- The Tubes
Infobox musical artist
Name = The Tubes
Img_capt = The Tubes in
Oslo, Norwayin 1977
Photo: Helge Øverås
Img_size = 250
Landscape = Yes
Background = group_or_band
San Francisco, California, United States
Genre = Rock,
Hard rock, Pop rock, New Wave, Dance-pop
Years_active = 1973 - 1986
1996 - present
Label = A&M, Capitol
URL = [http://www.thetubes.com/ Official website]
Past_members = Bill "Sputnik" Spooner
The Tubes are a San Francisco-based rock band, which was popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and was known for its live performances that combined lewd quasi-
pornographyand wild satires of media, consumerismand politics.
History of the band
The Tubes is a collection of
high schoolfriends from Phoenix, Arizona. The Beans and The Red, White and Blues Band eventually merged after relocating to San Francisco in 1969. The core band membership remained largely intact for more than a decade: Fee Waybill(real name John Waldo Waybill) (vocals), Bill "Sputnik" Spooner (guitar, vocals), Roger Steen (guitar), Prairie Prince(real name Charles L. Prince) (drums), Michael Cotten (synthesizer), Vince Welnick(piano), and Rick Anderson (bass). Singer Re Styles (born Shirley Marie MacLeod) (vocals) and ex-Santana percussionist Mingo Lewis were also fixtures for much of the band's early history. ["Cult Rockers", Wayne Jancik and Tad Lathrop]
Showbiz excess was a common theme of the band's early work, with Waybill sometimes assuming the on-stage persona of Quay Lewd (a pun on
Quaalude), a drunk, drugged-out, barely coherent lead singer, decked out with flashing glasses and impossibly tall platform shoes. "White Punks on Dope", from their debut album, was an absurd anthem of wretched excess, and a tribute to their rich, white teenage fan basein San Francisco. The tune was covered (with different, non-translated German lyrics) by Nina Hagenas "TV Glotzer" ("Couch Potato"), the opening track of her band's first album. The tune has also been covered by Motley Crue.
The Tubes first album was produced by
Al Kooper. The second album, for A&M Records, was produced by Ken Scottand called "Young and Rich". It features the hit "Don't Touch Me There" (arranged by Jack Nitzsche), and features Laramy Smith who with Larry Leearranged and performeed the backing vocals. The Tubes third album gave way to thematic experimentation with "Now" and after the classic live record "What Do You Want from Live", (recorded during their record breaking run at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, England) their fourth for A&M "Remote Control" was a concept albumproduced by Todd Rundgrenabout a television-addicted idiot savant. The cover of "Remote Control" is also a classic, showing a baby watching " Hollywood Squares" in a specially made "Vidi-Trainer".
One critic noted that with their media savvy and theatrical skills, The Tubes were born to create rock video, but arrived several years too early. ["MTV Who's Who in Rock Video", Maxim Jakubowski and John Tobler] Instead, they put their creativity and art skills into their live performances, in which songs could be full-fledged production numbers, from a beach movie
parodyfor "Sushi Girl", to leather-clad S&M hijinks in "Mondo Bondage", to the game showantics of "What Do You Want From Life?" At their peak, their act featured dozens of other performers, including tap dancers and acrobats. The Tubes stage productions were choreographed by Kenny Ortegaand featured cast members Jane Dornacker, LeRoy Jones, Michael Holman, Michael Springer, Edwin Heaven, Cindi Osborn, Heline Gouax and Mary Niland from 1975-1977. From 1978-1979, the cast included Sharon Collins, Caty Bevan and Loryanna Catalano. The Completion Backward Tour featured Shelly Pang, Cheryl Hangland, and Cynthia Rhodes. From 1983-1985, Michelle Gray (who later married Todd Rundgren) and Cheryl Hangland were principal dancers. Several crew members—including Lee Collins, Steve "Chopper" Borges, and Gail Lowe—made frequent appearances on stage in various roles as well.
The Tubes live shows in the late 1970s and early 1980s were rife with allusions to mainstream film ("
Dr. Strangelove", "Rollerball", " Saturday Night Fever", "Grease"), then-forgotten B-movies (" Wild Women of Wongo", " Attack of the 50 Foot Woman"), music (Tom Jones, punk rock, a medley of Nelson Riddletelevision themes), contemporary pop culture ( Patty Hearst, the Viking program), television (" Let's Make a Deal", " Fernwood 2Nite", the anime " Raideen"), and literature ( Nelson Algren's "A Walk on the Wild Side"), presaging the subcultural reverence and over-the-top theatricality of later groups like The World/Inferno Friendship Society.
These shows were expensive to produce, however, and while they earned the band a reputation for being one of the most entertaining live acts of all time, by the early 1980s they found themselves short of money. Their proposed fifth album, the self-produced "Suffer for Sound", was rejected by
A&M Records, who dumped the band instead, finishing out its contract with the oddities collection "T.R.A.S.H. (Tubes Rarities and Smash Hits)". [ [http://www.sfherald.com/columnists/gold/gold-03-01.html Kimberlye Gold interview with Fee Waybill, "He'll Talk to Ya Now!"] , accessed 15 March 2007]
The band then signed to
Capitol Records, scaling back the live shows and repositioning itself as a strait-laced rock band, teaming with producer David Foster. " The Completion Backward Principle", another concept album, featuring the classic rockstaple "Talk to Ya Later", positioned itself as a motivational business document, complete with shocking pictures of the band members cleaned up and wearing suits. Also in 1981 they had a song featured in a movie starring Chevy Chase in " Modern Problems" called "Gonna Get It Next Time" not featured on any of their albums. " Outside Inside" followed a few years later, and produced a few hits, including the number 10 (USA) hit "She's a Beauty". The band also had their first Top-40 hit in the United Statesin 1981 with a serious ballad, "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" (recorded almost entirely by Spooner, without Waybill's participation).
The band teamed up with Rundgren once again for 1985's "
Love Bomb", a flop that led Capitol to drop the band just as it was going on tour in support of the album—a tour that would leave the band a half million dollars in debt, forcing them to play low-budget gigs for a year to pay off their debts. [Kimberlye Gold interview, "op cit"] Waybill released an unsuccessful solo album ("Read My Lips", on Capitol Records) earlier in the year, and soon left the band ("Fee broke up", one band member said). An abortive attempt with a new lead singer led to a few appearances before the band split up. During this time, Waybill also enjoyed a fruitful writing partnership with Capitol Records label-mate, Richard Marx, the most popular and well known song possibly being "Edge of a Broken Heart" by the female band Vixen.
In 1988, The Tubes continued on with long-time friend from Phoenix, Arizona, David Killingsworth on lead vocals, and minus Welnick (who would later join the
Grateful Dead), Cotten, and Spooner. With the addition of Gary Cambra on keyboards and guitar, Waybill would eventually return in 1993 for a European tour and launching of the compilation CD for Capitol and 1996's " Genius of America". In 2001, the band released a live CD, "The Tubes World Tour 2001", and continued to tour.
Welnick, who long suffered from depression, committed suicide on
June 2, 2006.
September 23, 2007, the remaining members of the Tubes reunited in Phoenix for their induction into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame.
1972: Tubes appear in
Mitchell brothersfilm "Resurrection of Eve" as Jesus Bongo and the Millionaires
1973: Opened for the
New York Dollsat the Matrix, Iggy Popat Bimbos, and Led Zeppelinat Kezar Stadiumin San Francisco
1974: Tubes shoot "
videodemo" at California Hall which lands a record deal at A&M Records, Cotten/Prince paint "Flying Record" mural on A&M sound stage
1975: Tubes play 2 weeks at David Allen's Boarding House in San Francisco, several sell-out dates at The Roxy in Los Angeles and The
Bottom Linein New York. Dec, 31- Headline and sell out Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom[http://concerts.wolfgangsvault.com/dt/the-tubes-concert/2646-7903.html]
1976: Held residency at Bimbos in San Francisco for one month, Prairie Prince dubbed "The One, The Only" by columnist
Herb Caen. Tubes hold "Talent Hunt" at the Boarding House hosted by Martin Mull; Robin Williamsis contestant but loses
1977: Held residency at The
Palace of Fine Artsin San Francisco for one month, The Whisky a-Go-Go in Los Angeles for two shows a night for one month, and Hammersmith Odeonin London for a week
1978: Headlined the
KnebworthFestival with Frank Zappaand Peter Gabriel. On April 3rd, The Tubes performed live with Dolly Partonon " Cher... Special", in the "Musical Battle to Save Cher's Soul Medley." As the title would imply, the performance was a duel between the forces of good and evil to determine where Cherwould spend her eternal destiny. Dolly Parton was dressed in white and, with a team of brightly clad singers, portrayed an angelic host while The Tubes, dressed in black leather and performing "Mondo Bondage," battled to send Cher's soul into eternal damnation.
1979: Tubes play Japan; Cotten/Welnick/Prince/Styles appear on Japanese soap opera. Tubes appear in
Andy Warhol's "Interview" magazine
1980: Appear in the film "Xanadu" singing the rock portion of the cross-genre song "Dancin'" opposite a
Grammynominated "The Tubes Video" at Shepperton Studios, one of the first long form video discs
1981: Sang "Sushi Girl" and "Talk to Ya Later" on the television sketch comedy program SCTV, Episode #86 airing July 24, 1981.
1982: Appeared in a commercial for Activision's video game "
1983: Opened several dates for
David Bowieon the " Serious Moonlight" tour and on this tour, among other highlights, they were the first artists to ever play the newly opened Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. At the end of the Bowie tour, they played a few shows featuring their classic no-holds-barred theatrics in Portland, Oregon, and other west-coast cities.
1985: Tour with
Todd Rundgren's Utopia, play Radio City Music Hall
* "The Tubes" (1975) #113 U.S.
Young and Rich" (1976) #46 U.S.
* "Now" (1977) #122 U.S.
What Do You Want from Live" (1978) #82 U.S.
* "Remote Control" (1979) #46 U.S.
* "T.R.A.S.H. (Tubes Rarities and Smash Hits)" (1981)
The Completion Backward Principle" (1981) #36 U.S.
Outside Inside" (1983) #18 U.S.
Love Bomb" (1985) #87 U.S.
* "The Best of the Tubes" (1992)
Genius of America" (1996)
* "The Tubes World Tour 2001" (2001)
Wild In London" (2005)
* [http://www.thetubes.com/ Official website]
* [http://www.billspooner.com/ Bill "Sputnik" Spooner's website. Many great old Tubes photos here]
* [http://www.folk-ups.com/ The Folk-Ups, current project of Bill "Sputnik" Spooner]
* [http://www.thetubesproject.com/ A new feature length documentary is in production, directed by Tubes synth player Michael Cotten.]
* [http://www.vh1.com/artists/news/520017/11121999/tubes.jhtml Roger Steen Interview, 1999]
* [http://www.myspace.com/michaelcotten Michael Cotten on MySpace]
* [http://www.myspace.com/tubeslive The Tubes Live on MySpace]
* [http://www.myspace.com/garycambra Gary Cambra Myspace]
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