The Tubes Have Lived Several Lives in 40 Years

It might not pack the same mental hot flash as having Tom Jones ask you "What's New Pussycat?" or Chubby Checker requesting your help twisting something, but having Fee Waybill, lead singer of The Tubes, tell you in so many words he may have to "Talk to Ya Later" comes pretty damn close.

The reason our phone interview was interrupted was an urgent incoming call about a changed flight. Waybill had spent the past hour on hold with an airline, listening to "Classical Gas," before getting a human who ultimately disconnected his call after Waybill gave his credit card number.

Apparently, his Tubes "Young and Rich" credit card is still not accepted everywhere. For the man whose band has lampooned crass consumerism and business motivational speaking over the years, this bureaucracy must seem like corporate payback.

All the world is a stage for The Tubes.
All the world is a stage for The Tubes.

Location Info

Map

Foundry on First

402 S. 1st St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Central Phoenix

Details

The Tubes are scheduled to perform Saturday, August 13, at Foundry on First.

On the other end of the corporate payback divide, the Phoenix-born band, which took theatrical rock to decadent heights, is giving back to its longest-standing supporter, rock station KDKB, by performing at the station's 40th anniversary show. At the time of the station's inception in 1971, future Tube members Roger Steen, Prairie Prince, and Waybill had been Bay Area residents for two years.

"Roger and Prairie were in a trio (The Beans) with another bass player. I was friends with them and wanted to get the fuck out of Arizona. I said, 'Can I come along? I'll haul the gear.' And I was their roadie. And we all moved to San Francisco because Prairie had a full scholarship to the Art Institute and the band didn't want to break up.

As it turned out, Prince would have a lifetime of fine arts and graphics employment as the Tubes' designer. "Prairie did every album cover, posters, every T-shirt, every backdrop, anything that had anything to do with something artistic in the Tubes, Prairie did it," says Waybill. "And he still does it all."

When The Beans kicked out their bass player and couldn't find another one, they lured Bill Spooner's Phoenix quartet The Red, White and Blues Band to join them in San Francisco with the promise of better pot than the shitty Mexican weed they were smoking in Arizona. The bands merged into a supergroup, and Waybill, a drama major during his time at Arizona State, emerged as lead vocalist when Spooner wanted him to sing Marty Robbins' "El Paso."

"And I said, How about if I dress up in some hokey cowboy outfit with furry chaps, and in the end, when he gets killed, I'll have a blood bag under my shirt and squirt fake blood all over the place?" laughs Waybill. "That was the first theatrical thing we ever did. So I did that and everyone thought it was hilarious, and it just built from there. And we would write songs that had some kind of social commentary or social sarcasm and put a visual aspect and put some visual character to it, like the wacky drug addict rock star who can't stop taking Quaaludes long enough to sing, and can't walk on his platforms because he's too wasted. And so we wrote 'White Punks on Dope.'"

Waybill's brainstorm eventually grew — or metastasized, depending on whom you ask — into a 45-person operation on the road, with a truck, dancers, props, and choreography (the band employed Kenny Ortega, who did Michael Jackson's This Is It).

"It ate us alive, pretty much." Waybill says. "We never made any money. The whole show just sucked us dry. Every tour."

Unlike acts like KISS, who had an "A show" and a cheaper "B show" for lesser markets, or a cleaned-up version for the sensitive Bible Belt, The Tubes brought a true Tubes show anywhere they went.

"We hardly ever played the South — they didn't get it. They don't understand sarcasm. Or parody. Back in those days, we weren't compromising our art for anything. A couple of times, I got arrested. In some cities, the promoter who booked the show would want an obscenity bond. We'd come into town, the assistant DA would show up, and he would say, 'Unless you can prove to me that there's not going to be any nudity or bad language, you're gonna have to pay $10,000.' And we'd just lie our asses off and say, 'No. No nudity or bad language.'

"Back then, the dancing girls would come out topless, and we'd do Tom Jones' 'It's Not Unusual' [with] me holding their tits the whole time. That got a little too racy, and we got busted for nudity. Then they would put pasties on their nipples. Then we couldn't get away with that after a while, and then they would wear flashy bras. We got away with a lot in the beginning, and then it just got harder and harder."

In less-litigious times, The Tubes could drag a full-blown Harley onstage blasting away exhaust smoke into the audience. Or rev noisy, smelly gas chainsaws. "Then you couldn't do that, but you could have an electric chainsaw. Well, an electric chainsaw doesn't make any noise, and they don't smoke and they're not smelly. The bigger we got, the more money that was involved."

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19 comments
Steve
Steve

The Tubes were originals, had the Phx-SanFran roots, their theatrical shows were better than Alice Coopers or KISS, enjoyed them immensely, its too bad they can't replicate them today.

Siestastuff
Siestastuff

Well,love these guys,but ya got a few facts wrong.First of all,Bill Spooner and Rick were in the Beans,Rog and Prairie were in the Red White and Blues Band.They changed the name to Arizona when they became a trio,then formed with Beans to become Beanazona.They did a Mexican minitour(!) and did some shows here under that name featuring a theatrical bit called "Our lord is a hot dog",I don't remember Fee being involved in that,but I might have been in an altered state.Spooner fell in a hole on the stage and it was a trip,as they used to say.Also,Bob "Willard" Henke was a red,white and blues band member originally,as was Dave Knotter ,inventer of the Deering coke grinder,quite popular in the old daze!Henke went on to fame with Goose Creek Symphony,and Dr.Hook,and a stint with Glen Campbell before rejoining Goose creek,who were inducted in the Az.musician and entertainer hall of fame this past Feb.,with barely a mention in the New Times.Charlie's gettin' on in years,and it might be close to the end for The Goose,which formed here in 1968(!)Where's your local reporting? Goose creek played the celebrity theatre new years '72 with the Tubes,formerly the Beans,as they were billed,and Spooner was the star,not Fee.Anyway,facts aside,thanks for the article on an almost forgotten slice of Arizona musical history Pat "Froggy"Moore,bassist ,

Goose Creek,1970-?

white and blues

Ted
Ted

The Tubes are definitely one of the very great rock and roll bands in history. I saw every show they did in Tucson. One night at the Temple of Music and Art they were doing the smoking song and set the theater drapes on fire. The show was stopped, the fire department came across the street, checked it out, left saying fire is out danger is over, Fee and the band then went back on finishing the entire show. What a class act! They had the two Harley's on stage that night too! The memories of those shows still thrill.

20gauge
20gauge

I saw the Beans open for The Jeff Beck Group at the Celebrity in 1971 (I was working at Bobs Big Boy on Central and Thomas). They rocked! Very theatrical even back then.

Srlevy
Srlevy

I remember hearing "White Punks On Dope" on the radio in Phoenix quite often in the 1970's.

savatage
savatage

Yammer is gone, finally. Dude belongs in talk radio. He once talked over the entire beginning of Heaven and Hell, until Dio cut him off. It's a music station! The less talking there is, the more music there is. I do like their addition of harder stuff to the mix lately tho. Regular playing of Hagar's Heavy Metal and more Sabbath? Friggin awesome! I like the direction things are taking for our FIRST rock station. They never switched to disco like KUPD did for a while. Been true blue for 40 years. Been a KDKB fan since I moved here in 71. Would love to see The Tubes play too. If only I could afford it :(

Tubes Fan
Tubes Fan

I support KDKB too, but just TRY to got the DJ's to play White Punks on Dope.. Not even Hammer, dammit.Fuckin youngsters.

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

Wow Teddy...

This might be the most mature thing you've ever posted.

No insults.No foul language.No cowardly snipes.No boasting of your bad-assery.No threats.

I'm almost concerned.

All of that aside, yes- the Tubes do rock.Glad to know you can still hear them hiding under the Internet's bed.

"Ill talk to you later"

And as usual,,, I can't wait.

respectfully,Wayne Michael Reichhttp://waynemichaelreich.tumbl...

onehorsetown
onehorsetown

PS savatage...did you know tickets to the show are $19.71, in celebration of KDKB's 40th anniversary? :-)

onehorsetown
onehorsetown

Ummmmmmmm....best to hold off on that wishful thinking, savatage...I heard "Save It For Later" by the English Beat last week.Not exactly KDKB's "harder stuff.":(

savatage
savatage

Thanks man! That is danged cheap, but we are on the ramen diet at the moment, if that gives you any indication of the level of "out of moneyness" we is at. But thanks again for the heads up on that -killer- price. Nice of them to keep it that cheap.

savatage
savatage

Well... they gotta please the girls too. Can't expect quality hard rock always (anymore). Or not even half the time, actually. Unfortunately. Has been getting better at least. Now that we have a harder rocking Program Director there.

 
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