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 soon became media darlings, soon signing a recording contract with A&M Records.
This Winterland performance from May of 1974 captures the band prior to their first album, opening a bill for headliners Journey and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. While a thoroughly engaging performance and one long time 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, despite an abundance of booing from an audience unprepared for the band's onslaught. The strength of front man Fee Waybil's many characters, including Mondo Bondage Fee and Quay Lewd Fee, which both make appearances here, comes across surprisingly well in this context. The often hilarious and sarcastic onstage banter prefacing many of the songs helps to put much of this material in context.
The show kicks off in fine form with an early extended version of "Up From The Deep," featuring impressive musicianship, particularly from guitarist Roger Steen and drummer Prairie Prince, who is truly outstanding throughout this exuberant performance. The Tubes continue with the stimulating sequence of "Lunch Face" and "Wonderbread Bodies" before barreling their way through the "Crime Medley" and eventually into "Mondo Bondage." So much transpires here that it defies description. "Brighter Day," with its infectious James Brown-style guitar riffs, displays a deep funky groove that is undeniable. Following these, Waybil transforms into Quay Lewd for an amusing and swirling blend of the Rolling Stones' "Bitch" segueing directly into the Velvet Underground's "Waiting For The Man" and finally "Stand Up And Shout."
The set builds to a final frenzy with the scathing generation gap commentary of "You'll Never Amount To Nothing," followed by "Love Her Like A Man," a power pop rarity unavailable on their albums. The set concludes with the Tubes taking dead aim at the excessive behavior of their rich, white teenage fan base with the anthem "White Punks On Dope." As Winterland stage manager and master of ceremonies, Jerry Pompili, so eloquently states during his outro announcement, "San Francisco's own Theater Of The Absurd—the Tubes."