Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – White Dopes On Punk

Cam Profile Pic

This week we are going to rewind back to April 12, 1978. My assignment that day was to interview Fee Waybill, frontman for the always outrageous Tubes, prior to their show at the late-great Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. It was the third trip to Toronto after shows in the horrible International Centre and the always magnificent Massey Hall. They had just released their fourth album “What Do You Want From Live”, a double-live album, recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London.

The Tubes

The band has two distinct stages to their career – the over the top live presentation of their not suitable for radio songs, and, years later, the band with hit singles “She’s A Beauty”, “Sushi Girl”, “Talk To Ya Later”, and a stripped down stage show focused on their music.

The Tubes 2

I was doing the interview for the Toronto-based “new wave” magazine Shades. It debuted in 1978 and was the brainchild of editor George Dean Higton and associate editor Sheila Wawanash. These folks were older, artier, and much better educated than I was.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAI was still a teenager hanging around the punk scene but had some writing experience with The New Music Magazine and had a lot of connections within the local record industry. I wasn’t a great writer but they allowed me my column inches in what I now assume was in trade for albums and tickets I could acquire for them. I think there was only four or five issues ever published and this interview appeared in Shades No.2. Once again there was a pretty impressive masthead which included Ralph Alphonso, former Vancouver mayor candidate Kirk LaPointe, the dearly missed Steven Davey Shades 2(one time member of The Dishes and long-time food critic for Now Weekly), Freddie Pompeii (Viletones) and brilliant photographers Peter Noble and Rodney Bowes. Michael Wurstlin who worked for the magazine would later design the board for Trivial Pursuit, and luckily, even though dead-broke at the time,  took his initial payment in stocks and not cash. Hard to say how many millions that decision turned into.

One of the things I most remember about this show is that Rough Trade finally had their chance to make music on the stage at Maple Leaf Gardens. They had moved from Grossman’s and the Yonge Street Strip, added Terry Rough TradeWilkins and Bucky Berger to the band, and were starting to perform some of the songs that would appear on the breakthrough album “Avoid Freud“. As much as they tried to keep their cool they were all pretty excited to be in a dressing room, with a complete rider, and ready to play for the biggest crowd in their history. Somewhere in a box buried in the basement I still have some blurry Instamatic shots from the evening. I will find and a post a Rough Trade interview from this era in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime here is my chat with Mr. Fee “Waldo” Waybill.

Fee

Me – What can we expect from The Tubes after the ‘What Do You Want From Live’ album?

Fee – “Well for the next album you can expect to wait about eight months”.

Me – Will the live album be a turning point in the band’s history?

Fee – “Possibly. Yes, Most probably yes, but I’m not going to tell you”.

Me – Tell us about The Tubes in England.

Fee – “England was incredible! England was so great we almost decided never to play in the U.S.A. again, because they went completely berzerk in England. Totally nuts!”

Me – I noticed that you made the front cover of every big trade paper in the U.K..

Tubes live

Fee – “Yeah, I know, we just got amazing press. Everything we said they just totally twisted around and blew it out of proportion and put it on the front page. I loved it, it was great”.

Me – What was the original concept for The Tubes?

Fee – “It took so long to develop into what we are doing now that it really never started as a concept. We just got together and started playing and it developed over a number of years. We never had a specific concept in mind, it just came”.

Me – So did all the characters just naturally come into being?

Fee “Yeah, we just didn’t sit there and figure out all these characters and go and do ‘em. They came one by one, very slowly and they all keep changing”.

Me – How do you manage, physically and mentally, to change from character to character, in a two-hour show, seven nights a week?

Fee – “It’s very tiring. I get a lot of sleep. You just gotta keep in good shape and the only way to do it is not abuse yourself on the road. When ya got a five month tour in front of you, you just can’t start out by going berserk. You gotta pace yourself. Get a lot of rest, eat right and don’t take drugs. I don’t do any dope”.

Me – Speaking of dope, do you think that a lot of the audience misses the message in “White Punks On Dope”?

Fee LudeFee – “Sure, a lot of the times the kids are out there thinking that we’re telling them how to take Quaaludes. That’s what the problem is with our material, half of its going right over their heads. It depends on the city and on the crowd. Like if you play an intellectual college-like crowd, they’ll pick up a lot more. Whereas if you play somewhere like Chicago they’re screaming “White Punks” the second we step on stage. They don’t give a fuck! They don’t know what the hell is going on. It’s extremely frustrating for us. We go through extremely frustrating, depressing periods where we feel like we’re just jacking off. People are not getting it, we’re workin’ out fuckin’ butts off, they don’t understand it and there not buying our records”.

Me – How have sales been?

Fee- “Well this one has been the best. It’s surpassed the sales of the other three so we’re not as frustrated now”.

Me – I noticed the third studio album, “Now”, didn’t receive the same amount of promotion and press as the previous two.

Tubes Now

Fee – “Yeah, ‘Now’ was one of those frustrating depressing times I just talked about. We decided that we would try and put out more serious music on the album and go by making it on musically ability instead of the visual overload. Obviously the people didn’t want to hear that. They want to hear the bizarre rock numbers with parody, cynical wit. We try to do straight numbers and it’s just a big flop”.

Me – Do you think that someday you’ll be able to come on stage as a “straight” rock’n’roll band?

The Tubes

Fee – “We gotta be able to do that because we can’t continue to play this. It’s too hard on us. We’re not making money on it. We’re really only doing this as an act of love. We’re not getting rich, we’re just doing it for the people and having a great time”.

Three from The Tubes

…and NEVER forget this.

=CC=

Hear Cam spin every Wednesday night beginning at 5 PM at The Kensington Lodge in Toronto.

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music

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