Rick Anderson - bass; Michael Cotten - synthesizers; Prairie Prince - drums; Bill Spooner - guitar, vocals; Roger Steen - guitar, harmonica, vocals; Re Styles - vocals; Fee Waybill - lead vocals; Vince Welnick - keyboards; Guest: Boz Scaggs - guitar and dancing on "White Punks On Dope"
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. 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, which included video monitors, semi-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. Appearing several years too early to benefit from MTV and the dawning age of rock video, the Tubes directed their visual creativity into their live performances, with many of their songs becoming full-blown production numbers. By the time of this 1976 performance, the group had developed a massive stage production that was choreographed by Kenny Ortega and featured over a dozen cast members, including acrobats and tap dancers.
These 1976 King Biscuit Flower Hour recordings capture the Tubes approaching the peak of their onstage insanity, when they headlined a concert at Oakland's Paramount Theatre before a wildly enthusiastic home turf audience. Broadcast the following month, these live excerpts from that performance were big national radio exposure for the group and for many radio listeners, their first encounter with the Tubes. It also helped raise awareness of the release of their second album, Young And Rich, the title tune of which opened this broadcast. Featuring Bill Spooner's deliriously engaging vocal, "Young And Rich" serves as a slow dramatic buildup to the game show antics of "What Do You Want From Life." This begins with some funky finger work from keyboardist Vince Welnick and blazing guitar from Roger Steen before Fee Waybill launches the game by enticing the contestants' with an increasingly absurd range of prizes, beginning with bassist Rick Anderson and synth player Michael Cotten.
What follows is one of the most unusual song pairings ever dreamed up. Beginning with a take on Captain Beefheart's "Gimmee Dat Harp," the group's jagged rhythms and the raunchy blues harp of Roger Spooner are most impressive and show yet another facet to the band. This, quite surprisingly, serves as a prelude to the Neil Sedaka pop confection, "Love Will Keep Us Together!" This song had recently been an international hit for the Captain And Tenille, but the Tubes put a glam rock spin on it, sounding not unlike David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase.
It should also be noted that throughout the proceedings, drummer Prairie Prince is simply extraordinary, serving as the propulsive anchor to all the insanity swirling around him. A prime example follows as the Tubes take dead aim at the excessive behavior of their rich, white teenage fan base with the anthem "White Punks On Dope." With Waybill in glam rock icon mode as Quay Lude, this originally was the grand finale of the night, featuring all the bandmembers, support people, and choreographed cast and dancers on stage simultaneously. The audience is thoroughly engaged and a call and response of "White Punks On Dope!" develops between them and the band before a frantic jam ensues. Amidst all this chaos is Boz Scaggs, who has joined the band onstage playing his white Fender strat next to yet a fourth guitarist dressed in a gorilla suit! Riding high on the monumental success of his recent Silk Degrees album and decked out in a pinstripe suit, Scaggs joins in on the fun as Waybill shouts out, "Isn't that Boz Scaggs on dope?" Tubes guitarists Steen and Spooner, joined by Scaggs and the gorilla, begin bobbing the necks of their guitars up and down in unison, as Quay Lude humorously belts out "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar section!"
All this satire eventually builds to a rousing celebratory conclusion that originally ended the performance. However, tacked on the end as an outro to the radio broadcast is the band's lusty take on 1950s Girl Groups' "Don't Touch Me There." This hilarious ballad features singer and album cover model Re Styles and Waybill both fronting the band for a harmonious send-up of Phil Spector, to which the KBFH show ending credits were overdubbed. (That sequence is free of the overdubbed dialog here.) This engaging performance also reveals the Tubes greatest dilemma—how to translate their highly visual stage show to an entirely audio experience. Regardless, this is classic Tubes, and as their name suggests, they based their performances on the surreal, alternate reality of television in which anything could happen and nothing was off limits.