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Tubes, The

Taking their cue from Frank Zappa‘s Mothers Of Invention, San Franciscan rock satirists The Tubes were one of the first groups to bring performance art to arena rock & roll.

Fronted by vocalist Fee Waybill, they also pulled in some heavyweight support as they camped out in 70s America, drawing a fan club that included Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa.

With platform boots as high as Blackpool Tower, his face behind shades that even Elton John would have dismissed as too vulgar, the sight of Quay Lude tottering to the microphone – dangling a 12-inch plastic dick down to his knees – to sing White Punks On Dope was the centrepiece of their live shows.

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Waybill created Quay Lude as his drug-addled alter-ego during the 70s, but his parody of rock star excess would quickly engulf The Tubes, overshadowing the sometimes great music and marvellous shows they played.

White Punks On Dope was the dynamic final track to their 1975 debut album, though the song had turned into a sprawling shock-rock free-for-all by the time it appeared on their double live album, What You Want From Live in 1978.

The Tubes were dirty and nasty and had naked girls on stage, and their multimedia stage show – which included a phallic cigarette advert, a pantie-snatching Tom Jones parody and the whip-wielding dominatrix Re Styles who appeared during the song Mondo Bondage – got The Tubes banned from some British concert halls during their 1977 tour.

By the early 80s, they had toned down their image to a more commercial MTV-acceptable format. By the mid-80s the band were becoming “fried” (to quote Fee Waybill) and split up after their Love Bomb album in 1985.

Waybill and keyboard player Mike Cotten left first and the band struggled on for a while without them.

Having reunited in 1993 with original members Waybill, Roger Steen, Rick Anderson and Prairie Prince, The Tubes played a one-off show six-years later. These days they can be seen on a fairly regular basis.

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Fee Waybill
Vocals
Bill Spooner
Guitar
Rick Anderson
Bass
Mike Cotten
Keyboards
Vince Welnick
Keyboards
Roger Steen
Guitar
Prairie Prince
Drums
Re Styles
Vocals