This record appears to me the very embodiment of things changing in music. The bridge between progressive rock and the murmurings of punk rock on the horizon. I bought this record for 10 pence in a recycling centre. You can get this record for nothing all over the place and its extraordinarily unfashionable but brims with tongue in cheek nonsense and great tunes. It is ‘of its time’.
I first became aware of The Tubes in about 1978 whilst shopping for punk and new wave records as a 14 year old. I immediately became enormously fascinated with the contents of the inside cover of their ‘What do you want from Live’ record which has various pictures of women dressed in bondage gear with tape across their barely covered nipples and er, was that Fee Waybill’s Johnson sticking out of his silver pants. Endlessly mysterious to me at that stage.
I had no awareness of them in 1975. I was too busy absorbing my brother’s records; Traffic, Sabbath, Zeppelin, etc and listening to the Beatles which I think is a stage we all go through as record collectors. So here we go through the first Tubes album.
The cover kind sets the tone. The Tubes were never shy of a little theatricality as I have alluded above . The back cover of this record shows a rubber clad woman with a tyre inner tube around her. Its a classic sexist 1970’s cover, almost ‘Scorpianesque’. Another perfect record for adolescents.
The record starts with ‘Up From the Deep’ . Progressive pomposity with pretend sitar synths, genesis style keyboards, space noises, grand pianos, great thunder rolls of drums like a big symphony of the deep with orchestral sections. It’s great fun. Think a big Hawkwind/Genesis sandwich. Mmm tasty.
Haloes starts with simmering strings (synths of course, The Tubes were very synthy) and sounds like something off John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic with (synth) horns giving it a meaty feel mixed with the comforting West Coast warmth of Steely Dan.
Space Baby goes for another chameleon change when they start sounding like Bowie with Space theme to match ‘Space baby got no planet’ a big old guitar solo and a folk chant bridge in the middle. I kid you not, listen to it
Then comes the utterly nonsensical Malaguena Salerosa, an oft covered Mexican ballad about a gent who is too poor for his lady together with (pretend) mariachi horns, freeform yodelling and a big ole at the end. As you can see this record keeps its enormous tongue either firmly in the cheek or enthusiastically licking the side of this black wax record.
Which brings us the Mondo Bondage, a PVC clad cock (space) rock classic informing us of the huge pleasure to be had from the fem dom scene. The film of this on You Tube has to be seen to be believed. Not sure how they away with it back then. They certainly weren’t afraid of a little controversy
Another Tubes classic tunes What do you want from Life? is a tongue in cheek view of commercialism that still resonates today as Fee states that every American household should have a ‘Gucci Shoe Tree’ and a ‘reconditioned third reich swizzle stick’
Boy Crazy is an all American pop song followed by White Punks on Dope which is the song that people remember with the Tubes doing a fair old job of sounding a bit like the up and coming New York Dolls. Its a song about growing up in Hollywood with the famous line ‘hang myself when I got enough rope’ adapted by the Clash to name their second album
Now this is no work of genius. Far too full of pomp but laden with masses of humour. It is hopelessly out of fashion but I kind of like that. People are far too reliant on fashion to state publically their music taste . So this is me pinning my musical taste to the flag and flying it high. Try it. You might like it. You’ll certainly like this video if you are a heterosexual gent (or 14 year old one).