The Tubes

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This article is about the American rock band. For the band's first album, see The Tubes (album).
The Tubes
Tubes 29111977 33 300x200.jpg
The Tubes in Oslo, Norway, in 1977
Background information
Origin Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Genres Rock, punk, hard rock
Years active 1972–present
Labels A&M, Capitol
Website Official website
Members Roger Steen
Prairie Prince
Rick Anderson
Fee Waybill
David Medd
Past members Vince Welnick
Bill Spooner
Michael Cotten
Bob Mcintosh
Re Styles
Mingo Lewis
Jane Dornacker
David Killingsworth
Gary Cambra

The Tubes is 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.[citation needed] 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 started as a group of high school friends from Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Two Phoenix bands, the Beans and The Red, White and Blues Band, both relocated to San Francisco in 1969 and eventually merged. The new band's core membership remained largely intact for more than a decade: Fee Waybill (real name John Waldo Waybill) (vocals), Bill "Sputnik" Spooner (guitar, vocals), Roger Steen (guitar), Prairie Prince (real name Charles L. Prince) (drums), Michael Cotten (synthesizer), Vince Welnick (piano), and Rick Anderson (bass). Singer Re Styles (born Shirley Marie MacLeod) (vocals) and ex-Santana percussionist Mingo Lewis were also fixtures for much of the band's early history.[1]

Show business excess was a common theme of the band's early work, with Waybill sometimes assuming the onstage persona of "Quay Lewd" (a pun on Quaalude), a drunk, drugged out, barely coherent lead singer, wearing flashing glasses and stilt-like tall platform shoes.

Debut album[edit]

The Tubes' first self-titled 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.[citation needed] 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"), and used this song as the opening track of her own debut album Nina Hagen Band, released 1978 on CBS/Germany Records. 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.

Second album[edit]

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, who died in a helicopter crash in 1986.

Third album, a live album, fourth album[edit]

The Tubes' third album gave way to thematic experimentation with Now (1977) and after their live record What Do You Want from Live (1978), recorded during their record breaking run at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, England, the fourth album for A&M, Remote Control (1979) was a concept album produced by Todd Rundgren about a television-addicted idiot-savant. The cover of Remote Control (1979) shows a baby watching American panel game show Hollywood Squares in a specially made "Vidi-Trainer".

Music videos[edit]

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.[2] However, the band did produce at least one collection of music videos, which were issued on the 1982 Pioneer Artists laserdisc "The Tubes Video" (this videodisc contained versions of twelve of the band's hits, including "White Punks on Dope", "Mondo Bondage", "Talk to Ya Later", and several others from yet-to-be-completed "The Completion Backwards Principle" album, in slickly produced music videos based on the group's stage shows).

Live shows[edit]

The Tubes put their creativity and art skills mainly into their live performances, in which songs could be full-fledged production numbers, 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 short of money.

Departure from A&M Records and tenure with Capitol Records[edit]

Their fifth studio album, the self-produced Suffer for Sound, was meant to complete the group's contract with A&M. As its style marked a radical new direction for the band, A&M opted for a more conservative outtakes / B-sides / oddities selection titled T.R.A.S.H. (Tubes Rarities and Smash Hits) (1981).[3] The band was signed to Capitol Records by Bruce Garfield and Bobby Colomby, scaling back the live shows to cut costs and redesigning itself as a leaner ensemble with a view to release more accessible hits.

Fifth and sixth albums[edit]

Suffer For Sound was not released, so their fifth album release was The Completion Backward Principle (1981), another concept album, featuring the classic rock staple "Talk to Ya Later". The album presented itself as a motivational business document, complete with shocking pictures of the band members cleaned up and wearing suits.[citation needed] The band also had their first Top 40 hit in the United States in 1981, "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" (recorded almost entirely by Spooner, without Waybill's participation). The sixth studio album, Outside Inside (1983), followed a few years later and yielded a few hits, including the number 10 (USA) hit "She's a Beauty".

Seventh album and departure from Capitol Records[edit]

In 1985, the band teamed up with Todd Rundgren again for their seventh album, Love Bomb. With Bruce Garfield and Bobby Colomby 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.[3]

Waybill departs[edit]

Fee Waybill had already released an unsuccessful solo album (Read My Lips, Capitol Records) in 1984, but during this time, 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],[citation needed] leaving the band without a lead singer.

Personnel changes[edit]

Later in the year the remaining members of the band took on a longtime friend from Phoenix, Arizona, David Killingsworth, as lead vocalist. Killingsworth was the singer in the Red and White Blues Band with Prairie and Roger. Michael Cotten relocated to New York 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 the lead vocal duties after Killingsworth left in early 1990.

Waybill returns[edit]

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[edit]

The band has toured the U.S.A. each year with a line-up of Waybill, Steen, Anderson, Medd, Cambra and Prince.

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

A one-off reunion of the classic 1970s line-up (Waybill, Steen, Anderson, Spooner, Welnick and Cotten) took place at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz, CA in 2005.

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[edit]

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 formed the band Leila and the Snakes and later worked as a traffic reporter. She was killed in a helicopter crash in 1986, whilst giving a live report.

In April 2005, the band reunited for a concert at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz, California. It would be the last performance of The Tubes to include Vince Welnick. Welnick, who suffered from depression, committed suicide on June 2, 2006.

Gary Cambra left the band in 2006 leaving David Medd as their sole keyboardist.

On September 23, 2007, the band was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame.

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[edit]



Year Album details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1975 The Tubes
  • Released:
  • Label: A&M
  • Format:
1976 Young and Rich
  • Released:
  • Label: A&M
  • Format:
1977 Now
  • Released: May 1977
  • Label: A&M
  • Format:
1979 Remote Control
  • Released:
  • Label: A&M
  • Format:
46 40
1981 The Completion Backward Principle 36 CAN: Gold[5]
1983 Outside Inside
  • Released:
  • Label: Capitol
  • Format:
18 77
1985 Love Bomb
  • Released:
  • Label: Capitol
  • Format:
1996 Genius of America
  • Released: October 15, 1996
  • Label: Critique
  • Format:
2002 Hoods from Outer Space
  • Released: May 22, 2002
  • Label: Brilliant
  • Format: 1 Audio CD
2003 White Punks on Dope
  • Released: November 24, 2003
  • Label: Acadia Records (UK)
  • Budget re-release of The Tubes and Young and Rich
  • Format: 1 Audio CD
2009 Mondo Birthmark
  • Released: November 10, 2009
  • Label: Fuel
  • Format: Audio CD
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


Compilation albums[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1981 T.R.A.S.H. (Tubes Rarities and Smash Hits)
  • Released:
  • Label: A&M
  • Format:
1992 The Best of the Tubes
  • Released: November 17, 1992
  • Label: Capitol
  • Format: 1 Audio CD
2000 Millennium Collection: The Tubes
  • Released: October 17, 2000
  • Label: [A&M]
  • Format: 1 Audio CD
2008 Goin' Down the Tubes
  • Released: June 10, 2008
  • Label: (UK import) Cherry Red
  • Format: 2 Audio CDs

Live albums[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions Sales Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1978 What Do You Want from Live
  • Released:
  • Label:A&M
  • Format:
82 38
2001 The Tubes World Tour 2001 (live)
  • Released: October 10, 2000
  • Label: CMC
  • Format: 1 Audio CD; 1 Cassette
2005 Wild in London
  • Released: October 2, 2006
  • Label: Snapper
  • Format:
2006 Alive in America
  • Released: '76 live broadcast from LA Shrine
  • Label: (unsanctioned) Renaissance
  • Format: Audio CD


Year Song Peak chart positions Album
1976 "Don't Touch Me There" 61 Young and Rich
1977 "White Punks on Dope" 28 The Tubes
1979 "Prime Time" 34 Remote Control
1981 "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" 35 22 60 The Completion Backward Principle
"Talk to Ya Later" 101 7
"Gonna Get It Next Time" Sports Fans
1983 "She's a Beauty" 10 1 79 Outside Inside
"Tip of My Tongue" 52
"The Monkey Time" 68 16
1985 "Piece by Piece" 87 25 Love Bomb
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Video albums[edit]

Year Video details
1981 The Tubes Video
1982 The Tubes: Live at the Greek

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jancik, Wayne; Lathrop, Tad (1996). Cult Rockers: 150 of the most controversial, distinctive and intriguing, outrageous and championed rock musicians of all time. Pocket Books. 
  2. ^ Tobler, John (1984). MTV Music Television: Who's Who in Rock Video. Quill. ISBN 068804042X. 
  3. ^ a b Gold, Kimberlye. "He'll Talk to Ya Now!". Archived from the original on April 26, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Tubes Winterland San Francisco, CA Dec 31, 1975". Concert Vault. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Gold and Platinum". Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 568. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]