Tubes Archives
KERRANG! June 17-30 1983, Issue #44


Lude-icrous Tales From The Tubes’ Fee Waybill

Chas De Whalley

Astounding though it may seem, The Tubes have never seen Twisted Sister, much less rubbed shoulders with the outrageous Dee Snider. In fact, before they touched down in London recently on their way home from taping a major TV show in Germany, the celebrated San Franciscan satirists had barely even heard of the new kings of schlock rock, let alone their own clown, crown prince.

So was Fee Waybill knocked sideways when he picked up an old copy of Kerrang! In his record company’s offices and saw Snider’s ugly mug leering up at him in full colour? Was he ever! His jaw dropped a million miles.

"Oh My God!" he screamed like an extra in a cheap Hollywood horror movie, as The Thing That Ate Topanga Canyon loomed on the horizon. "It’s horrible! It’s awful! It’s… It’s… it’s Quay Lude! And without his stack heels! Oh No!!"

Long term fans of The Tubes will know exactly what their frontman was going through, but the rest of you might not quite understand. Or remember how, in 1976, when The Tubes fired the opening salvo of their wickedly irreverent assault on the hallowed bastions of rock, Quay Lude was their secret and ultimate weapon.

In all his sorted-out, bilious glory, with spangled make-up half an inch thick, strawberry blond rat’s tails spewing over his shoulders, huge personalised electric shades and a donger the size of a cruise missile crammed clumsily and unsuccessfully into his green lurex pants, Fee Waybill as Quay Lude tottered out onto the stage at the Hammersmith Odeon, on platform soles so high you could drill for North Sea Oil from them. A White Punk on Dope indeed.

At the climax of the rudest and raunchiest, longest and loudest and most extravagantly X-rated theatrical rock show ever, a symphonic explosion of simulated sex, surgery and balletic TV, Quay Lude, Fee Waybill and The Tubes wrote themselves into the history books, and made Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne look like Sooty and Sweep. And Kiss cuter than the Muppets!

Young Fee got himself arrested while the Tubes were banned by town councils all over Great Britain and pilloried by the popular press. Thus, were the band granted the Silent Majority’s ultimate accolade. It remains to be seen whether it will ever be awarded to Twisted Sister. Somehow I don’t expect it. For all Dee Snider’s uncanny resemblance to the lewd Lude he just doesn’t have the stacks for it. But, seven years on Fee Waybill still has. In fact, he can’t get a shot of them.

"We tried dropping ol’ Quay from the act a couple of years ago. But we got so many complaints from the fans we had to bring him back on again. That was about the time of the ‘Remote Control’ album and the ‘Prime Time’ single, and we were forced to make drastic cuts in the stage show.

"We were losing money hand over fist. All those TV screens and other props and stage sets cost too much to take on the road. The show had also gotten so spectacular that the music simply couldn’t compete. Kids would leave the concerts remembering all the routines and the big production numbers but forget the songs. And they didn’t buy the records either.

"In retrospect I think that was because the stuff on our first couple of albums wasn’t really that good. Things like ‘White Punks On Dope’ and ‘Mondo Bondage’ still stand up, but not much else does. So we changed the line-up a little and tried out a couple of different producers until we elevated the quality of the music so that it could stand up in its own right. But then people started criticising us for not putting on the big show any more. So we brought it all back. Quay Lude included.

American audiences will see the new improved Tubes show—which, apparently, includes ET in whips, furs and bondage gear!--before we do, as the band are about to embark on a massive football stadium tour as special guests on bills headed by the likes of Journey and David Bowie. But British dates are pencilled in for the Autumn.

In the meantime, though, there’s a full-length Tubes video available on both cassette and, believe it or not, laser disc which does so much justice to the band’s wild and wacky sense of open-heart humor that it was nominated for the music business’ equivalent of an Oscar at last year’s Grammy Awards ceremony. It didn’t win, of course. The Tubes are a bit too risque for that. It was pipped to the post by Olivia Newton-John’s aerobic and body-oiled ‘Let’s Get Physical’ collection, which didn’t really come as a surprise to Mr. Waybill.

Nor was he surprised to hear me observe that the sent-ups, satire and salacious pisstakes of the plastic age which originally put The Tubes on par with British punk bands like The Sex Pistols and The Stranglers seem diluted into a more conventional rock sensibility these days—on record, if not live. If, that is, their last two LPs, ‘The Completion Backward Principle’ and the just-released ‘Outside Inside’, are anything to go by. Had there been a change of heart?

"No, not really. It’s simply that blatant satire doesn’t make money and doesn’t sell records either. And it certainly doesn’t do anything to change the world. We finally got wise to the fact that people don’t want to buy a record which makes fun of them, you know? You gonna buy a record that’s a joke on you? No way! Not in the United States, that’s for sure."

But before you start chucking cabbages and tossing the tomatoes, think on this: The Tubes have not sold out. Not for profit, anyway. If they have sold out then it’s been for survival. Literally. With the record business in the state it is today, in America and everywhere else in the world, you have to sound commercial to remain in the running. The Tubes have proved themselves remarkably adept at adapting to this new Age of Artistic Austerity.

Even as I spoke to Waybill and Tubes’ keyboards supremo Vince Welnick, there came the news that the band’s latest single, the beaty ‘She’s A Beauty’, had already climbed to Number 25 on the US charts after only three weeks in the shops and had dragged the album into the Top Thirty behind it. Already, then, ‘Outside Inside’ had proved the most successful Tubes record ever and it hasn’t peaked yet.

It was produced by David Foster whose name is not well-known in heavy rock circles. In fact, the closest he’s come to mayhem has been as the producer of Boz Scaggs’ and Hall and Oates’ albums, which is not very close at all. Rather he’s a soul man with the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire, Lionel Ritchie and The Brothers Johnson to his credit. And, in many respects, ‘Outside Inside’ can be regarded as more of a soul or even, perish the word, disco album.

At least that’s the way The Tubes themselves see it. And they point to the cover of Major Lance and Curtis Mayfield’s old Sixties’ stomper ‘Monkey Time’, which Waybill croons and camps as a duet with the Motels’ luscious Martha Davis, as proof that as musicians they’ve always privately preferred to boogie on down than rock out.

But there’s no denying the fact that Foster’s skills at the mixing desk have made them sound as hard as nails. ‘Outside Inside’ is a feast on the ‘phones, super-clean and super-strong, turning the characteristically ambitious Tubes’ arrangements to gleaming steel which spins round the stereo. It certainly doesn’t sound like soul to me.

And it doesn’t shrink from social comment either. "She’s A Beauty’ itself offers a thinly disguised, sad tale of a girl obliged to work a ‘Nude Encounter’ studio in The Tenderloin, San Francisco’s ‘red light’ district, while ‘Out Of The Business’, with its rousing shout choruses, is a double-edged attack not just on the ethics of America’s white collar workforce but on the economic climate which is consigning them to unemployment lines.

So the old Tubes’ satire is still there, if you look hard enough for it, but now it’s folded better into the musical mix. And that sound is so near a perfect distillation of American radio, so very nearly makes an ART of the Foreigner Formula, that it’s very difficult to take it at face value. Not when it comes from The Tubes, anyway.

So, c’mon Fee. Spill the beans. You’re trying to pull a really big one on us this time, ain’t ya?

"Wow! You think so too? That’s really weird. I was doing a radio interview somewhere in Massachusetts the other week and the DJ there had the very same idea.

"You probably won’t believe this, but we’re not that clever! Honest. All we tried to do was make the best album we could. People read too much into us sometimes. We just can’t win!"