Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

The Tubes

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Past members
Vince WelnickBill SpoonerMichael CottenBob McintoshRe StylesMingo LewisJane DornackerDavid KillingsworthGary Cambra

San Francisco, California, United States

Rock music, Punk rock, Hard rock, Experimental rock

The Completion Backward, Remote Control, Outside Inside, Young and Rich, What Do You Want from Live


The tubes sushi girl

The Tubes are a San Francisco-based rock band whose 1975 debut album included the hit single "White Punks on Dope." During its first fifteen years or so, the band's live performances combined quasi-pornography with wild satires of media, consumerism, and politics. They are also remembered for their 1983 single "She's a Beauty," a top 10 U.S. hit with a frequently-played music video in the early days of MTV; and in the 1980 film Xanadu singing the rock portion of the cross-genre song "Dancin'" opposite a big band.


The Tubes Tubuler Catching Up With a Tubes Original Bill Spooner


The Tubes The Tubes Wikipedia

The Tubes formed in 1972 in San Francisco from two Phoenix bands after both relocated to San Francisco in 1969. The Beans featured Bill Spooner, Rick Anderson, Vince Welnick and Bob Macintosh, while The Red White and Blues Band featured Prairie Prince, Roger Steen and David Killingsworth. After playing Expo '70 in Japan, Killingsworth left the Red, White and Blues Band leaving Steen and Prince to audition bass players unsuccessfully. The Beans had been a local favorite in Phoenix selling out shows with a tongue in cheek concept rock show called "The Mother of Ascension" featuring costumes and props before moving to San Francisco. After moving, Bill Spooner worked at the Fillmore West sweeping floors in between Beans gigs at the Longshoreman's Halls and other depressing venues. The band's loud, heavy jamming style didn't attract attention and the band would go back to Phoenix and sell out shows to make rent. Bean's manager and former Alice Cooper Group drummer John Speer suggested they add Prince and Steen along with their roadie John Waybill for one of these shows. Waybill's nickname among the band was "Fee" short for "Fiji" thanks to his insane head of hippie hair.

The Tubes The Tubes Biography Albums Streaming Links AllMusic

"The Radar Men from Uranus" played the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix as well as a show in Mexico where they were run out of town by the police and Rick Anderson almost drowned after he was washed out to sea while swimming. The group would stick together and play shows at biker bars such as The Inn of The Beginning. The vocals at this time were shared by Spooner, Steen and Waybill as different characters. Prairie Prince and Phoenix high school friend Michael Cotten were attending art school at the San Francisco Art Institute at this time, they started attracting local press attention by painting a mural of crashing waves on the side of the Cliff House Restaurant. Cotten was asked by Spooner to buy an ARP synthesizer instead of a film camera and began to perform with the band as well as create props and costumes. One of the first "Tubes" shows was at the Art Institute cafeteria as part of an art show for classmate and future Hollywood director Katherine Bigelow. While experimenting with their stage show and art, Prince and Michael met model Re Styles while painting the Cliff House Mural. Styles has appeared in both Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain and Sun Ra's Space Is the Place and posed for Playboy and Penthouse magazines. Prince and Styles began dating and she started performing with the band playing Patty Hearst and dressing in wild leather outfits during the "Mondo Bondage" dance with Waybill. After several years of playing biker bars the band needed help. The band had a temporary agreement with producer David Rubinson and played on bills with The Pointer Sisters and Sylvester (singer) but were still trying to find an audience. Prince had been hired by newly formed fusion rock band Journey to record demos and approached their manager Herbie Herbert, a former Santana roadie and Bill Graham employee. Herbert made a deal with Graham that if the Tubes could sell out three local shows, Graham would give him an opening slot on the show of his choice.

The Tubes City Winery The Tubes featuring Fee Waybill Special guest Tommi

Herbert booked shows at a local club called the Village which sold out thanks to themes inspired by the San Francisco post-hippie underground culture such as "The Streaker's Ball" and "Mondo Bondage." Much to Graham's dismay Herbert chose an opening slot for the upcoming Led Zeppelin show at Kezar Stadium. The band pulled out the stops including Waybill dressed as an early version of "Quay Lewd" throwing "Cocaine" (flour) and "Pills" (candy) at the crowd who threw it back. Graham threatened Herbert that the band would never play in San Francisco again but calmed down and eventually fell in love with the band, booking them at Winterland and other California venues for New Year's shows and Halloween. After the 1973 Led Zeppelin show, Herbert wanted to manage the band but Spooner and the group went with local management team of Mort Moriarty and Gary Peterson, also known as "Bag O' Bucks." Moriarty was interested in the use of video in rock music and saw the Tubes stage show as the future of music video. Bob Macintosh died of cancer at this time leaving Prince as the only drummer. In 1974, Bag O' Bucks filmed a Tubes show at the California Hall and shopped the "video demo" around Los Angeles. George Daly, Columbia Records head of A&R in San Francisco, made some Tubes demos, but NY [CBS] Corporate would not agree to signing the Tubes to Columbia due to the radical nature of their art. After 18 months, with no success at his own label, Daly, at the suggestion of Rick Wakeman, finally pitched the group to competitor A&M Records, where his former Columbia East Coast A&R colleague and friend, Kip Cohen, had recently headed the A&R division. Daly personally flew managers Moriarity and Petersen down to LA, and Cohen signed The Tubes to A&M, a rare example of cross-company support by major label executives. Working with lawyer Greg Fischbach, the band signed with A&M Records.

Debut album

The Tubes' first album, The Tubes (1975), was produced by Al Kooper. The track "White Punks on Dope" was an "absurd anthem of wretched excess" and a tribute to their rich, white teenage fan base in San Francisco. Since then the song has been covered by Mötley Crüe, and the German rock musician Nina Hagen took the tune and set new lyrics to it (not a translation of the original lyrics), titled her work "TV-Glotzer" ("Couch Potato"), using this song as the opening track of her own debut album Nina Hagen Band (1978). The album track "What Do You Want from Life?," which became another of the Tubes' signature songs, satirizes consumerism and celebrity culture and climaxes in a "hard-sell" monologue by Waybill, which name-checks celebrities such as Bob Dylan, Paul Williams and Randolph Mantooth, as well as well-known products of the period, including the Dynagym exercise machine and a host of American vehicles such as the Winnebago and the Mercury Montclair.

By late 1975, the band created a stage show unlike any other after hiring Kenny Ortega to direct and choreograph, comedian Jane Dornacker and her band "Lelia and the Snakes," and event support/video pioneer T.J. McHose to run a live video feed with films for each song. The show was critically acclaimed and broke them into show business in Los Angeles during sold out runs at the Roxy Theater, David Allen's Boarding House and Bimbo's in San Francisco as well as The Bottom Line in New York City. Compared at the time to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Tubes stage show was closer to Saturday Night Live with its mix of topical satire and subversive postmodern Andy Kaufman-like routines such as Waybill beating up a couple in the front row (who were planted) during the "Crime Medley" then taking off his disguise as the band launched into "Mondo Bondage" and a huge stack of "Kill Amplifiers" (cardboard) falling on Quay Lewd during the finale of "White Punks on Dope."

The band was part of the mid-seventies underground comedy scene that included The Credibility Gap, Firesign Theater, Ace Trucking Company, Kentucky Fried Theater, Groundlings, Ken Shapiro's Channel One Video Theatre and National Lampoon. The L.A. Connection Comedy Theatre performed during the Tubes show intermission many times. In 1975, the Tubes were offered a spot on Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell and Saturday Night Live but manager Mort Moriarty wanted the band to play several songs in a row to show off how tight the bands transitions were. The shows declined and without major network TV appearances, the band missed out on huge TV exposure cementing their cult status until the early 1980s. The band's touring crew was up to 24 people at this point making it hard to tour for the standard weeks on end most bands of the era were committing to build a fan base.

Young and Rich

The Tubes' second album, Young and Rich (1976) on A&M Records, was produced by Ken Scott. It featured "Don't Touch Me There," a suggestive duet between Waybill and Re Styles, which was arranged in classic "Wall of Sound" style by Jack Nitzsche. The song was co-written by Ron Nagle and Tubes dancer/vocalist Jane Dornacker.

The band toured America with a new stage show including new numbers "Slipped My Disco," "Madam, I'm Adam" and "Pimp." They also played several nights sold out nights at The Shrine in Los Angeles and Bimbo's in San Francisco. Mingo Lewis joined the band after performing several shows with them at Bimbos.

Now, What Do You Want From Live, Remote Control

The Tubes' third album Now (1977) was an attempt to write less satirical songs with the band sharing song writing duties with Bill Spooner. It was recorded while the band was playing a special engagement on weekends at The Whiskey in Los Angeles. The band played a small American tour of the west coast and a monthlong run at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts featuring the bands most elaborate stage show to date. The band had met manager Rikki Farr at a show opening for Alice Cooper. Farr fell in love with the band's stage show and agreed to manage them after they sued Bag O' Bucks to get out of their contract. He used his fame in England to promote them as "America's Answer to Punk."

The band created a new "best of" stage show and finally played a tour of Europe. They were banned in several towns and attracted front page press attention for their dark satirical stage show that spoofed America's consumer culture with dancers, video and sketches. They appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test and played "God-Bird-Change" and "White Punks on Dope."

After their live record What Do You Want from Live (1978), recorded during their record breaking run at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, England, the band toured America and a sold out run at The Pantages Theater in Hollywood which attracted celebrities such as the cast of Laverne and Shirley, Cher, Kate Jackson and Gene Simmons. The stage show had reached new levels of lewdness with Quay Lewd's large dildo hanging out of his costume and a fake bomb threat number called "The Terrorists of Rock" which Cher thought was real and ran out of the theater. She later asked the band to appear in her next TV special Cher...Special. The band returned to Europe to follow up their big splash but it was cancelled after Waybill fell off stage and broke his leg. The band returned and played the dates in the fall before headlining the Knebworth Rock Festival with Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel and Boomtown Rats. While rehearsing at Shepperton Studios for the Knebworth show, the band stumbled on the set of Alien.

The fourth album for A&M, Remote Control (1979) was a concept album produced by Todd Rundgren about a television-addicted idiot-savant, inspired on the Jerzy Kosinski novel Being There (which was later made into a movie starring Peter Sellers). The cover of Remote Control (1979) shows a baby (Rikki Farr's son) in a specially made "Vidi-Trainer" (A car seat/TV with a baby bottle nipple) created by Michael Cotten and Dave Mellot. Much of the new music was rewritten by Rundgren and the band in studio including "Turn Me On" formerly "Get Over It" and cannibalized "The Terrorists of Rock" number to become "Telecide."

Waybill and Re Styles shared vocals on "Prime Time" although Rundgren had tried to record a version with just Styles. When Waybill found out he demanded to sing as well. The band performed the song on "Top of the Pops" and on tour in Europe before cutting it from the set due to tensions between Waybill and Styles.

The band rehearsed a new multimedia stage show for the "Remote Control" tour and tested it at several shows at UCLA's Royce Hall but it was scrapped after Steen and Waybill complained about the show overtaking the music. This would lead to a stripped-down tour in the U.S, Japan and Europe with Squeeze as the support act. The band also played two shows at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles with Yellow Magic Orchestra as support, that show was released on home video in 1982. The band held an auction of Tubes stage props and costumes in 1980 at the Boarding House before the band attempted to play as a straight rock act for several sold out shows at The Roxy in Los Angeles.

Music videos

John Tobler opined that with their media savvy and theatrical skills, the Tubes were born to create rock video but arrived several years too early. However, the band did produce at least one collection of music videos, which were issued on the 1982 RCA Capacitance Electronic Disc and Pioneer Laserdisc The Tubes Video, containing versions of twelve of the band's hits, including "White Punks on Dope," "Mondo Bondage," "Talk to Ya Later," most of The Completion Backwards Principle album, in slickly produced music videos based on the group's stage shows). It was directed by Russell Mulcahy and filmed at Shepperton Studios.

Stage show production pioneers

The Tubes put their creativity and art skills mainly into their live performances, in which songs could be full-fledged production numbers with props and costumes built at The Tubes Warehouse by the band, crew and friends. Everything was made fun of, from a beach movie parody for "Sushi Girl," to leather clad S&M hijinks in "Mondo Bondage," to the game show antics of "What Do You Want from Life?" At their peak, their live act featured dozens of other performers, including tap dancers and acrobats. The Tubes' stage productions were choreographed by Kenny Ortega and featured cast members Jane Dornacker, LeRoy Jones, Michael Holman, Michael Springer, Cindi Osborn, Heline Gouax, and Mary Niland from 1975-1977. From 1978-1979, the cast included Sharon Collins, Caty Bevan, and Loryanna Catalano. The Completion Backward tour featured Shelly Pang, Cheryl Hangland, Joey Richards, and Cynthia Rhodes. From 1983-1985, Michelle Gray (who later married Todd Rundgren) and Cheryl Hangland were principal dancers. Several crew members — including Tour Manager Steve "Chopper" Borges, Lee Collins, and Gail Lowe — made frequent appearances on stage in various roles as well.

The Tubes' live shows in the late 1970s and early 1980s were rife with allusions to mainstream film [Dr. Strangelove (1964), Rollerball (1975), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease (1978)] then-forgotten B-movies [Wild Women of Wongo (1958), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)], music (Tom Jones, punk rock, a medley of Nelson Riddle television themes), contemporary pop culture (Patty Hearst, the Viking program), television (Let's Make a Deal, Fernwood 2Nite, the anime Raideen), and literature (Nelson Algren's A Walk on the Wild Side), presaging the subcultural reverence and over-the-top theatricality of later groups like The World/Inferno Friendship Society.

These shows were expensive to produce, however, and while they earned the band a reputation for being one of the most entertaining live acts of the time, by the early 1980s, they found themselves in debt to A&M Records, even after selling their song rights for tour support.

Dropped by A&M Records and signing with Capitol Records

Their fifth studio album, the self-produced Suffer for Sound, was meant to complete the group's contract with A&M. The recession had affected the music industry and many other bands were cut from A&M at the end of the 1970s. The band owed A&M a large amount of money and after playing the new record for Jerry Moss, Rikki Farr insulted his taste in music to make sure the band was let go and able to sign with a new label. Tubes friend Matt Leach compiled the outtakes, B-sides, and oddities selection T.R.A.S.H. (Tubes Rarities and Smash Hits) (1981). The band was signed to Capitol Records by Bruce Garfield and Bobby Colomby, toning down the X-rated sketches for the live shows and redesigning itself as a leaner ensemble with a view to release more accessible hits. The band worked with Bobby Colomby to find a new musical direction and then met with possible producers including Jeff "Skunk" Baxter before deciding on David Foster.

New label, mainstream success

The Completion Backward Principle (1981) was engineered by Humberto Gatica and produced by David Foster (Earth, Wind and Fire). It featured the classic rock radio staple "Talk to Ya Later" written by Waybill, Foster and Toto guitarist Steve Lukather. The song writing credits were shared again but included input from all members including "Attack of the 50 Foot Women" by Prince, "Think About Me" by Cotten, "Don't Want To Wait Anymore" by Vince Welnick and "Matter of Pride" by Steen. The album was a satire of Reagan's "Morning in America" corporate movement and included pictures of the band members cleaned up and wearing suits. The band also had their first Top 40 hit in the United States in 1981, "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" with vocals by Spooner. The band returned to the road in America and Europe with a new stage show designed by Cotten, Prince and Kenny Ortega and featured new dancers including Cynthia Rhodes who would leave soon after to star in Flashdance and Staying Alive. Re Styles was not asked to perform with band but was still dating Prince. While on tour in Italy the band was forced off stage by local police with machine guns and they escaped the country with the promoters money after he failed to deliver professional shows. The single "Sports Fans" was recorded live during half-time of the legendary San Francisco 49ers The Catch (American Football) game, Tubes crew members can be seen on the side lines in the slow motion replay.

As the band gained more mainstream popularity Waybill auditioned for roles in Night Shift and Streets of Fire and also appeared on Late Night with David Letterman twice.

Outside Inside (1983) was produced by David Foster and included the number 10 (USA) hit "She's a Beauty." The album was recorded with several studio musicians including members of Chicago and Toto. The slicker sound added to the tension between the "art" oriented members of the group Mike, Spooner and Prince and the pop music fans Steen and Waybill. The band performed "Monkey Time" on Solid Gold and toured America, mostly playing theme parks like Six Flags Magic Mountain and colleges for a new generation of fans. The band also filmed an hour-long concert special at the Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco which played on MTV and was directed by Jim Yukich. "She's a Beauty" won song of the year and the Tubes performed live at the BAM (magazine) music awards.

Love Bomb and departure from Capitol Records

In 1984, the band teamed up with Todd Rundgren again for their seventh album, Love Bomb (released in February 1985). Tired of spending money at other recording studios, the band built their own studio with Rundgren called "Cavum Soni" and XTC recorded several tracks for Skylarking there with Todd. Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze sings back up on "Night People." The entire recording process was video taped by a camera crew on Betamax. Bruce Garfield and Bobby Colomby were dropped by Capitol in the company-wide layoffs that took place pre-reorganization, like many of their label mates the Tubes also were released; however, this occurred just as they were going on tour in support of the album. The band found it necessary to self-finance the tour as a matter of respect to honor their commitment to their fans. Between this tour's self-financing and the band's continued self-financing of their San Francisco recording studio built in 1980, the tour left the band in a half million dollars in debt, obliging them to play lesser expensive and smaller venues for a year to pay off their financial commitments. The Tubes also recorded several songs for movie soundtracks including Hardbodies, My Science Project, and She's Out of Control. Bill Spooner also recorded a solo album titled First Chud, released on The Residents' record label Ralph Records.

Waybill departs

Fee Waybill had already released an unsuccessful solo album (Read My Lips, Capitol Records) in 1984 and was on camera talent for the 1985 MTV Video Awards. He had also happily enjoyed a fruitful writing partnership with fellow Capitol Records label mate Richard Marx, their most popular and well known collaboration being "Edge of a Broken Heart," recorded by the female band Vixen. Waybill left the band in 1986 ["Fee broke up," one band member said], leaving the band without a lead singer. Waybill also recorded songs for the soundtracks of St. Elmo's Fire, Running Scared, Dream a Little Dream, and Nobody's Perfect.

Personnel changes

Later in the year the remaining members of the band hired longtime friend from Phoenix, Arizona, David Killingsworth, as lead vocalist. Killingsworth was the singer in the Red and White Blues Band with Prince and Steen. The band appeared on The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers on Fox in 1987 and played "Talk to Ya Later," a new song called "No Baby's Gonna Break My Heart" and were also interviewed.

Michael Cotten relocated to New York City to pursue a career based on his artwork, stage design and production, and is considered one of the country's top production designers.

In the fall of 1988, Bill Spooner traveled his final tour with the band and left in early 1989. Vince Welnick departed as well to take to the road with Todd Rundgren in 1989 and then joined the Grateful Dead in 1990. Gary Cambra joined on keyboards and guitar in 1989. He and Roger Steen took over most of the lead vocal duties after Killingsworth left in early 1990.

Waybill returns

In 1993, Fee Waybill rejoined the band. This lineup toured Europe and released two albums, a compilation and the 1996 album Genius of America. David Medd joined in 1996 to play keyboards alongside Cambra. In 2001, the band released a live CD, The Tubes World Tour 2001, and continued to tour.

This century

The band has toured the United States each year with a line-up of Waybill, Steen, Anderson, Medd, Gary Cambra and Prince. Cambra left in 2006.

After a 2004 tour of the UK, the London show was released as a live album and DVD called Wild in London.

In September 2007, the remaining members reunited in Phoenix for induction into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall Of Fame.

They toured the UK in 2009, and the UK and Europe in 2012. In July 2015, they started a 40th anniversary European tour, including dates in Germany, Sweden and the UK. Dates in the U.S. followed.

The Tubes Project and other milestones

Michael Cotten started "The Tubes Project" in 2005, to save and digitize the band's reel to reel and video tape archive. The collection had been kept in the closet of Tubes fan club president Marylin Wood's son after being discarded in the late 1980s. Included in the vault are full color shows taped for TV at Bimbos in San Francisco, 1975 and VARA TV from the 1977 European tour. Over 70 interviews were conducted with band members, crew, managers, cast and colleagues such as Re Styles, Todd Rundgren, Al Kooper, Devo and David Foster. Hundreds of photos were scanned and compiled from band members and fan collections for use in the hour and half documentary.

After leaving the band, Jane Dornacker performed as stand-up comedian and later worked as a traffic reporter with the team that replaced Howard Stern at WNBC. She was killed in a helicopter crash in 1986, while giving a live report. She had crashed once before and swam to safety. A benefit show was held for her daughter at the Warfield in San Francisco with the Tubes and Todd Rundgren.

On November 10, 2009, "Mondo Birthmark" a CD of previously unreleased rarities, was released through the label Fuel 2000. The package was designed by Michael Cotten and Prairie Prince with rare photos and interviews of the group. The demos also feature former member Bob Macintosh on drums.

Career highlights

  • 1972: Tubes appear in Mitchell brothers pornographic film Resurrection of Eve as Jesus Bongo and the Millionaires.
  • 1973: Opened for the New York Dolls at the Matrix, Iggy Pop at Bimbos, and Led Zeppelin at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
  • 1974: Tubes shoot "video demo" at California Hall, which lands a record deal at A&M Records, Cotten/Prince paint "Flying Record" mural on A&M sound stage.
  • 1975: Tubes play for two weeks of shows at David Allen's nightclub The Boarding House in San Francisco, several sell-out dates at The Roxy in Los Angeles and The Bottom Line in New York. On December 31, they sell out Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom.
  • 1976: Held residency at Bimbos in San Francisco for one month, Prairie Prince dubbed "The One, The Only" by columnist Herb Caen. Tubes hold "Talent Hunt" at the Boarding House hosted by Martin Mull; Robin Williams is contestant but loses.
  • 1977: Held residency at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco for one month, the Whisky a Go Go nightclub in Los Angeles for two shows a night for one month, and Hammersmith Odeon in London for a week.
  • 1978: Headlined the Knebworth Festival (with special guest Dolly Parton), with Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel.
  • 1978: The Tubes performed on Cher... Special (with special guest Dolly Parton)
  • 1979: Tubes play Japan; Cotten/Welnick/Prince/Styles appear on Japanese soap opera. Tubes appear in Andy Warhol's Interview magazine.
  • 1980: Made an appearance in the film Xanadu singing the rock portion of the cross-genre song "Dancin'" opposite a big band.
  • 1980: Sold out the Roxy Theatre for 12 shows
  • 1981: Record Grammy nominated "The Tubes Video" at Shepperton Studios, one of the first long form video discs.
  • 1981: Sang "Sushi Girl" and "Talk to Ya Later" on the television sketch comedy program SCTV, Episode #86 airing July 24.
  • 1981: Played "Sushi Girl" and "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" on Tomorrow with Tom Snyder. Waybill, Spooner and Mike are interviewed by Tom.
  • 1981: Compose the song "Road Map of My Tears" for the film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, in which Waybill and Welnick appear, among other musicians, as the fictional rock group The Metal Corpses.
  • 1982: Appeared in a commercial for Activision's video game Megamania.
  • 1983: Opened several dates for David Bowie on the Serious Moonlight tour and on this tour, among other highlights, they were the first artists to ever play the newly opened Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. At the end of the Bowie tour, they played a few shows featuring their classic no-holds-barred theatrics in Portland, Oregon, and other west-coast cities.
  • 1985: Tour with Todd Rundgren's Utopia, play Radio City Music Hall.
  • Songs

    She's a BeautyOutside Inside · 1983
    White Punks On DopeThe Tubes · 1975
    Talk To Ya LaterThe Completion Backward Principle · 1981


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