The Tubes feature in our classic rock sequences.
The Tubes are perhaps best known for their arrival in the UK in 1977 for a tour, resulting in a ban by Portsmouth City Council and outcry from morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse. What is certain is that they ensured maximum press coverage for their stage show which purported to show simulated sex, bondage and general debauchery.
The band had honed their stagecraft in San Francisco in the early seventies, and although their original demos were rejected by A&M they went on to produce four albums for the label.
The 1977 November UK tour included five sold-out nights at the Hammersmith Odeon. The band returned in May 1978 but the tour was cut short when frontman Fee Waybill stumbled from the stage in Leicester and broke his leg. This injury halted the band’s momentum although they returned to the UK later in the year and there was a further tour in May 1979 when they again played five nights at the Hammersmith Odeon.
The band’s albums ‘Remote Control’ (1979) produced by Todd Rundgren and ‘The Completion Backward Principle’ (1981) produced by David Foster have become fan favourites although not massive sellers. But it was the Foster-produced ‘Outside Inside’ (1983) that spawned the band’s biggest hit single in the U.S., ‘She’s A Beauty’.
By 1985 the band were imploding, riddled with debt and pressured to produce more hit singles. They reconvened with Rundgren for ‘Love Bomb’ but Waybill was only partially involved in the recording process and had already started his own solo album (‘Read My Lips’, released in 1984).
Waybill left the band in 1986 and although The Tubes soldiered on with a different vocalist, founder member Bill Spooner’s departure in 1989 dealt a final blow. It wasn’t until 1993 that Waybill returned and they made the album ‘Genius Of America’.
The band have toured off and on since this time with four original members although Vince Welnick committed suicide in June 2006.
The Tubes, influenced by Zappa and Captain Beefheart, were at the forefront of rock theatre throughout the 1970s, with Fee Waybill adopting various personas such as the larger-than-life platform-heeled Quay Lewd and punk rocker Johnny Bugger.
Their visual emphasis also presaged the popularity of music video in the 1980s as reflected by MTV. The stage antics often over-shadowed the excellence of the music and drummer Prairie Prince has worked subsequently in Todd Rundgren’s band, whilst Vince Welnick joined Grateful Dead for a period in the 1990s.
Prairie Prince (drums) and Michael Cotten (synthesiser) were also responsible for album art-work and, subsequently, have provided creative input to many big stage shows in the U.S.
In Part 1 (above) of a two-part special, Fee Waybill chats about the formative years of The Tubes.
Part 2 (above) discusses the band’s progress from the early-1980s to date.
First broadcast Sunday 28 June 2015 (Part 1), Sunday 5 July 2015 (Part 2)
David Randall chats to Tubes frontman Fee Waybill about the band.