My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains - The Tubes

I first came across The Tubes, the world's most underrated group, when BBC 2 screened an Arena documentary about them in 1978. From the opening health warning played over a superb live rhythm track to the scene where the group beat up an autograph hunting fan in Times Square to the footage of the singer Fee Waybill jumping into the audience with a chainsaw and breaking his leg this programme made a big impact. 

True, I was only 12 at the time but I wasn't alone: The Tubes played eight nights in a row at Hammersmith Odeon in 1978 and would co-headline Knebworth with Frank Zappa a year later. Their anthem White Punks On Dope had been an influential record on the early punk scene (here's a live version on the Old Grey Whistle Test) and The Tubes were often associated with other American bands who were fashionable in the UK, such as the New York Dolls and The Ramones. 

Unlike those bands however The Tubes were virtuoso players who wrote smart, satirical lyrics and who put on extravagant and theatrical live shows (they even had their own stuntman). And they could never stay within one genre and would veer from new wave to progressive rock to jazz fusion to pop. This eclecticism won them a cult audience but despite a minor hit in 1979 with the disco-tinged Prime Time, produced by Todd Rungren, The Tubes just didn't sell enough records in the US and were dropped by A+M in 1980 (the same year they appeared alongside Olivia Newton-John on the track Dancin' from the ill-fated movie Xanadu). 

  Yet The Tubes soon made comeback with a new record deal with Capitol and the guidance of uber-commercial AOR producer David Foster. Wearing business suits as an ironic acknowledgement of their sell-out strategy (an idea which - possibly by co-incidence - occurred to Dexy's Midnight Runners four years later on the cover of their album Don't Stand Me Down), The Tubes scored two big hits: Talk to Ya Later, co-written by Steve Lukather of Toto, and the awesome power ballad Don't Want To Wait Anymore. And in 1983 they released the major international hit She's A Beauty, which is possibly the song they are best remembered for today.

Perversely, in 1985, the band made a decision (despite the protestations of Fee Waybill, Capitol Records and the management) to ditch David Foster and go back to Todd Rungren and try to recapture the spirit of the 1970s. The result was the disastrous Love Bomb and it led to the break-up of the band. It was  ground-breaking record in one respect: it featured a continuous mix (which has been described as a "Todd Rungren danceathon") running the entire length of the second side. We'll be doing a feature on Love Bomb in the next few days. 

I recently met the editor of a recently defunct music magazine and he said he hadn't seen a single article about in the UK press about The Tubes for over 25 years. But there are welcome signs that the band's legacy is starting to receive the respect and attention it deserves. A remastered CD of Love Bomb was released earlier this year along with Young and Rich, and Now (two records which had been selling for £70 each on Amazon). 

On the Balearic/AOR Disco scene, where the group's eclecticism ought to be highly valued, there are a number of DJs who have championed Slipped My Disco, a Tubes classic from the extraordinary Young and Rich album in 1976. 

But this song could be great in a downtempo/sunset mix: My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains. Originally written by Captain Beefheart, it was covered by The Tubes on Now in 1977, who,  according to the sleeve notes, recorded it under the influence of magic mushrooms. It features an excellently produced and deep bass line from Rick Anderson which was ahead of it's time (in fact, it brings to mind the bass sound of various deep house tracks from the early 1990s, such as Tonite by Those Guys). Everything But The Girl have also covered this track but for us The Tubes version has the edge.  

Buy Slipped My Disco and My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains on  Young and Rich / Now and on the compilation Goin' Down The Tubes


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