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 companys offices and saw
Sniders 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. "Its horrible! Its awful! Its
its 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 rats 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 Majoritys ultimate
accolade. It remains to be seen whether it will ever be awarded
to Twisted Sister. Somehow I dont expect it. For all Dee Sniders
uncanny resemblance to the lewd Lude he just doesnt have the
stacks for it. But, seven years on Fee Waybill still has. In fact,
he cant 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 couldnt
compete. Kids would leave the concerts remembering all the routines
and the big production numbers but forget the songs. And they didnt
buy the records either.
"In retrospect I think that was because the stuff on our first
couple of albums wasnt 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 showwhich,
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, theres a full-length Tubes video
available on both cassette and, believe it or not, laser disc which
does so much justice to the bands wild and wacky sense of
open-heart humor that it was nominated for the music business
equivalent of an Oscar at last years Grammy Awards ceremony.
It didnt win, of course. The Tubes are a bit too risque
for that. It was pipped to the post by Olivia Newton-Johns
aerobic and body-oiled Lets Get Physical collection,
which didnt 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 dayson 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. Its simply that blatant satire doesnt
make money and doesnt sell records either. And it certainly
doesnt do anything to change the world. We finally got wise
to the fact that people dont want to buy a record which makes
fun of them, you know? You gonna buy a record thats a joke
on you? No way! Not in the United States, thats 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 its 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 bands latest single,
the beaty Shes 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 hasnt peaked yet.
It was produced by David Foster whose name is not well-known in
heavy rock circles. In fact, the closest hes come to mayhem
has been as the producer of Boz Scaggs and Hall and Oates
albums, which is not very close at all. Rather hes 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 thats the way The Tubes themselves see it. And they
point to the cover of Major Lance and Curtis Mayfields old
Sixties stomper Monkey Time, which Waybill croons
and camps as a duet with the Motels luscious Martha Davis,
as proof that as musicians theyve always privately preferred
to boogie on down than rock out.
But theres no denying the fact that Fosters 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 doesnt
sound like soul to me.
And it doesnt shrink from social comment either. "Shes
A Beauty itself offers a thinly disguised, sad tale of a girl
obliged to work a Nude Encounter studio in The Tenderloin,
San Franciscos red light district, while Out
Of The Business, with its rousing shout choruses, is a double-edged
attack not just on the ethics of Americas white collar workforce
but on the economic climate which is consigning them to unemployment
So the old Tubes satire is still there, if you look hard
enough for it, but now its 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
its very difficult to take it at face value. Not when it comes
from The Tubes, anyway.
So, cmon Fee. Spill the beans. Youre trying to pull
a really big one on us this time, aint ya?
"Wow! You think so too? Thats 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 wont believe this, but were 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 cant