to tour there and record a live album. One of
the band's first concerts in Portsmouth was banned. The concert was held
on Poppy Day, and subsequently, the British Legion objected. The Tubes
went on to sell out an amazing five-night engagement at the Hammersmith
Odeon in London. During the recording of the live concert album, 'What Do
You Want From Live', Waybill accidentally broke his leg onstage while
acting out his punk character Johnny Bugger; the remainder of the tour was
After returning to America, they recruited producer Todd Rundgren and
recorded what was to be their fourth and final album for A&M; 1979's
excellent 'Remote Control', a unique concept album that explored the impact
that television and the media had on society. Stand out tracks included
'Turn Me On', 'TV Is King', and 'Prime Time'.
By 1981 the Tubes signed to Capitol Records and released the David Foster
produced 'Completion Backwards Principle'; an album based on an actual
sales training instruction manual. Both 'Talk to Ya Later' and 'Don't Want
to Wait Anymore' finally earned them significant airplay on American radio,
while the album became the Tubes' first Top 40 chart entry. Two years
later, in 1983, due to a provocative video, the single 'She's a Beauty'
reached the Top Ten, and pushed the Tubes' sixth studio album,
'Outside/Inside' into the U.S. Top 20.
By 1985, the band released their seventh studio album, 'Love Bomb'; the
second Tubes album to be produced by Todd Rundgren. 'Love Bomb' scored a
minor hit single with 'Piece By Piece', however, later the same year the
original Tubes line-up disbanded. Vince Welnick went on to join the
Grateful Dead, while Fee Waybill went on to pursue a solo career and
dabbled in acting and played the role of Dr. Frank N Furter, the
transsexual mad scientist from Transylvania, in the Michigan stage version
of 'The Rocky Horror Show'.
In 1992, Capital Records released 'The Best of The Tubes' which became a
popular seller throughout Europe. The band reunited; consisting of
Waybill, Steen, Anderson, Prince recruited new keyboardist Gary Cambra, and
due to the popularity of the greatest hits album, embarked on a European
tour. Eleven years after the original line-up split, the reunited Tubes
released what was to become their eighth studio album, 'Genius Of America'.
Four years later, in 2000, the Tubes embarked on an extensive tour of
America and Europe to support the release of their second official live
album, 'Tubes World Tour 2001'.
At their best, The Tubes has the uncanny ability to highlight the absurdity
of everyday American life, occasionally shocking audiences along the way,
but more importantly, always making them think twice. Perceived by fans
and media alike as the 'Marshall McLuhans of rock'n'roll', the Tubes became
both the medium and the message, stimulating the senses through their
dynamic, controversial and politically incorrect audio visual live
spectacles. The Tubes have always managed to expose, enlighten and
entertain audiences worldwide by combining art with trash, comedy with
tragedy, and innovative rock theatre with consummate musicianship.
The Tubes - Official Site