A Guide For Getting Into: The Tubes

Published on November 29th, 2009 in: Issues, Music, Retrovirus |

By Matt Keeley

I have many things to thank SCTV for in my life. Mostly, all the great sketch comedy and showing me how it should be done. But there’s something else: my Tubes fandom.

album the tubes

At the tender age of seven (or thereabouts), I saw the SCTV episode that featured the Tubes, and, well, I was hooked. It did take me a long time to buy one of their albums—as a seven-year-old, I didn’t have the pocket change (or attention span to really enjoy listening to albums), but it was in the back of my mind forever.

A few years later, I saw a copy of the self-titled Tubes album at a used book and record store. Again, I came close to picking it up; it was on vinyl, and my parents had finally gotten their turntable fixed so I had something to listen to it on. Until then, I’d just listened to cassettes, but my interest in the turntable prodded them into picking up a new drive band. . . to, um, replace the one I broke while experimenting with the player a couple years before that. My dad DID buy a new copy of his favorite Traffic album, but they never did anything for me. Me, I should have got the Tubes record, but I was pretty committed to buying a whole bunch of books, and so I got a whole bunch of books. I can be pretty single-minded when I want to be.

And a few years after that, while I was in high school, I was at Tower, and after not being able to find what I was looking for the whole “HEY! The Tubes! You saw them on SCTV and they ruled!” thought smacked me in the head, so I went to the end of the Ts. At the time, the only albums in print still were two of the A&M records: the aforementioned self-titled debut and their last for the label, Remote Control. I grabbed both of them, and, finally having followed through on my former seven-year-old self’s realization, I started tracking down the rest of the albums.

Luckily, What Do You Want From Live? was in print in the UK, so I imported that one, along with the three albums they did for Capitol records, The Completion Backward Principle, Outside Inside, and Love Bomb. And, eventually, I found the other two A&M ones, Now and Young & Rich on vinyl, so I had the complete set. (Though I have Genius of America, I’ve never made it all the way through.)

I noticed immediately that the Tubes records are separated into distinct eras, easily identifiable, as it turns out, by the label they were recording for. My preference is for the A&M era. While the Tubes never lost their sense of humor, it’s most prevalent on these records, and they just seem more fun.

Of the Capitol era, their debut, The Completion Backward Principle, is their best, but also the source of their most success. And as Capitol kept demanding more Principles, you could hear the fun being sucked out of the band as they were encouraged not to write musical projects but musical product.

quay lewd and band
Fee Waybill as “Quay Lewd”
performing with the rest of The Tubes, London 1977
Photo © The Tubes Project

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2 Responses to “A Guide For Getting Into: The Tubes”

  1. Tony Ruiz:
    January 16th, 2012 at 12:01 am

    I still have The Tubes self titled album and Young and Rich, of course in Vinyl. I feel those were the best from the Tubes and maybe the “real” music the way the Tubes wanted it. “What Do You Want From Life”, “Dont Touch Me There”, “White Punks On Dope” are still timeless classics to me.

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    […] the Tubes once sang, TV is king — and television in 2015 is no exception. There were a ton of great series […]

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