In 1983 I went with my brother and two cousins to see David Bowie at the Tacoma Dome. While Bowie was outstanding, it was the band that opened for him that fascinated me. They were none other than the Tubes.
They opened their act by entering the stage wearing black business suits. Then, just like that, they pulled them off and under them they were wearing orange pants and shirts. The crowd danced and went crazy like it was a full moon.
The lead singer, Fee Waybill, sang all of their trade mark songs:Mr. Hate, Talk to Ya Later, White Punks on Dope.
What was most remarkable was their stage show. For instance, during his song Sports Fans, he and two women dressed as cheer leaders spelled out the word Tubes by putting their bodies together. Then he came on as a whacked out glam rocker for the song White Punks On Dope. I think the most memorable moment was when Fee stripped down to studded underwear. Pure shock and awe for a fifteen year old.
But alas, this was 1983 and by then the Tubes had toned down their act. However, in their early days their stage show was a modern day Roman orgy of bondage and scantily clad women which the lead singer simulated sex with. In fact, their shows were so lewd they were banned in England. In one venue in London the local authorites took a fire hose to the fans when they set fire to the theater seats.
But despite their raucous concerts, their schtick was quite clever and very tongue and cheek, often times mocking pop culture. As mentioned before the lead singer came up with some very funny characters. His most famous was Quay Lewd, a glam rocker dressed in a white suit with plumage and oversized sequined sunglasses, who played a white oblong shaped guitar. He donned this outfit when he sang White Punks On Dope. My other favorite persona was Johnny Bugger and the Dirt Boxes. He took on this character when he sang the song I Was A Punk Before You.
What was also unique about the band was that it was not made up of just men. There was a lone woman named Re Stiles who would sing lurid duets with Fee Waybill.
The Tubes hit their stride with their most playable song She's A Beauty on their album Outside Inside. That album had a few other good tracks as well. My favorite was the Wild Women Of Wongo. They faded again into obscurity with their next album Love Bomb and after that I out grew them.
I will always have a special place in my heart for the Tubes. They were one of the first groups that I liked that no one else did. Today, compared to other bands their antics and stage show might seem pretty tame. But to date, I haven't seen a group that is as creative as they were.