Life at 33 1/3: The transfer ticket to punk

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The Tubes: The Tubes (A&M)

In 1975 The Tubes resembled a high school revue that had dropped out, run off and grown slightly older while refusing to grow up, still running its gags, the punch lines getting darker and somewhat funnier.  They delivered social satire wrapped in music that had way too many chords in it to pass as garage rock.  They tried to be direct, but were easily distracted into flirting with prog rock and even Zappa.  They wanted to provoke, and achieved what they were after. 

In many ways they were the theatrical transfer ticket that would take rock from New York Dolls to punk.  Their favourite topics were porn, mass media, commercialism and self-obsessed rock stars.

Early on they were first and foremost a live-band.  Their shows included huge production numbers, fancy costumes and stage decorations, dancers, gadgets and of course gags.  I saw a stripped-down but still very visual version of the show in Oslo in 1977, and must admit that I was both impressed and entertained.  The highlight was of course Fee Waybill in glam gala, stumbling across the stage on the world’s tallest platform shoes performing “White Punks On Dope “.  Wonderful.  A line from the lyric, “hang myself when I get enough rope”, inspired The Clash to name their second album “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”.

The Tubes’ debut album contains the key tracks “What Do You Want From Life?”, “Mondo Bondage” and the aforementioned “White Punks On Dope “.  It is wrapped in a cool sleeve, as shown in the illustration.  Unfortunately apart from the three classics, the record does not hold up as a stand-alone piece of music without the visuals.  The band is good and tight, but the majority of the songs simply aren’t strong enough.

Later albums like “Now” (1977) and “Remote Control” (1979) are better listening experiences.  Still love the sleeve, though.

Released: June 1975

Produced by: Al Kooper

Side One

“Up from the Deep” (The Tubes, Ray Trainer) – 4:28

“Haloes” (Al Kooper, Bill Spooner, Roger Steen) – 4:53

“Space Baby” (Bill Spooner, Mike Carpenter,Vince Welnick) – 4:25

“Malagueña Salerosa” (Pedro Galindo, Elpidio Ramirez) – 3:52

Side Two

“Mondo Bondage” (The Tubes) – 4:34

“What Do You Want from Life?” (Bill Spooner, Michael Evans) – 4:01

“Boy Crazy” (Bill Spooner) – 4:09

“White Punks on Dope” (Bill Spooner, Roger Steen, Michael Evans) – 6:49

Personnel:

Fee Waybill – vocals

Bill Spooner – guitar, vocals

Michael Cotten – synthesizer

Prairie L’Emprere Prince – drums

Roger Steen – guitar, vocals

Vince Welnick – keyboards

Rick Anderson – bass