Down The Tubes: Inside the gonzoid mind of Fee Waybill

The Tubes performs on stage in 1977 in Copenhagen, Denmark
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Classic Rock talks to Tubes frontman Fee Waybill. Here’s ten things we learned.

This is the group’s first decent-sized tour of the UK in ten years. “Our last trip to Europe in 2012 consisted of gigs in London and Edinburgh, but this time we’re doing nine cities in the UK. It’s been a decade since we did most of them, so that’s thrilling.”

With no support act, the set will be a no-holds-barred greatest hits extravaganza. “We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of our debut album [produced by Al Kooper] but every show is as overblown as possible. Most of the songs from the debut will be played. I will make a half-dozen costume changes and we’ll include all of the songs that people want to hear – including Talk To Ya Later, Amnesia, What Do You Want From Life and of course White Punks On Dope.”

At 64 years old, Waybill (real name John Waldo Waybill) works out regularly for the stage – vital given the outfits worn by his most famous stage alter-ego, Quay Lude. “Mine is a very strenuous gig but I keep myself in pretty good shape. I life weights and do pilates, I ride my horses and I play polo. On a normal week I do seven workouts on Venice Beach [California], where I live. It’s a two-hour show, maybe longer still if the curfews in the venues allow.”

The platform shoes worn by Quay Lude on this tour are 18 inches tall. “They’re like bondage shoes. I’ve got to be careful; 18 inches is a long way to fall, right? When Quay Lude comes onstage Rick [Anderson, bassist] always lends a shoulder to prevent me from taking a tumble.”

Quay Lude also has… how can we put this delicately… assistance in the packing of his latex underwear. “Quay definitely has a bulging appendage stuffed down his pants. He always has. He’s a little insecure about his manhood.”

The Tubes in 1977. Pic: Getty Images

Talking nine years ago in Classic Rock, Waybill voiced frustration that White Punks On Dope “became bigger than The Tubes” and admitted there were times he wished he “didn’t have to play it.” He’s over that now. “You have to play your hits. People expect to hear White Punks…, it’s what they pay their money for. I did feel that way for a long time but now I’m happy to do it again.”

Their show is so gonzoid and well presented that audiences often forget that The Tubes are a satirical band. “Yaaaaaaah, that happens quite often. But it’s something we’ve dealt with from the very beginning. Everyone thought White Punks On Dope was about drugs but it was intended as total sarcasm about rich kids living in Hollywood. Of course Quay Lude is a parody – he’s drunk and slobbering, puking up beer. It’s the same with a number of our characters including the game show host from What Do You Want From Life. But what are you gonna do? Some people will never get satire.”

Fee recently played King Arthur in the US version of Monty Python musical Spamalot “It was the most fun I’ve had in my life. Outside of The Tubes I’ve done theatre for a long time. I don’t know how many more years I’ll be able to do this and musical comedy roles are something I’d like to explore more fully, so I’ve just taken on an agent. To play King Arthur on a West End stage, that would be my dream come true.”

Following the Spamalot run, Waybill got to meet his hero Eric Idle. Eric wasn’t too impressed. “Eric lives in a nice house up on Mulholland Drive [in Los Angeles] and I was at a party at which Eric was invited. I was drooling like a little kid. I was pawing at him: ‘I did Spamalot, man. I was King Arthur’. And he replied: ‘Er… yup, okay’.”

Despite stating many times that The Tubes would never again make new music, Waybill is coming around to the idea again. “No record company is interested in us, that’s for sure. My stock reply to that question is usually: ‘Why bother? Nobody gives a shit’ but I write songs all the time and we’re definitely trying to find a solution to the problem. We’re also discussing the release of a spectacular concert filmed in 1982. We’d like to get is out as a DVD in April 2016, and to return to Europe a month later. That’s not carved in stone, but it’s our plan.”

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.