THE TUBES (Live at The Sage, Gateshead, U.K., October 20, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Famed for their outrageous shows in the 70s The Tubes ranked alongside KISS and Alice Cooper as one of the bands to see. Last year they celebrated 40 years in the business with a long awaited European tour. Now they are back for a more extensive run of shows with their Mondo Pulp Tour. Mick Burgess chatted to lead singer Fee Waybill about the tour and life in The Tubes.

You’ll be over for a series of 9 UK shows soon. Are you looking forward to coming back to the UK to play?

Oh, yeah. I love to come back to England. England is where it really broke open for us back in ’77-’78. It was great. We had a massive run at Hammersmith Odeon and we got a ton of press. When we went back to the USA everybody thought we were British. We’ve always done well over here and people seem to love us and appreciate our satirical theatrics so it’s always fun to come back. I’m so happy that we’ll be playing again for you soon. Most of the shows have sold out so it’s going to be a great tour. Everybody is looking forward to getting started.

What do you enjoy most about the UK?

I think it’s just about everything. I even like the food. I just love the humour. When Monty Python first came out I just thought it was the greatest thing on earth. I was such a fan of the dry English humour. When we first came over here we were doing our parody of various types of American society and they loved it. I think our sarcastic show goes down well over here. I sometimes work in theatre and last year I performed in Spamalot and played King Arthur in that and it was amongst some of the most fun I’ve ever had. I think it must be down to me being half English. My father was from Brighton so I just get it. I have an affinity for England and it feels like home to me.

On 20th October you head up to The Sage in Gateshead. It must be years since you’ve played up in the Newcastle region?

We haven’t been to Newcastle in a long, long time. I know on last year’s tour we got close and played in Leeds and in Scotland but didn’t actually play in Newcastle so we wanted to put that right this time. I have a really close friend in Newcastle and we have played there many times in the past so it’ll be great to come back again after so long. I used to have a Newcastle football club shirt with black and white stripes. I’m a polo player and the referee’s all wear black and white shirts so if I was asked to referee a game I’d wear my Newcastle shirt. It’ll be really nice to get back up there again.

Did you realise that the same night that you are playing at The Sage that The Four Tops and The Temptations are playing in the same venue?

The same night, in the same venue? Really? Wow, I love those guys and love Motown. We’ll be doing a James Brown Medley in our set so we love the music that’s for sure. I might just sneak out before our show and see if I can catch a couple of songs. The Four Tops and The Temptations together, that’s fantastic. They must be even older than we are.

Your shows always have a theatrical theme to them. Last year’s shows had a Film Noir background based on your love of classic black and white movies. This year it’s The Mondo Pulp tour. What does this involve?

The show is based on the Pulp Art era which included all those garish Pulp Art magazines. Film Noir was all black and white. This is all colour. I have a lot of new stuff, new outfits. Quentin Tarantino is a friend and we’re big fans of his movie Pulp Fiction so we open the show after the Overture with the song You Never Can Tell, a Chuck Berry song, which is from the scene where they do a twist contest. We do a little bit of some of the other material too like Jungle Boogie from the soundtrack to that movie. It’s kind of a world of Pulp tour. As usual we’ll include a lot of songs that we always have to do like White Punks, Talk To Ya Later and She’s A Beauty and everybody wants to hear What Do You Want From Life. We’re also including some songs that we’ve never played before live. We’ll be doing Golden Boy which is a Blues song from the third album. I’m going to do a StreetCar Named Desire type of Marlon Brando character for that one. We’re also doing a song from Remote Control called Love’s A Mystery and we haven’t played that since 1979. It’s exciting for us to be able to play these songs after so many years. I have about eight or nine costume changes during the show. The whole set is really a lot of fun for me to do so don’t miss it.

Last year was your 40th anniversary. Did you ever think when you first started in 1975 that you’d still be here four decades later?

Absolutely not, I had no idea. We were kids when we started and we just wanted to do something unique and have a show like nobody else’s show. We had no idea it would last this long, we thought by the time we got to 30, we’d be done.

Why do you think you managed to last this long when so many of your peers fell a long time ago?

I think we’ve all been lucky and stayed healthy. I think it’s also down to the fact that we don’t just sit there and play the same songs every night, we have a very visual, theatrical production. We keep changing it every year and change everything around. We add new characters, new costumes and new songs, so it’s different every time you come and see us. That keeps it fresh for the fans and for us too.

The band still includes 4 original members that is a rarity these days including yourself, Prairie Prince (drums), Roger Steen (guitar) and Rick Anderson (bass). 40 years is a long time for 4 guys to still play together. What is it about the four of you that keeps you working together so well?

We’re all about the same age and most of us went to the same High School together in Arizona and we all grew up together and we all took the plunge of leaving Arizona to move to San Francisco together to make it all work. We were friends before we ever decided to be in a band together. There’s no secrets anymore. Everybody knows everybody so well. I know these guys better than my own brother. Roger and Prairie have actually been in bands together for 50 years so they go back even further. We all just get it. We’ve all got over whatever you do that annoys people, so there’s none of that. It’s all pretty cool.

You’re known for those incredible theatrical costumes. Was that always the plan from day one or did you start off in jeans and T-shirts?

It was always the plan. I was a junior major in performing arts. When we joined Rick’s band, The Beans, in Arizona the first thing we did was come out as The Radar Men From Uranus. We wore tin foil space suits that we made. We came out as spacemen in our very first gig. Everybody loved it. We got such a great response that it fuelled the fire and it just got bigger and better over the years and we’ve done this big theatrical live performance ever since. That’s just what we do. If we didn’t do that then people would just look at us and ask what is going on. People don’t pay for us to stand there in jeans and T-shirts, they want to see a show so that’s exactly what we give them. If you’ve never seen The Tubes before, you’d better make it out, it’ll be weird and it’ll be exciting.

The boots you wear as Quay Lewd make those worn by Paul Stanley of KISS look like flip flops. How on earth did you manage to move in those?

I had 40 years of practice so I got used to them. It was tricky at first but I got the hang of it in the end. Quay Lewd will be in the show with the big shoes, with 18 inch platforms.

Did you ever have any mishaps when you were wearing them?

I never hurt myself in those shoes, I don’t know how but years ago when I was doing the parody of the Punk character with a chainsaw, I fell off the stage and broke my leg and the chainsaw kept running. That was not good.

Talking of those characters like Quay Lewd and Dr Strangekiss, how did you come up with so many different characters? Did you create characters for specific songs?

It’s happened both ways but most of the time the song came first and we’d do some character that linked to the song. “White Punks On Dope” came before the Quay Lewd character. We developed him later as a drugged out Rock star guy with platform boots that are just too big for him. It also works the other way too. I wanted to do a gameshow host character so we developed that into the song What Do You Want From Life. I actually did a couple of game show pilots back in the early days. You know, we were TV babies and grew up in the ’50’s so it was all so natural for us. We are such media junkies that we get ideas from movies like Dr. Strangelove. We love that so much that we just had to do a parody and we did Dr. Strangekiss.

Along with Kiss and Alice Cooper a Tubes show is a real event. Were you every worried that the show would overshadow the music or were you confident at the strength of your music?

I think for a while, the show did overshadow the music. In the early years we made five records at A&M and didn’t sell that many records but we did this huge show. It was all about the show. When we went to Capitol Records they wanted us to sell records and get on the radio. We came up with “Talk To Ya Later” and “Don’t Want To Wait Anymore”. I think the level of songwriting was elevated. We then had a big show and we did sell a lot of records.

Do you have any plans to write new material? It’s been nearly 20 years since Genius of America came out.

I don’t think so. Nobody cares about new material these days. When we do new material people just stare at us. They want to hear “White Punks On Dope”, they want to hear the songs that they were listening to when they asked their wife to marry them or those they listened to what they were at college.

What about the future. What projects have you got lined up over the coming months?

I’m working on a solo record now which I’ve been working on for years. I’ve got six or eight songs that Richard Marx and I have written together. It’s still a work in progress so I don’t know when it’ll come out. As far as The Tubes go, we have just recorded eight shows in Germany and we’ll do a Tubes Live In Germany album, so that’ll be the next project for us. We might put a couple of new songs on that album too.

What about a comprehensive boxed set?

That could well happen. Mike Cotton has been working on The Tubes documentary for five or six years and he just e-mailed me three or four days ago and said that he has a company interested in producing this. We have a ton of material that we can use for an anthology so that’s a real possibility.

The Tubes are on tour in the UK now.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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