[Review] The Tubes: Now (1977)

The Tubes sack their producer and mutinous chaos ensues. Captain Beefheart appears briefly.

Kronomyth 3.0: No, not Now.

Yeah, I know, third album, charm. Not here. The band allegedly booted producer John Anthony from the studio and proceeded to hoist themselves by their own self-produced petard. The Tubes were getting bigger, egos too, and Now now featured songs written by members and peripheral members alike as well as cover songs (“This Town,” “My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains”). It must be something in the San Francisco water that makes musical bands approach life and songwriting communally. Individually, the songs aren’t that far removed from their first two albums. “Smoke,” “I’m Just A Mess,” “Strung Out On Strings” and “You’re No Fun” might have worked extremely well in the hands of a capable producer. With no such hands in attendance, however, the organic oddness of their first two records feels forced, as the band adds layers of synthesizers and percussion in lieu of proper orchestration.

The addition of Mingo Lewis is interesting in so far as anything that Mingo does is interesting, here contributing one fusion instrumental, “God-Bird-Change,” that would have worked better in the company of Al Di Meola (okay, so what wouldn’t sound better with Al D in the mix?). Also included is another Jane Dornacker song, “Cathy’s Clone,” featuring Captain Beefheart on saxophone and suggesting that Jane had the pop smarts to become her own new wave heroine. Bill Spooner adds a couple of autobiographical songs, “Strung Out On Strings” and “Golden Boy” (the latter written about original drummer, Bob McIntosh).

There’s no denying The Tubes are an intelligent and talented band, but you wonder if they weren’t becoming too smart for their own good. I mean, jazz fusion, Captain Beefheart and Frank Sinatra covers and songs dedicated to Edith Piaf don’t belong in the same era, let alone on the same album. Again, a brilliant producer might have pulled it all together, but, absent one, Now falls apart.

Original LP Version

A1. Smoke (La Vie En Fumer) (Michael Cotten/Vince Welnick/Bill Spooner) (4:50)
A2. Hit Parade (Bill Spooner/Vince Welnick) (3:35)
A3. Strung Out On Strings (Bill Spooner/Roger Steen/Michael Evans) (4:10)
A4. Golden Boy (Bill Spooner/Michael Evans) (4:00)
A5. My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains (Don Van Vliet) (4:30)
B1. God-Bird-Change (Mingo Lewis) (3:18)
B2. I’m Just A Mess (Roger Steen/Bill Spooner) (3:10)
B3. Cathy’s Clone (Jane Dornacker) (3:30)
B4. This Town (Lee Hazlewood) (3:15)
B5. Pound of Flesh (Ron Nagle/Scott Matthews) (3:00)
B6. You’re No Fun (Vince Welnick/Michael Cotten/Tubes) (4:51)

Original 8-track version
A1. Smoke (La vie en Fumer)
A2. I’m Just A Mess
A3. Pound Of Flesh
B1. Hit Parade
B2. Golden Boy
B3. This Town
C1. Strung Out On Strings
C2. God-Bird-Change
C3. Cathy’s Clone
D1. My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains
D2. You’re No Fun

The Players

Rick Anderson (bass), Michael Cotten (synthesizers), Mingo Lewis (percussion, etc.), Prairie Prince (drums), Bill “The Swami” Spooner (lead guitar, vocals, etc., le gran fromage), Roger Steen (lead guitar, vocals), Re Styles (vocal), Fee Waybill (lead vocals), Vince Welnick (keyboards, etc.) with Captain Beefheart (soprano sax on B3). Produced by John Anthony; engineering and production assistance by Don Wood; mixed by John Anthony, Don Wood and W.E. Spooner.

The Pictures

Design by Michael Cotten and Prairie Prince. Design tech: Chuck Beeson. Art direction by Roland Young. Front cover illustration by Prairie Prince. Back cover photo by Gerald Kudo and Peter Ogilvie. Inside photos by Mort Moriarty and Alvin Meyerowitz.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in May 1977* in the US (A&M, SP/CS/8T-4632) and the UK (A&M, AMLH-64632) with innersleeve; reached #122 on the US charts. (*First appeared in 5/7/77 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 2004 in the UK (Acadia, ACA 8069) with alternate cover.
  2. Re-packaged with Young And Rich on 2-for-1 2CD in 2012 (Real Gone).

2 thoughts on “[Review] The Tubes: Now (1977)

  1. Listen to it again you couldn’t be more wrong easily outshines the first two lps

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