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The Tubes’ satire rock still feels special

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The Tubes

Viper Alley, 275 Parkway Drive, Lincolnshire

8:30 Oct. 26

$25 to $60 (or $500 for up to eight people in a premium booth).

(847) 499-5000 or visit

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Updated: October 18, 2012 5:06PM

In their early days, The Tubes were an often-scandalous satire-rock band.

Their wildly theatrical live shows were infamous for vivid depictions of kinky sex, half-naked dancing girls and grand guignol violence. The attitude was way ahead of its time.

The group made fun of glam rock when it was still breaking news in the early ’70s and they had punk attitudes years before punk-rock — including an anti-drug stance captured in their 1975 single “White Punks on Dope.”

So it’s all the more impressive that they are still in the game 40 years later.

This year the group has put together a “La Dolce Tubes” tour (inspired by Fellini’s 1960s film “La Dolce Vita,” a band favorite), featuring five longtime members of The Tubes (front man Fee Waybill, guitarist Roger Steen, drummer Prairie Prince, bass player Rick Anderson and pianist David Medd). The tour includes an Oct. 26 appearance at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire.

Pioneer caught up with Waybill between shows for a quick chat about rock ‘n’ roll excess, pig guts and contagious joy.

PIONEER: To what extent has Tubes material over the years been intended to be humorous and satiric?

FEE WAYBILL: That was our purpose, from the beginning: to be satirists. We loved those wise-guy satiric comedians from the old days, like Mort Sahl and George Carlin. So, from the very beginning, that was our deal: to make a concerted effort to hold up the crazy stuff in our culture and rub it in people’s faces. Whatever the subject was, we always wanted to push it to a ridiculous extreme and cram it down people’s throats, so maybe they’d think about it.

Q: There was a story going around in the ’70s about the band shoveling large piles of fake Quaaludes in the audience when you were performing “White Punks on Dope.”

FW: That never happened. We did a show once, opening for Led Zeppelin and I had a big bag of what I told the audience was Quaaludes, but was actually mints. And I threw it into the audience, along with some flour, which I said was cocaine.

We did do stuff with pig guts. . . We used to throw pig guts into the audience when we were doing “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hospital” and the doctor would use a chainsaw to perform surgery on a pregnant woman. But we’re not doing that stuff now. People really didn’t appreciate pig guts being thrown on them. It wasn’t a crowd-pleaser. (Laughs)

We used to get in trouble all the time for that kind of stuff. We used to have topless dancers, for instance, and that turned out to be something law enforcement officers in various states weren’t fond of.

Q: What’s the play list like these days?

FW: We do stuff from every album. We do the whole range of stuff, naturally including the hits that people want to see, like “White Punks” and “What do You Want from Life?” and “She’s a Beauty” and “Talk to You Later.”

We try to do all that stuff along with new stuff that’s thematic. Like, this tour, which has an Italian theme, we’re doing a duet between Pavarotti and James Brown singing “This is a Man’s World” — which actually happened, by the way, during a benefit concert Pavarotti put on to help fight ebola virus. (Search for Pavarotti and James Brown on YouTube, ed.)

James Brown starts it, James Brown style, then Pavarotti does it, operatically, in Italian. I saw that online and I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I do both parts in the show, with our own Tube-esque arrangement of the tune.

Q: Is it sometimes hard to get jazzed up doing the same material for so many years?

FW: Not really, because the people enjoy it so much. There’s that transference of energy from the audience — that joy you can see in their faces when we go into “She’s a Beauty” or “White Punks on Dope” or when they see Quay Lewd come out with the big platform shoes. You can see their faces light up — and that’s contagious, you know? Especially since we don’t really do enough shows for it to become a grind. Doing only 35 or so shows a year, every show still feels special. So we don’t get burned out. It never feels like a chore.

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