The new wave angst of The Tubes, the band formed in Phoenix who relocated to San Francisco, was a little too edgy for the Billboard Hot 100 of 1977. But on November 19, 1977, they invaded the UK charts with the satirical “White Punks On Dope.”
The song stands as one of the enduring anthems of that new wave period, even if it was already two years old, coming from the Tubes’ self-titled debut album of 1975. It was written by the band’s Bill Spooner and Roger Steen with Michael Evans, and the album produced by longtime rock studio figurehead Al Kooper.
“Some took ‘White Punks on Dope’ literally,” the Tubes’ drummer Prairie Prince told triblive.com in October 2018. “We were also advocating anti-drugs as well. A lot of our friends died and overdosed and passed out, and lot of rock idols we knew were passing in front of our eyes. We had to make a statement.”
The Tubes, the Sex Pistols, the Stranglers and…ABBA
As ever, it’s amusing to recall the musical climate in Britain in those punky days. Released on A&M — the same label that had signed and then dropped the Sex Pistols within the space of a week some eight months earlier — “White Punks On Dope” entered the chart as the Pistols descended the Top 40 with “Holiday In The Sun,” as did the Stranglers with “No More Heroes.” But those new wavers were in the minority, as ABBA continued at No.1 with “The Name Of The Game,” Queen rose to No.2 with “We Are The Champions” and the Top 10 included Status Quo, Rod Stewart and the Bee Gees.
“White Punks On Dope” climbed to No.28 in the UK, which was the Tubes’ highest-ever singles placing, but they would enjoy a fleeting Top 40 appearance with the subsequent live album that contained the song. What Do You Want From Live was released in February 1978 and recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in London.
“White Punks On Dope” is on the album The Tubes, which can be bought here.
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