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The Tubes at The Aretha, 3 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

» See more SOUND CHECK

The Tubes are hardly white punks on dope anymore.

The founding group members are in their late 60s, after all. They've been a band for 47 years and still hold true to some of the theatrics that established the Tubes name back in the 70s -- frontman John "Fee" Waybill even wears the giant platform boots as the long-lived Quay Lewd character. But group also has a body of music that stacks up well, particularly early 80s hits such as "Talk to Ya Later" and "She's a Beauty." Being on dope might not be advisable in that situation.

Waybill and three other co-founders are still at it these days, while keyboardist David Medd is a 20-year veteran. The show may be leaner and meaner (no dancers anymore), but the Tubes still mean business...

Waybill, 68, acknowledges by phone that "it was always more than the just the music" that brought audiences to the Tubes, but he says it would be a mistake to discount the material's role in the band's success. "We wrote really good material that stands up -- the hit songs, the other songs, 'White Punks on Dope,' whatever. The songs stand up and the musicianship is way better than ever before. After all these years we've finally figured it out and the Tubes is spectacular."

And about those tall boots Waybill still straps on for the show..."They're big," Waybill says with a laugh. "I've rebuilt the same shoes we had back in the 80s. They're fiberglass, and it's funny when they break down, I repair them. Or when the soles wear out or the zipper goes or something, I take them into my shoe repair guy and he looks at me and goes, 'What? Are you kidding me?!' 'No I'd like you to make the bottoms really flat please, no rubber. It's funny, but they're still part of the act."

After all these years, Waybill -- who's also released two solo albums and produces records for other artists -- considers "Remote Control," the group's 1979 album produced by Todd Rundgren, as its favorite. "That was one of the first albums we pretty much had nothing to start -- no songs, anything. We would show up every day and sit there with Todd and talk it through. We'd write the songs and the lyrics then take a lunch break and come back in the afternoon and record them -- and we had a deadline because we had an international tour booked and had to have an album out for it. So we just plowed through and there was no second guessing or anything. It was just gut music, all from the gut -- 'Let's go! Here it is!' The whole thing took a month 'cause that's all the time we had."

Lost 80s Live, featuring A Flock of Seagulls, the Tubes, Wang Chung and more, touches down at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, 2600 Atwater St. at Chene, Detroit.$35-$60. 313-393-7128 or visit TheAretha.com

Web Site: www.TheAretha.com

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