I always felt that The Tubes would have been a much bigger band if they had started their career some years later than they did. As a very visual band they would have prospered in the video age to a larger extent than they did when MTV finally arrived. Still active today, they can be seen in the UK in November – on some dates of those dates along with two other “visual” bands – The Mission and the King of horror rock, Alice Cooper.
I may have to travel to the UK and see this! I think it will be worth it.
Tubes help you thrive more sleazily
The band that makes all previous manifestations of rock outrage seem like last year`s thing; Stann Findelle packs his mop and plunger and follows Tubes round the U.S. khazi circuit.
“It`s dangerous back here, so watch your step, especially during scene changes,” says Mort Moriarity, manager and back stage commentator on the Tubes, the group that squirts its letters from a container of “Joy-Jell” martial lubricant.
It`s Saturday night in smelly old San Bernardino, a cowtown about thirty road apples down from Los Angeles, and the group is readying up to play the local Civic Firetrap. Mort sports a flesh wound on his pate from a previous evening when he didn`t watch his and was struck by shrapnel flying from the group`s arsenal of volatile stage props.
Night after night, the twelve or so maniacs furiously mount and discharge off the stage in a programme that plays like a television screen might if someone twirled the channel selector like a roulette wheel.
This writer sits like a voyeur in the foyer as the girls like your mother always warned you about – Re Styles, Mary Nyland, Cindy Osborne, Helene Gauxe and Leila T. Snake – unabashedly pancake make-up their bare behinds and tune up their G-strings in preparation for the mini-Busby Berkeley burlesque of Tom Jones` “It`s Not Unusual.”
Other quick change costumes are set in order like a brace of loaded muskets for the show`s barrage of vignettes.
The girls are only slightly cognisant of my presence as they pad around with their freshly rouged cheeks, although one mistakes me for a security man, and asks where the toilet is. I inform her that anywhere in the building will qualify and she laughingly agrees.
Outside, the crowd is damn near ferocious. There are about 3,000 “San Berdoo” no-necks being stuffed into a place where the walls sweat at 2,300 maximum. Plenty of `em are bent out of shape because they have to stand up the whole set. But this is the atmosphere the Tubes prefer; indeed, perpetuate. They dig playing the “toilet” circuit. Every night plays like a royal flush.
The Tubes do it alone these days with no opener or intermission. Nobody would dare share a bill with them. Led Zeppelin got burned once, when, in front of a 60,000 stadium in San Francisco, the Tubes stole it all away by throwing giant amphetamine tablets at the crowd during “White Punks on Dope”.
Then, in 1974, The Kinks mysteriously cancelled (word was getting out) leaving the vanilla suited John McLaughlin holding the bag. The Tubes fiendishly dressed up in the white costumes of Wonder Bread bakers, with loaves of Wonder Bread supplied by the company that thought they were doing a collage project.
The Tubes threw bread and the crowd threw back everything they could get their hands on, including bottles, shoes, lettuce, and grapefruit. The stage looked like a blitz of fruit salad. And then they introduced McLaughlin…
The names of the principals are too good to be fake: John Waldo (Fee) Waybill is the leader, Maypole, chameleon man, whose previous experience was an actor and an equipment mover, skills which have come in handy. More about him in a second.
Re, which rhymes with Fee, is the lead lady, who retired from films after a meteoric career in the Alexandro (“El Topo”) Jodorowsky “The Holy Mountain”, where she played a crazed art dealer`s best piece.
It is she who Fee bodily whips around the stage in their infamous “Mondo Bondage” S&M leatherette sequence.
There`s a lot of other people running around, although drummer Prairie Prince – who has the credentials of playing sessions with George Harrison, Nicky Hopkins and Journey – artist and synthesizer Michael Cotton, and guitarists Rick Steen and Bill Spooner seem to be heavies in the group`s structure. There`s also a fellow known as the Sadistic Leroi, who, among other things, guards the girl`s flanks back stage.
The programme includes a grand assortment of warp-rock theatrics, with Fee splitting into many weird characters. There`s the snarling “Dr. Strangekiss” with arthritic metallic hand-jive, “Space Baby” where their stacked backdrop of 19 in. TV screens are a scream.
If you sit close enough, you can make out Fee in the myopic parabolic claustrophobia typical of broadcasts from astronautical capsules. Fee radios how the space ships are performing a three way “Menage a trois” docking procedure for Project Ur-Anus.
More medical and musical malpractice develops as Dr. Fee conducts surgery on a double neck guitar which gives bloody birth to a ukelele.
There`s no need to fret, because the “It`s Not Unusual” soon follows with the ladies impeccably choreographing their generous rear ends (this always devastates the crowd).
Finally, there is the finale, the emergence of Quay Lewd (Fee in 18 in. stilt platform shoes) and his legendary avalanching KILL amplifiers.
It`s rock and psychodrama, where every fantasy and fetish is paid its due. The Tubes even invent a few new ones for different occasions.
But as word gets out, the segments lose potency. A cold cream-covered Fee strips down to a decent looking chap backstage, comes down off his 18 inchers and confides, “After our mammoth European tour, we shall record a new album, and develop a totally new Spring show.”
What does he expect the European crowds to be like? “I expect them to be very European. A bunch of foreigners, mostly.”
Foreigners indeed. And what region of the world first disgorged this mob of misfits, these overdosers of Howdy Doody, Hopalong Cassidy and Heels and Hose magazine?
“We come from Arizona,” he says, slyly.
Arizona, besides being from where the yellow streams of Goldwater stem, is a commonwealth with an interesting similarity to Australia.
The current denizens of both sovereignties descend from fixed populations: the Australians from the criminals who were shipped there when it was a penal colony; Arizonians from the seed of thousands of tuberculosis patients that used to be shipped there when arid weather was the only cure.
It figures that many Australian bands and singers commit wholesale larceny on existing styles and gimmicks of flourishing acts and that an Arizonian band would be called the Tubes and act like they`re in some terminal stage of the pox.
In this woefully deserted desert region, the Tubes were spawned from the wedding of two hard barbecue rock acts, known uncleverly as “Arizona” and “Beans”.
“Arizona had been known to use the alias `Los Frijoles et Los Radar Man De Uranus?” offered Waybill, to very little avail. “The group used that name to play in Mexico. They were subsequently deported.” Arizona mixed with Beans, whose prior credits, make that demerits, included representing San Francisco in Japan`s Expo `70 (!?).
Re strokes into the dressing area, arm in arm with Prarie, for a semi-drowsy discussion about how tough it is to get body make-up off. This writer once had the unfortunate experience of playing an Indian snake-charmer in a soft porno flick known as “House of 1,000 Delights”, and believe me, it was no delight to find melon-almond yellow greasepaint number 6 on my towel for six months subsequent.
“Well, one way to live with it is not to wash,” leaked Re. “But my procedure is to dive, shower, rub-down, scrub – fine. Start over. Di-sh-rub-scrub-fine. Wanna hear it again? Now I suppose you`re gonna ask some sexist questions, right?” she snaps good-naturedly, if you can imagine one snapping with good nature. “We do all this complicated dancing steps, and all you see is when we push the big ass, right?”
She looks at Prairie, who in turn looks uncomfortable. “As to the G-strings, well Prairie here and I used to do a puppet show. But I used to pull the strings.” Prairie has a “please don`t say anymore” look in his eyes.
We pan back to Fee with some economic questions.
You see, the Tubes usually lose money every show, even though they sell out.
Also, there`s a problem mutually shared by other stage acts like Sha-na-na and Flash Cadillac, that the records, unless they`re video discs, cannot transmit the essence of the live imagery.
Fee seems to take the posture of a trouper who does it for the love, rather than the money.
“We don`t look to graduating towards large stadiums. The loss of intimacy is not what we desire. Perhaps the TV screens could be larger, but there`s a lot going on stage as well. We`d rather do two shows nightly in a place like this than lose the impact in a basketball hall”.
This was certainly worthy of honourable mention, a group not working towards the easy buck while putting on a hell blaster of a show.
Fee was less open about the new programme in the works. “Well, it`s a secret. We`re thinking and absorbing many new elements. Some fat girl almost pulled me off the stage in a recent show. We may add that.”
Then, after a moment`s reflection at my exaggerated dismay, he adds. “Well, I`ll tell you this much. I may grown some tits for the Spring show. We might also sell some used TV`s at intermission”.
Fee did not elaborate whether the TVs would be televisions or transvestites…
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Laura Nyro, The Eagles, King Crimson, Phil Spector, Dick Morrisey and Terry Smith, Zal Cleminson, The Who/Steve Gibbons Band, Bobby Womack.
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