Tuesday, October 2, 2012

preemptors of punk, or the last dregs of shock rock?

The Tubes, a band whose very existence I'd forgotten!

 c.f. Musical Vomit, the theatrical shock rock band formed by future members of Human League and Heaven 17 at the youth drama / arts center in Sheffield (the Meatwhistle)

There was a South Bank Show them, I believe. The Tubes, not Musical Vomit.

This isn't it, I don't think.

Lampoon rock.

Didn't this number usually involve a gigantic cigarette onstage?


  1. Following up on your earlier post about Jim Steinman, Ellen Foley, etc, I'm not sure it's right that the Old Wave / New Wave division was clearer now than it was then.

    There were quite a few acts that blurred the line, or straddled it. As well as The Tubes, who definitely fell into that category, there was Tom Petty, who on his first album looks like a scrubbed-up Arthur Kane, or possibly Tom Verlaine's brother. The 'American Girl' Heartbreakers did not seem to inhabit a completely different universe from the 'LAMF' Heartbreakers.

    And then there's Springsteen, who in many ways had perfect New Wave credentials: writing with Patti Smith, covered by Bowie, appearing on 'Street Hassle'. The romanticised urban melodrama of 'Jungleland' could be a Lou Reed album track, and Springsteen's fondness for Spector and the Ronettes parallels similar enthusiasms from the Ramones and New York Dolls.

    I went to see Springsteen recently, and was struck by how punk, or indie, it was, albeit inflated to a colossal scale. A lot of it was very Arcade Fire-y, although I guess maybe the chain of influence flows from him to them; I'm not sure. A lot of it was very reminiscent of the second half of the career of The Clash, when they were going for that Great American Music vibe. He didn't actually play 'London Caling' - which he has done, in London - but often looked quite Strummer-esque leaning into the mike with his Telecaster. One song with a frantically scrubbed acoustic guitar even reminded me of The Woodentops.

    Above all, it's the moral seriousness: Springsteen has an earnest quality very close to that of Geldof or Bono. We were asked to donate money to a food bank as we left the gig; probably the first time I've seen that since the Miners' Strike.

    I guess Greil Marcus would tell you that Springsteen is punk rock, along with Elvis Costello and Fleetwood Mac. I would probably want to put all three the other side of the line, with Costello the closest to having a foot in both camps. But if you asked me why, I am not sure I could tell you.

  2. "Lampoon rock" pretty much sums it up in toto. As I recall, in their early years the Tubes got a lot of attention and press on account of their "shocking" and "tasteless" stage show; but they were pretty easy to forget about even then, because musically they weren't all that good. I always got the impression of a buncha guys who'd decided to start a band after having watched "Phantom of the Paradise."