Fee Waybill on stage with The Tubes as his stage alter-ego Quay Lewd in 1975. His platform boots are eighteen inches high.
If the title of this post and affirmation of the importance of vocalist Fee Waybill (born John Waldo Waybill in 1950) of The Tubes sounds at all familiar, it is because this is precisely how Fee Waybill was addressed in the 1989 film, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Since I know you’re curious, the other two people included in this very important trio were Martha Davis of The Motels (because of course, she was) and the big man himself, saxophone player and long-running member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Clarence Clemons. Bill and Ted might not have been the brightest bulbs, but they were right to call Fee Waybill important. Because god dammit he was and still is and I’ve got pictures and live footage to prove it. Excellent.
Anyone growing up on MTV remembers The Tubes. “Talk to you Later” was in such heavy rotation it would have been impossible not to absorb the lyrics without even wanting to. Their early, proto-punk records were popular in the UK but didn’t really break through in the U.S., so as far as most MTV kids were concerned, The Tubes they saw on television didn’t exist before “Talk to You Later.” They had likely never heard of the band’s 1975 debut, White Punks on Dope. During their time in the 70s, they became known for their elaborate stage productions which stepped far beyond merely going to see a band, and more like live, interactive, improvisational theater with sick jams.
Then, you have Fee Waybill, taking it a leap beyond the beyond appearing in characters he created for the stage such as a BDSM fan, and a glam rocker called Quay Lewd. Waybill also dressed up like a crazed astronaut from time to time and a masked bad-dude. Others would follow, and Waybill’s revolving cast of characters would make regular appearances during Tubes’ shows for years and years. According to Waybill, Quay Lewd was an “amalgam” of “Rod Stewart, David Bowie, David Johansen, Robert Plant and all the quasi-homosexual glam-rock gay lead singers with platform shoes in the 1970s.”
In 1977 The Tubes played two highly praised totally gonzo sold-out shows at the Hammersmith Odeon with Wire. Both performances were recorded and released in 1978 as What Do You Want from Live. In addition to wanton appearances by Waybill dressed in bondage gear, Quay Lewd also came out to taunt the crowd. Journalist Paul Rambali reviewed the gigs for NME, including the following assessment which I think sums up what the fuck happened at the Odeon:
“They (The Tubes) are not strictly a rock band, neither are they a show, a satire, nor a marriage of rock and theatre, (although they do admit early inspiration from the original Rocky Horror Picture Show). The Tubes are a spectacle like no other. They present a relentless two-hour onslaught of humor, outrage, parody, idiocy, music, and costume—a feast for the senses.”
Paul Rambali’s review of The Tubes gigs at the Odeon in 1977.
After the release of What Do You Want from Live, The Tubes returned to California to play a series of shows in San Fran and Los Angeles. After their crazed shows in London, Waybill decided to get even nastier on stage and added a large dildo to his Quay Lewd costume, which has always kind of reminded me of a cross between Wayne Country and Hedwig. Apparently, Cher was in the crowd and would later ask the band to play her Cher…Special (1978), which they did in the most bonkers way possible. The Tubes performed a medley of songs including 1975’s “Mondo Bondage” with Waybill and in bondage gear trying to get Cher to embrace her dark side. During the skit/musical number, another guest on the one-off special, Dolly Parton and her gang of gospel singers roll on in to save Cher’s soul, presumably from rock and roll. Also, since Rambali was kind enough to mention the link between The Tubes and Rocky Horror Picture Show, it seems like a good time to note Waybill took on the role of the deranged Dr. Frank N. Furter for a stage production of RHPS at the Barn Theater in Augusta, Michigan in 1999. Pictures or it didn’t happen? I got you covered, pals.
Classic images of Fee Waybill doing what he does best—you know, being one of the three most important people in the world, follow. Some are NSFW (which does not mean Not Safe for Fee Waybill). Lastly, if you happen to be in Irwin, Pennsylvania or Akron, Ohio, you can see the band live later this month.
Waybill on stage in BDSM leather. Fuck YES.
More after the jump…