“It’s Me And Fee, Drinking Buddies”*

November 18, 2012

tubesI’ve known plenty of fans with an unshakable, enthusiastic devotion to certain acts. I’ve known Dead Heads.

But, no matter how passionate these folks might be, in twenty-five years plus, no one has struck me as having more unerring passion for a band than a friend from high school.

Bosco loved The Tubes.

Bosco had more than a bit of Spicoli in him, though he attained his carefree demeanor (mostly) without additives and preservatives. There was also some Ferris Bueller in there, too.

He wasn’t a jock, the most quick-witted, or the most dashing lad in town, but there might not have been a more genuinely liked popular kid in our school as Bosco.

Bosco and some of his friends intersected with a group of mine and during our last two years of high school, I got to know him quite well and we had more than our share of misadventures.

I was with him once when he informed the cop that had pulled him over that he couldn’t give Bosco a ticket because “I have no job, no money and no future.”

(somehow, like a Jedi Mind Trick, it worked)

It’s still easy to picture him – checkerboard Vans, lank blonde hair flopping about, and the perpetually surprised yet drowsy expression he seemed to always have.

Music was the usual chatter. For the isolation of our remote hometown, Bosco had spectacular impressive taste in music. He seemed to have a bent toward literate songwriters – Bob Dylan, Ray Davies, and Mark Knopfler – during a period when these artists were not at their commercial or artists heights in the early ‘80s.

But The Tubes were all his.

He’d make collect calls to the president of their fan club – some chick named Marilyn in California – from the high school lounge during lunch.

He had pictures of him and the band, backstage, after concerts.

(we had no idea such a thing as backstage existed)

“It’s me and Fee,” – he and lead singer Fee Waybill had their arms around each other’s shoulders – “drinking buddies.”

He’d use Spooner – in tribute to the band’s guitarist Bill “Sputnik” Spooner – as a greeting.

“Hey, Spooner…”

He was a fan of the band long before it became an MTV darling with She’s A Beauty. Bosco knew all of their albums years ahead of that time.

It must have been his older brother that turned him on to The Tubes because, aside from reading about them, stuff like Mondo Bondage and White Punks On Dope was not going to be heard on the radio stations in our orbit.

I haven’t spoken to Bosco in twenty-years. The last time I saw him, we were both home from college, and things had changed. It was him, but there was no whimsy. He was focused on his fraternity and business school.

I did a bit of online sleuthing for him awhile back and the results yielded a lot of stuff involving chambers of commerce and zoning ordinances.

I couldn’t help but wonder if he still listens to The Tubes.

Nevertheless, I still listen to The Tubes. Here is a quartet of songs from Fee and friends…

The Tubes – White Punks On Dope
from The Tubes (1975)

At fourteen or fifteen years old, the wry title of White Punks On Dope alone was a source of amusement to us when Bosco was turning us on to The Tubes. It’s a nifty little bit of social commentary that manages to be a catchy stomp of a song that contains the theatrical flair that helped garnered attention for The Tubes.

The Tubes – Talk To Ya Later
from The Completion Backward Principle (1981)

I’ve heard the earlier stuff from The Tubes – courtesy of Bosco – but I was more partial to their more mainstream stuff and that’s pretty much all I own (I’ve kept my eyes open for some used vinyl with which to reacquaint myself with no success thus far).

And though The Completion Backward Principle probably mortified long-time fans of the band’s more outrageous stuff, my friends and I loved it. The slick, new-wave tinged Talk To Ya Later featured Steve Lukather (of Toto) on guitar. Infectious beyond belief, its title became our standard conversation ender for years to come.

The Tubes- She’s A Beauty
from Outside Inside (1983)

She’s A Beauty was the first time I ever heard The Tubes on the radio and the next day at school I immediately reported to Bosco that 96Rock had played the band’s new single. Two months later, the song had become the group’s only Top Ten single in the US.

Outside Inside was one of the big albums for me and my friends during the summer of ’83 (along with The Police’s Synchronicity, which was the album that summer). It’s still a song that I wont skip on the iPod.

The Tubes – Piece By Piece
from Love Bomb (1985)

Love Bomb came out in the spring of ’85, the last full year my friends and I had together before heading to college. Maybe the fact that it came and went with little fanfare might have been an omen that our group of friends was headed the way of the dinosaurs.

I don’t recall it being a bad record, just kind of uneventful. This was surprising as the great Todd Rundgren – someone else who Bosco had turned us onto – produced it. But, like She’s A Beauty and Talk To Ya Later, I can’t skip the crunchy goodness of an earworm that is Piece By Piece.

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Sooooo…The Phone Can Tell Me If It’s Raining?

May 12, 2012

I have never negotiated a hostage release.

I am not a surgeon awaiting word that an organ needed for me to perform a transplant is on ice.

Those are two of a cornucopia of reasons that I didn’t bother getting a cellphone until two years ago.

The phone I have is basic, a mere conveyance for telecommunication that would have been an impressive device in a ’70s sci-fi flick from my childhood.

It would have still wowed us when I was in college and Gordon Gekko had a mobile phone the size of a brick pressed to his head.

My phone doesn’t talk to me or advise me.

I keep seeing a commercial for the iPhone in which Zooey Deschanel asks her phone if it’s raining.

Her home doesn’t appear to be very large. In fact, it has a cozy bungalow feel. So, unless the place isn’t hers and she secretely lives in the attic, there has to be a window within a few steps.

In fact, as the voice in the phone gives an affirmative on the precipitation, Zooey is shown peering out the window.

Thus, you might not need a weatherman, to know which way the wind blows, but apparently a talking phone is needed to know if it is raining.

I’ve read that mountain gorillas in the wild have been observed to remain in their nests, delaying the start of their day, if they wake and it is raining.

Without a phone to tell them, the gorillas are able to figure out that it is indeed raining and have the good sense to stay in bed.

Undoubtedly, they will be ruling the planet in the future.

A search for songs about “talk” yielded a few dozen. Here are four of them that seemed good for today…

The Tubes – Talk To Ya Later
from The Completion Backward Principle (1981)

I was well acquainted with The Tubes via a high school buddy who worshipped the band. Though The Completion Backward Principle probably mortified long-time fans of the band’s more outrageous stuff, my friends and I loved it.

The slick, new-wave tinged Talk To Ya Later featured Toto’s Steve Lukather on guitar was infectious beyond belief and its title became our salutation for years to come.

A Flock Of Seagulls – (It’s Not Me) Talking
from Listen (1983)

When A Flock Of Seagulls arrived with I Ran (So Far Away) and their self-titled debut, I quickly adopted the Liverpool quartet as my own. I was hearing the music of the future and I wasn’t about to be left behind.

The future was short-lived, but it was fun while it lasted and the band left behind more than just their lone hit in an underrated catalog that produced two wildly entertaining albums.

The hyperkinteic (It’s Not Me) Talking is about a man who believes that he is receiving messages from aliens in his head.

The Alan Parsons Project – Let’s Talk About Me
from Vulture Culture (1985)

The progressive-pop/rock consortium The Alan Parsons produced a string of successful albums during the latter half of the ’70s and early ’80s. Songs like I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You, Games People Play, Eye In The Sky, and Don’t Answer Me were radio staples during those years.

Vulture Culture marked the beginning of the decline in The Alan Parsons Project’s commercial fortunes. However, I did hear the catchy Let’s Talk About Me fairly often on rock radio during the spring of ’85.

Bongwater – Everybody’s Talkin’
from The Big Sell-Out (1992)

I discovered the avant-garde, art-rock duo Bongwater through Paloma with their gorgeous cover of Roky Erickson’s You Don’t Love Me, Yet on a various artist tribute to the Austin cult musician.

On The Big Sell-Out, Bongwater’s final release, the pair offered up a strange, surreal take on the Fred Neil/Harry Neilsen classic Everybody’s Talkin’ that reimagines it as a spoken word tale delivered by a failed actress who has had a nervous breakdown and believes she is actually working with suicidal people.


Dumbing Down The Cosmos

February 26, 2011

I happened across some television program on aliens the other night that was focused on theorists proffering the idea that human evolution has been influenced by extraterrestrial beings.

One fellow rattled off the Nazca Lines, the Pyramids of Giza and the Moai statues of Easter Island as evidence.

There was speculation that aliens might have altered the DNA of humans, resulting in some six billion or so lab rats.

The theory was also offered that some of their experientation with the various species on the planet explains the strange creatures depicted in ancient mythology – lions with wings and such.

And, these creatures might have, then, been taken by the aliens to populate other worlds.

I thought of our planet’s inhabitants as Sea Monkeys for extraterrestrials.

(it would be far less disappointing than brine shrimp)

Then, I considered Earth as a potential reality show for more advanced civilizations in the cosmos. Perhaps it competes for the attention of viewers with “reality” shows set in the other worlds the aliens have created.

Earth is probably quite popular in extraterrestrial trailer parks and a guilty pleasure for others.

(maybe it has a snappier title like So You Think You Can Evolve?)

Here are four television songs…

A-ha – The Sun Always Shines On T.V.
from Hunting High And Low

Here in the States, the Norwegian trio A-Ha has been relegated to one-hit wonder status which is unfortunate.

Sure, everyone knows Take On Me, but I’ve always been partial to that song’s follow-up, The Sun Always Shines On T.V. It hurtles along with a gloriously yearning melody and, as I recall, the video was almost as striking as the song for which they’re better known.

David Bowie – TVC 15
from The Singles Collection

TVC 15 is a jaunty little number that originally appeared on Bowie’s Station To Station set. Apparently the song was inspired by a drug-fueled hallucination by Iggy Pop that a television set had swallowed his girlfriend. Iggy wished to crawl into the television and join her.

(Burger King commercials have the same effect on me)

Pulp – TV Movie
from This Is Hardcore

I owned a trio of Pulp’s records from the mid-’90s when they reached their highest profile in their native UK. Here in the States, the group garnered little attention (which is too bad).

Jarvis Cocker always reminded me of a latter day Ray Davies. This is Hardcore was a darker, more somber affair than the band’s previous Different Class. TV Movie, lamenting a failed relationship, is somber, but it is also lovely and moving.

The Tubes – T.V. Is King
from Remote Control

My high school buddy Bosco turned me on to both The Tubes and Todd Rundgren. Though Remote Control was released several years earlier, I have no doubt it was a memorable moment for him as the album found Rundgren producing the band.

Rundgren also received writing credits on a pair of songs from Remote Control, a concept album about television, including T.V. Is King. The amusing track has Rundgren’s fingerprints all over it.