Rick Anderson - bass; Michael Cotten - synthesizers; Prairie Prince - drums; Bill Spooner - guitar, vocals; Roger Steen - guitar, vocals; Re Styles - vocals; Fee Waybill - lead vocals; Vince Welnick - keyboards
A wild mix of progressive rock theater, multimedia, and scathing social criticism of America's television culture, The Tubes were unquestionably one of the most outrageous groups to surface in the Bay Area. As their name suggests, The Tubes based their performances on the surreal, alternate reality of television in which anything could happen and nothing was off limits. Most of the band's members had spent time in art school, and this had a profound effect on their approach to music, which contained extravagant theatrics, including video screens, naked women, motorcycles, dancers and even chainsaws.
After working continuously around San Francisco in the early 1970s, turning many a head in the process, they began expanding their reach to several high profile clubs in Los Angeles, like The Roxy and The Whiskey A-Go-Go, where they became media darlings, soon signing a recording contract with A & M Records.
This Record Plant performance, the first of two that The Tubes participated in during 1974, captures the band prior to their first album. While a thoroughly engaging performance and one longtime fans are sure to treasure, it also reveals The Tubes greatest dilemma - how to translate their highly visual stage show to an entirely audio experience. Still, the soundtrack to their bizarre stage show clearly comes across in this performance. The strength of front man Fee Waybill's many characters, including Cowboy Fee, Mondo Bondage Fee and Quay Lewd Fee all make appearances here and they come across surprisingly well in this context. Verbal explanations precede many of the songs, which help put much of this material in context.
The show kicks off in fine instrumental form with an early extended version of "Up From The Deep," featuring impressive musicianship, particularly from guitarist Roger Steen. "Hip Dip" approaches more accessible pop, while establishing a new dance-craze Tubes-style. Other highlights include the lyrically stimulating sequence beginning with "Wonderbread Bodies" and transitioning through the "Crime Medley" and eventually into "Mondo Bondage." So much transpires here that it defies description. "Brighter Day," with its infectious James Brown-like guitar riff, displays an intensely deep groove. Waybill transforms into Quay Lewd for an amusing and entertaining swirling blend of The Rolling Stones' "Bitch," The Velvet Underground's "Waiting For My Man" and "Stand Up And Shout."
The set concludes with the scathing generation gap commentary of "You'll Never Amount To" which morphs into The Tubes classic, "White Punks On Dope" to close the set. As host and DJ Tom Donahue so eloquently states during the introduction to this show, "radio is theater of the mind." This statement is thoroughly applicable to this vintage performance from The Tubes.