‘The Tubes’: Debut Album By Flamboyant New Wave Headline-Grabbers

The 1975 debut album by the larger-than-life San Francisco band.

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'The Tubes' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
'The Tubes' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

A significant contribution to the new wave of music that was bubbling up from the underground in 1975, in both Europe and America, came from the San Francisco sound of the larger-than-life Tubes. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in June 1975.

The Tubes teamed the flamboyant group, fronted by Fee Waybill, with the production skills of widely-travelled rocker Al Kooper. The group had come together in San Francisco from origins among school friends in two bands, the Beans and the Red, White and Blues Band, back in Arizona.

Drummer Prairie Prince, born in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 7, 1950, is also an accomplished artist, typifying the band’s broad palette. As the Tubes, their colorful songs and stage delivery soon won them a live audience, all the more so when the album was released and reached No.113, in an 18-week run on the American charts.

Deliberately over-the-top

White Punks On Dope

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The tongue-in-cheek and deliberately over-the-top “White Punks On Dope” would go on to be one of the songs that united the British and American new wave movements. It became a Top 30 UK hit single in 1977, the year that that the band recorded their celebrated What Do You Want From Live album at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. The stirring “White Punks” later inspired a cover by Mötley Crüe.

“It’s about a bunch of rich kids we knew,” said co-writer and Tubes guitarist Bill Spooner. “You see all those ads on TV about drugs in the ghetto, and they say, it’s not their fault. They were born poor, and all they had to turn to was drugs. Well, in San Francisco, we know a whole bunch of these kids that are so rich, and they’re all strung out, and they’re total derelicts. So you don’t have to be poor to be a derelict.”

Kooper later said that he produced The Tubes as if it was the score for an imaginary Broadway musical. From the outset of “Up From The Deep,” it’s an endearingly oddball, episodic soundscape with myriad influences, tempo changes, big strings and much more.

Listen to uDiscover Music’s 50-song Tubes playlist.

“Haloes,” for example, has a melodic and edgy urgency somewhat reminiscent of Todd Rundgren, with a great drum pattern from Prairie Prince. The gentler elements and vocals of “Space Baby,” meanwhile, recall Steely Dan. They typify a notable recording debut by a band who never took themselves too seriously, but had huge talent to reinforce their individuality.

Buy or stream The Tubes.



  1. Jim

    May 8, 2017 at 1:24 am

    The Tubes are one of my all time favorites. I have seen them 6 times.

  2. Dave

    July 17, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    The Tubes are more than a band – they are an experience. Most lyrics are pure smart ass and the presentation by Fee is incredible. Add to that a very talented band and what was one of the craziest road shows out there and you have a great experience. They still tour minus the huge stage show and they still bring it.

  3. Oscar

    January 2, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was amazing! (Shown as backup band @ the Chicago show) One of my favorite bands of all time, they must have inspired The Tubes as they were one of the first to engage in rock theatrics & Alex was an incredible singer & character!

  4. Nicole Spooner

    October 18, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you for posting this! True in all the truest ways.

  5. Robert J

    January 2, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    I bought the album, way back in 1975 courtesy of a glowing review
    by Max Bell of the NME. It was excellent. Later releases didn’t
    quite live up to the original debut, but they had their moments.

    I saw The Tubes in 1977, and they were superb.
    Fashions come and go, and I got rid of the original albums.
    To cut a long story short, I got a copy of the debut at a record
    fair going cheaply. It sounds like a cross between Steely Dan and
    Frank Zappa, no mean feat.They have stood the test of time, with
    their witty songs and cynical outlook. WPOD still remains their masterpiece, with the Bowie-like vocals. Great stuff. 8/10

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