“I think it’s the best record we made,” Tubes singer Fee Waybill said during a recent interview of the band’s 1981 release, “The Completion Backward Principle.”
On Saturday, Waybill and The Tubes will be performing “The Completion Backward Principle” in its entirety at The Riviera Theatre. Waybill calls it a “perfect” venue for a Tubes show, they performed at The Riv just last year.
“The Completion Backward Principle” marked a pivotal point in The Tubes career. After years as a band with a cult following with mediocre sales, the band’s record label, A&M Records, dropped them. Capitol Records agreed to sign the band to a three-album deal, with an option to drop them if any of the albums didn’t sell.
Producer David Foster was brought in and proved to be a task master and perfectionist. The first song the band recorded for “Completion” was “Amnesia,” and right away Waybill knew things would be very different from previous recording sessions.
“It took me three days to record the vocals. We had worked with Todd Rundgren on the previous album (“Remote Control”) and Todd was different, if you didn’t quite hit the note it was OK and you could go on. David Foster was a perfectionist, and he made me a better singer. We needed a hit and we knew he was the guy that was going to get us one.”
The album title, “Completion Backward Principle” came from an unusual place. “The completion backward principle was a sales technique. We found a record in a used record store, it was a spoken word motivational album by a sales guy named Stanley Paterson, we probably owe him some money.”
The band, at that point was best known for outrageous stage shows and titillating songs, changed their image and dressed in business suits and presented a new, sleek corporate look on the album cover. The album was designed as a corporate motivational document, perfect for the 1980s. The record label wanted a corporate sound, and the Tubes went one step further and gave them a corporate image.
“Everybody wanted the corporate ballad because Journey and REO had just had success with them,” Waybill recalled. The Tubes delivered one as their first single, “Don’t Want to Wait Anymore,” which cracked the Billboard Top 40.
The second single turned out to be one of the band’s most popular, “Talk to Ya Later,” a song that Foster and Toto’s Steve Lukather co-wrote with The Tubes. Lukather also played guitar on the track, which in retrospect began some of the divisions that cause the band to split up four years later, especially after Foster brought in more session musicians for the next album, “Outside Inside.”
In addition to the commercial success of the album and singles, The Tubes made a legendary appearance on SCTV in their suits to promote “Completion.” The groundbreaking comedy show launched the careers of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, Harold Ramis, Catherine O’Hara and many more.
The appearance was on a recurring sketch called “The Fishin’ Musician,” hosted by John Candy. In the sketch musicians would visit the Scuttle Butt Lodge and fish with the host. You can find it on YouTube. Waybill remembers it well.
“We flew up to Edmonton and we were staying in a motel. The producer told us we were going to shoot the scene in a hunting lodge an hour from Edmonton, and they were picking us up in a limo at 6 a.m. so we could get it finished in one day. They sent two limos and I went in the one with John Candy and I get in and he has a case of beer, which was already half gone, and other things. We got wasted out of our mind and drank a bunch of beer, and so I was worried I wouldn’t remember my lines. When I asked for the script, Candy says ‘What script? We are going to wing it.”
In addition to appearing in the sketch and chatting with the host, the band performed “Sushi Girl.”
After “Completion” the Tubes returned to the studio to record “Outside Inside” with David Foster. The sessions created schism in the band because even though it was a commercial success on the strength of the hit single “She’s a Beauty,” Foster’s use of session musicians chafed some of the band members.
Foster went on to remake Chicago’s career in a way that didn’t work for The Tubes, and went on to produce massively successful albums by Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Josh Groban. “Completion’s” engineer, Humberto Gatica, (Whose catchphrase “Talk to Ya Later” inspired the song of the same name) went on to win 16 Grammy Awards.
The Tubes split with Waybill before the end of the decade that produced two hit albums, but Waybill established a relationship with his best friend Richard Marx, who was working for Foster when The Tubes recorded “Completion.” Waybill eventually came back, as did most of the group, and they continue to perform as well, if not better, than they ever did. They may not be as popular as Journey, REO or Chicago, but The Tubes still have a loyal, cult following who knows they are one of the best bands around.
Tickets for The Tubes at the Riviera Theatre on Saturday start at $39 and are available at the Rivieratheatre.org.
Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.