WE RING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH A PRIVATE RESERVE: WITH TOO MANY SONGS AND NOT ENOUGH BAND, BILL SPOONER LAUNCHES FIRST CHUD!

The first solo album by Tubes founder Bill Spooner. It is disputed as to whether or not it is truly Spooner’s first as he recorded and released an album under the name of Warren S. Richardson on Cotillion Records in 1969. We’ll be focusing on First Chud.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I see they have added banner ads to the content on this site. I guess the economy is SO great under Trumonomics, the host site has to make my already annoying content even more annoying with pop-down banner ads. I do not begrudge them. This host site has been great to me for many years. I hope to be able to continue my relationship with them for years to come. But please know it is not my personal preference. However, if that’s what it takes to keep this site going and to maintain the archive of atrocities from my feeble, drug-addled, vitriolic brain, so be it. Additionally, as this is the first Private Reserve review, the concept behind it is, I will review vinyl, imports, rare stuff I have or find for my own collection that might be exceptionally unknown, an artist of personal favor or a piece of artistic quality. The hope is I can turn folks on to things they may not know are out there, and to hopefully resurrect interest in these otherwise lost treasures.

Gonna hope we can cut down on these author’s notes in the new year. And happy new year to you! Let’s launch First Chud…

Some times a band hits a brick wall. Try as they may, try as they might, nothing puts them back on the track they were originally on. For Bill Spooner, that band was the Tubes. For the Tubes, that track was success. I’ve gone on and on about the role Todd Rundgren played in the demise of not one but two recording contracts with two separate labels for the Tubes. For the uninitiated, the first time was after Remote Control on A&M in 1979. Then after the tumultuous Love Bomb sessions, not only were the Tubes dropped by Capitol Records during the 1985 tour, while Rundgren’s Utopia was opening for them, Utopia’s label Passport/Jem/Utopia records just up and folded.

It came around to bite Rundgren on the ass.

While Bill Spooner was on Team Rundgren when it came to the production of Love Bomb, lead vocalist Fee Waybill rallied for the return of David Foster. It was Foster who had spoon-fed the Tubes hits by bringing in ‘ringers’ to write and even record parts on songs! While Roger Steen reproduces the solo on one of their hits, “Talk To Ya Later” from Completion Backward Principle with more passion than the recording, it was actually Steve Lukather who played on recording. Foster brought in Tom Snow to co-write some songs, brought in Martha Davis of the Motels to duet on the cover of “Monkey Time” and more that I’m forgetting most likely.

The only guest Rundgren ever brought in was himself.

Spooner loved having Rundgren around. Spooner picked up a lot from Rundgren. Rundgren would co-opt keyboardist (the late, great) Vince Welnick for tours and recording for years until Welnick would get caught up in that whole worthless Grateful Dead-centric universe that, I feel, would ultimately cost him his life.

Spooner also co-opted some other techniques that Rundgren most likely had imparted to him. Rundgren was also working on a solo album around that time. A Cappella was exactly that but with a difference. The entire album was recorded using only a sampler and Rundgren’s voice, but on some occasions, just purely voice overdubbed. Surprise, surprise, there is an a cappella song on First Chud, “Something In My Eye”. But what does make this album appealing is that it sounds as though many of these songs were written with the Tubes in mind. So the sound is highly reminiscent of what these songs may have sounded like on a Tubes album. One of the major complaints about Remote Control was, it sounds like Fee Waybill backed by Utopia. This sounds like Bill Spooner backed by the Tubes and some pretty incredible peripheral musicians as well.

Bill Spooner and Todd Rundgren horsing around during the POV/Love Bomb tour. Photo courtesy Todd Rundgren Facebook page

As this is our first Private Reserve review, here’s some facts about the album that make it tough to find. First, the only people who know who Bill Spooner is are Tubes fans. Second, it was released on Ralph records. So distribution will be limited to a small number of pressings. Those Tubes fans who bought it hoping to have another Tubes record were right in some instances. Every member of the Tubes is listed as a musician along with some others, most notably Aynsley Dunbar. But if they wanted Fee Waybill, he is the only member not listed.

But part of the reason that Spooner, Steen, Welnick and others did lead vocals on the Love Bomb album, and most notably not this album, was that Waybill was off making his solo album Read My Lips. It was met with equal distributive fate. Waybill was so intent on making music without Rundgren, he took it upon himself to hire Foster to co-write, produce and play keyboards on Waybill’s Read My Lips on the Capitol label around 1984. Foster brought in a fleet of session players and writers to flesh out the effort.

The copy I was able to find still had the original inner sleeve with lyrics and credits. But it came from the cut-out catalog, most likely lumped in the Tubes bin at the store (there is also a large ‘Stereo’ sticker in the upper right hand corner, as if someone bought it, it was returned and slapped with a sticker to mark it as a resale). So in terms of distribution, Love BombRead My Lips, and First Chud. In that order, greatest to lowest. With Waybill scoring higher only in terms of having a major label behind him. I’m sure the weak sales from that album didn’t hurt Capitol’s decision to drop them… “Waybill didn’t deliver!” I can hear that echoing through the Capitol Executive Boardroom (if it even made it up that far).

Bill Spooner on stage with Fee Waybill and in the background Michael Cotton and Vince Welnick for the Love Bomb tour. During this tour the band would find themselves without a label. Photo courtesy Coming Age

Whether First Chud came before or after Love Bomb has little relevance. It stands out on it’s own as a better representation of what a Tubes album from that era would have sounded like with Spooner at the helm. Perhaps more Tubes albums should have been produced by him. But I gather certain factions within the band wouldn’t allow a member to produce.

Spooner’s second solo album under that moniker. A much neglected and maligned piece of multi-genre-prog unmatched to this day by anything since Zappa’s early days.

There were two more solo albums after the Chud. The first being the amazing Mall To Mars which, has Tubes overtones, but has differences. Cotton, Steen, Anderson, Waybill, Lewis and Welnick were not a part of the party. If you were Spooner and it’s your album, why would you want another guitarist and vocalist? What he did have going for him? The album was released on Visible Records. OOOOH! Big friggin’ deal! He released it on an indie label.  But this indie label was owned by Richard Kaye. That name may not be as identifiable as say, Fee Waybill, but it was the name of the long-time Tubes music publishing and copyright guru! A good person to have in your corner…

Bill Spooner on stage with one of the latter-day configurations of the Tubes for their Hoods From Outer Space tour. Sharing the stage with David Killingsworth and Vince Welnick. Photo courtesy Coming Age

First Chud was released just as the Tubes split as in, SOME members of the band had later reunited with old/new recruit lead singer David Killingsworth and gone out on tour. The only ones absent were Waybill and Cotton. By this time, Cotton had more or less had it with music. He spent the rest of his time doing art (some for his and Prince’s company, Cotton/Prince). This line-up would not last, and that was Spooner’s cue to also pack it in.

Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, ever the gentleman, (I can say this on a personal level, I have technically had dinner with him, rung in New Year’s eve with him, my wife has talked to his wife, I have talked to him at meet & greet situations, when I compare it to the friends I was supposed to have made in this shithole city of Scranton, that might qualify him as my best friend) he managed to maintain and juggle not only guesting on Mall To Mars, but also his membership in the Tubes while remaining a much in-demand session and touring drummer.

Spooner’s third and to this date, last solo album. Demolicious; Adventures In Lo Fi was a collection of demos, studio experiments and all things in-between.

Spooner’s next album was a clearing-house of sorts. Demolicious came out with bare bones versions of Tubes songs, original songs by Spooner, and all things rare and unreleased. The contributing musicians for that album remain anonymous to me, as I cannot find that list anywhere. Mostly the demos are acoustic guitar with maybe some overdubs. Worth seeking out the album, regardless of the amount of info available or not available. It’s the music that matters.

But I have pushed us ahead of ourselves, the focus here is Spooner’s first solo album. So let’s enjoy First Chud!

Side One:

“Satellite” written by Spooner, Chris Lockheed and Nate Ginsburg sounds very Tube-esque. A spiraling synth note pierces upward into a pumping beat rhythm track. Adore the single coil Strat sound of the rhythm melody guitar.

If you hear me making those Tubes references, remember, these could have very well been outtakes, from Love Bomb, demos polished up (remember, the Tubes could play with precision so dropping live takes and punched-in perfection was nothing for these guys), stuff laying in the can, it could have come fresh from the wackiness that is Spooner’s imagination.

Along with that imagination comes a sick sense of humor. The overall gist of this song is about being sucked into TV so hard, that the narrator gets wrapped up in his obsession with watching things broadcast on, being a character on, and even owning a satellite. It has a really Rundgren-produced-sounding backing track, with the vibrato on the lead synth, but it more accurately displays Spooner’s constant fascination with all things space. I talked about Mall To Mars, about a giant shopping mall spaceship replete with on-board parking so you can load your space-boughten-goods into the SUV of your choice (Spooner references the popular at the time Aerostar).

The guy ran around with the nickname “Sputnik” for years, Google it if you are not knowing.

While verse two of the song talks about going the narrator’s own way, as in the purchase of said satellite, I can’t help but be reminded of the whole Rundgren-tries-to-buy-the-satellite-that-would-become-MTV story. Sounds like a nod to it from the lyrics. But it’s the break lyric that kills me. ‘No pay TV, it’s all for free’.

Remember those days (if you had to look up Sputnik, you don’t)?

Then the intro pumping rhythm part comes in for a break. During that pumping break, the rhythm section breaks into an ascend which gives way to some synth and guitar solo interchanges. While I said this smacks of Rundgren rejects, the overall sound is still VERY Tubes.

The Spooner part shines through.

He comes back for an abbreviated verse and then back to that break but for the ending it builds up with synth arpeggiations swirling (as if I can see Mike Cotton at the synthesizer bank twiddling knobs and batting faders) as “Satellite” fades.

A conga-led rhythm track rises up with some party conversation into “Bad Parties” written by Spooner and Chris Lockheed. Once again the everyman, Spooner puts us in familiar territory. Who hasn’t been to a bad party?

It’s a swinging rhythm track with occasional twangy guitar accents. Even the dead would tap their feet to this track. The overall tone of this track is laid back but the first verse is so true to life when you deal with musicians, venues, clubs, that community. For example “I’ll put you on the guest list, then they charge you out the ying-yang at the door” and proceeds to list various (what would be called in the Raucous Party Etiquette book) party fouls. Spanning such classics as a long line to the bathroom to spanning taking a load of mushrooms to no fire exits with interspersed choruses of ‘bad party’. Each following chorus changes the lyric a little (“the girls are always ugly…” WOW!) but continues to list party foul after party foul. That must have been an interesting writing session. Sitting around thinking about all your bad party experiences…

Damn Spooner’s a hoot!

The second verse seems to have beefed up the rhythm track a bit behind the discussion between Spooner and a friend about the general decline of the qualities of parties overall. More twangy guitar flashes. And another chorus listing various fouls into a really cool almost space break with a heavy synth bass and some guitarobics and unflattering party chatter, all over a descending chord pattern. But enough of that with a nice, tight six note snap-to-attention break, smacks us right into verse three which is basically a threat and a preference. Don’t invite him to a lame party, he’d rather stay at home than deal with those people.

But there are some fairly tasty licks during that third chorus. If I were to put out a Top Ten Most Underrated/Overlooked Guitar Player, I can guarantee Spooner would fall into the upper half of that list. Next to some other overlooked tasty players you should look into. Ray Neal from Miracle Legion and now Borrowed Books is an example of a player who can take you away in a jangly yet directly melodic way.

At this point we get an extra-special-bonus percussion solo from Mr. Mingo Lewis. The bass and bass synth combo kinda make it sound (on my copy anyway) much like a didgeridoo. Then Spooner puts in some swirling guitar solo right to the end.

Spooner? As a guitar player? What’s to talk about? What do you need? He can do most styles, fits in any genre, raw-power-sloppy-crazy-Zappa-ad infinitum styles. Whether plunking on an acoustic and pulling at your heartstrings or battling it out with guitar-mate in the Tubes Roger Steen to force so much six-string-driven power in your face you shit yourself, the bottom line is and remains, Spooner delivers as one of the top players of our day. If you want an example of something newer of the former with that humor…

 

 

Now this next one, “Only In A Dream” written by Spooner, Chris Lockheed and Nate Ginsburg, this just out and out stinks of Tubes. Like he wanted to follow up “Don’t Want To Wait Anymore” from the Tubes first “blockbuster” hit album Completion Backward Principle, the first of the Foster juggernaut for Capitol. That song did chart for the Tubes. But this has some of that glassy-sounding electric piano Vince Welnick would have kicked ass all over.

It started off with a guitar intro, but we went quickly into a funky, as I said, electric-piano driven uptempo ballad that is sweet about the insanity that is love.

But let’s talk about this chorus…

When the backing vocals come in about the reality of the person of desire, I am immediately stricken with the question: Did Rundgren arrange these vocals before this song was scrapped from the Love Bomb sessions and they re-recorded Spooner’s over Rundgren’s (you can hear much of Rundgren’s distinctive voice in the backing tracks of many Love Bomb tracks). He also did guide vocals until Waybill was able (or willing, or Rundgren was unavailable…) to come in and overdub the final vocal. But you hear it and it can’t help but put you in an etherial mood either way.

Verse two continues the depiction of someone irritated by the haunting of someone, be they real or imagined. And then back into what sounds like an even more glorious arrangement of the vocals and keyboards. I mean behind it is the expected clean, tight, seamless rhythm track that he can envision. I don’t go into much description of the band’s tightness. Have you heard “Talk To Ya Later” from the a-fore mentioned CBP? They did it live, as a seven-piece, note for note, with Steen and Spooner making the audience forget who Steve Lukather was. So Spooner eats tight rhythm tracks for breakfast.

With this album, he seems to be sticking to tried and true arrangements. Intro verse (bridge) chorus verse (bridge) chorus solo verse some form of ending. So with that arrangement in mind, next in the song is, admittedly a killer solo. Truth-be-told, it does sound like Roger Steen a little. Like I said, this might be Love Bomb cutting room floor…

An ambiguous third verse what about was done or might be done to his lady love. Then back to those choruses. In the grandiose nature of the backing vocals, I overlooked some highly powerful chord changes in that chorus, especially on the third chorus line “Only fools know who they are”, breathtaking.

After a double-down chorus, another solo, more in Spooner’s style. Sometimes, the two (Spooner and Steen) are so hard to tell apart and when they play together, in harmony, etc., forget about it… We fade out on some more chorus.

Synth and catchy piano open the pumping “Don’t Tell Me You’re Sorry” written by Spooner, Chris Lockheed and Ron Appelman. If this were proposed to the Tubes, it has parts in mind for all the members. And the melody does seem to fit Waybill’s range. With this song, he futzes with the arrangement in that he puts in the title chorus in the second verse second half coda, and then slaps a different chorus style break right after! Catchy-hookey-poppy… Waybill all over it.

Verse two about different ways to describe Splitsville. That title chorus again but then into the solo. This song is so radio-ready, even with the slight disharmony of the guitar break into the third verse structure.  For the third verse the vocals are pushed up in the mix. But the ending is the title-chorus repeated and embellished with vocal ad-libs and backing vocals repeating the title to the tight end.

Next up we have that a cappella song, “Something In My Eye” written by Spooner, and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts he was inspired by this from Rundgren’s noodlings on his own album, daftly titled A cappella. The intrinsic Spooner humor comes through in that this is a happy, barbershop-style ditty about a very depressing subject (love unrequited seems to be a theme with Spooner).

About praying for rain so people won’t see him cry over love unrequited. Only to stop if she promises not to go. Comparisons to the father, so on. The chorus is simply the question of why another guy.

The vocal ‘instrument’ arrangement is fairly simple. The chord shapes are what sound like a three-to-five track set of ooohs and aaahs, with a voice bass, no percussion in barbershop, nor is this as elaborate as Rundgren’s least technocratic a cappella efforts.

Sorry folks, even when Rundgren did it, a cappella ain’t my thing, so forgive the brevity of this selection review. Not that this isn’t good, the irony of the subject matter verses the background music is still worth the admission price. The next chorus is modulated into a fade. Yeah nothing big there, but I am anxious to get to “Wanna Get Stoned?” written by Spooner.

This one is an all out rocker! Sonically, it has a nice fat, bobbing bass with this great, floating-time signature single guitar chord hit that just makes the rhythm track. The title says what the gist of this track is about. When I saw the song titles on Discogs when I went to research (and ultimately buy) First Chud, I saw that track and knew it would be my favorite.

I was not disappointed.

The lyrical content might remind one of a certain drum-oriented song one used to hear in the Carnival Cruise Line ads a few years back, Ringo Starr used to play it, they use it at sporting events, I wonder who that fella was…

Anywhoooo…

The structure on this one varies in that Spooner teases us with that lazy first verse, a modest bridge about writing a letter talking to the world when he feels better, into another verse. This time about eschewing riches. I think I see (and you can too) where this is going…

Somewhere along the line the distorted rhythm guitar spewing power chords was brought up in the mix, but I was too busy waiting to hear why we could forget our bodies!

Cause we’re gonna get stoned!!! Even just repeating the various forms of informing one that a bake-off is afoot, Spooner makes it interesting, via the lyrics if not the music.

We’re back to the verse structure with more on how our protagonist has no need to make a mark on society, he just wants to get stoned. The quickie bridge is highly apologetic that he hasn’t found world peace or cured worldwide hunger, or cured cancer, so on.

But then there is a nice twist to the chorus structure in that there are answer vocals to his lead vocals, the best of which is “I don’t wanna be a jerk”. Too funny! Then he builds up on the word “Stoned” into a rocking break with a lead-rhythm guitar taking us into fade-out.

Why did I think this would be my favorite? I am a lifelong white Rastafarian who only three months ago got his medical marijuana card from the state or Pennsylvania. Now that I can use it and not have to worry about Johnny Law, and the regulated, horticulturally correctly grown stuff is so potent, let’s just say these reviews are going to get a lot weirder than this one! I mean let’s be real. Bill Spooner is for all intents and purposes a strange guy. That’s another reason I figured this song would be right up my ally. Favorites of his other solo albums? “Too Far Left To Be Right” from Demolicious, and “Hermuta” from MTM. The weird shit.

Side Two:

Drums and lead guitar into “Placebo” written by Spooner and Chris Lockheed. And when I say drums, you can tell it’s Prairie Prince from the very first roll he lays down. So this coulda been Tubes. But the intro misleads you into the opening structure of the song. And yes, the lyrics are about exactly that. Drugs that don’t work (as opposed to getting stoned, see my previous diatribe). A descending chord sequence intros a very staccato-note song until the chorus comes in.

The vocals all along are at least doubled, and echoes are used to trippy effect. On the second chorus go around, there is a very grungy rhythm guitar. Then after a a distinctly Prairie Prince style drum breakdown, the song changes into a little less staccato more fluid part that explains about the two kinds of medicine, the kind that work and don’t.

There’s a huge long diatribe on big Pharma just WAITING to break free there…

The change part breaks down into a repeat of the opening structure with a gnarly lead on top. We return to the namesake section with the trippy delay. I will give it, this is a highly uncharacteristic style for Spooner, but it ranks up there some of his other space-jam type songs.

This time around in the arrangement, chorus into verse, the drums are given more leeway to embellish, roll, accent bass drum, etc. There’s just so much good stuff on this album. When they get back to the “Placebo” structure, a synth leads the fade out. Aw, it’s over already? That is one thing I will knock about the album, but, I know where Spooner’s head was at. Make accessible arrangements to keep them radio friendly and as commercial as he can be. Perhaps I am spoiled by compact disc lengths (in excess of 70 minutes now) but the end grooves were rather large on both sides of the vinyl…

The double bass notes are the feature of the day on “Bad Love” written by Spooner and Chris Lockheed. The rhythm track is very tremolo-oriented in terms of the guitar sound. There is a synth melody that is that chyme-modeled sound so prevalent on Love Bomb. It was a Fairlight sample I believe.

A whole note break into a twangy guitar solo.

The title is misleading. Unlike “Bad Parties” about bad parties, this song is about taking a bad love and making it good. Or at least you think so until you get to the ‘thinking and drinking’ part. Those two are never good combos.

As the song goes on, I hear Roger Steen and Vince Welnick sounding background vocals. Either they did vocals on this track, or Chris Lockheed and Nate Ginsburg are impressive mimics. The feature would be the lyrics like “You know in your heart this is wrong”. Backing vocals rise in the mix as the track goes on, with that whole note break into a solo break for the synths. Could be any of the keyboardists.

Another verse structure and he repeats the chorus of “Can we turn this bad love into good” with vocal ad-libs that I would bet were arranged/recorded/suggested by (as one of my Facebook friends calls Rundgren) ‘Hoagie Head’. The song fades out on this would have been a nice B-side for something Love Bomb-ish. 

We slip our disco with this next cut, “When She Mambo” written by Spooner and the one and only Vince Welnick. So you can account any way-out-consummate-professional-piano-playing, it’s Welnick. That was his gig. Yeah he did organs and synths when the Corporation made him (hell, the team player even cut that hair, his hair was bigger than one-time female vocalist/dancer/Tubes girl’s Re Styles’!).

But this tune clocks in at the longest, but only 4:10. Now you long-time Tubes fans reading this (ha ha ha, like any long-time Tubes fans read this, hee hee hee…) will know I reference many of the mini operettas done in the early heyday to give Waybill time to change outfits and frolic about and harass audience members and endanger those around him.

The GOOD old days…

We have built up a disco ball delight right into the first verse, breaking “So You Think You Can Dance” rules, forgetting blues, the tour de force here would be the polished instrument tracks. It so harkens back to those glory 70’s days. Even Spooner’s voice sounds young again. Too bad it’s a disco style song because, as you know, disco sucks.

The first bridge is about how she is the local authority on Mambo and all dances Mambo. The bass is working overtime on this track. Whoever’s playing it is doing the genre absolute justice.

Aside from the mambo rhythms, this is a Tubes track tried and true. Welnick’s piano is in there, but the chord patterns, they seem… familiar. I want to say I’ve heard them before, but where? Did this song mutate into something on the Bomb, was it an earlier Tubes song reworked to make a different track, it would have to be either a Welnick or Spooner previous composition, yet I can’t place my finger on it (it will dawn on me after I publish, and other than corrections, I do not alter published works).

Now the second verse about the nightclub on funky Broadway, that part of the track starts to rock out a little more. So now Spooner has the band mutating styles within cycles of the song. I see the genius now…

The second bridge part details the skill levels and desires required for said Mambo.

We go into another verse style section and the instruments are dead-on back to tight mambo. Man those guys were good. This verse about commitment to the Mambo teacher, cares drifting away, dancing on stars, descriptives of love galore!

All the while, a percussionist of the caliber that it would not surprise me if it were the mighty Mingo Lewis, shaking, pounding, in a geosynchronous rhythm with Prairie Prince. The song also still has that tight-ass-Tubes rhythm and timed accents and fills, so on and so forth. Not sure what kind of audience he’s going for here…

Surprise we break into a very funk and slap-bass driven rock part that has some very George Benson-esque vocal accents with a tinge of lead guitar in and out of the measures. Into our mambo break into the chorus style structure, and more of that crazed piano playing coming up in the mix as thing fades overall. Sigh…

A very distorted style guitar lead feeds the intro of “How To Be Sexy” written by Spooner, Chris Lockheed and Nate Ginsburg. Ooh ride cymbal bell is the feature of the song, crisp and clear baby! Yeah! The subject matter, more near and dear to me than you want to know good readers. Still about the baser needs. But those baser needs are fun!

Love the single-note guitar chords that undercut the melody. Everything else pumps along but this divergent guitar slides up and down the neck totally ignoring what Spooner’s vocal is doing or meeting it seemingly by accident. I focus on the weirdest things…

The verse structure repeats with more attributes about women, how these attributes may appear sexy to some, some may not enjoy these attributes (i.e. there is a time and a place to be a tease, but not all the time). We break into the distortion guitar to a chorus hook of ‘How to be sexy’, back into another distortion guitar part. But this next verse is SO not politically correct I LOVE IT! But I think I’ve done enough giving away these lyrics and the humor within. It is Private Reserve, but for those who want to hunt out this album, gotta leave a little mystery.

The lead line comes around again with the ‘How to be sexy’ part with the reedy single-coil pickup sounding rhythm guitar coming up in the mix. But at this point in the arrangement we get a break describing how great our protagonist’s girl is. The rhythm changes, changes up again and then dumps you by surprise right back into the ‘how to be’ break. Before you know it! The master of the arrangement of the strange. No wonder Ralph Records ate this up. That and they are both based out of Spooner’s adopted home city of San Fransisco.

Vocal ad-libs flow over the back and forth arrangement of the ‘how to be sexy’ chorus and the verse structure, with the fade on the ‘how to be sexy’ part. With a nice guitar solo over it.

Spooner asks “Am I In Love?” as the spooky, spy-music rhythm track puts a paranoid, mysterious mindset in place for the final track, written by Spooner. A very glassy, high attack keyboard plinks away as chords sink up and down. The lyrics basically equate to love being akin to being ill. “Heart Disease Called Love” by Miracle Legion comes to mind, so, yeah, love can be classified as an illness, sure, why not?

Verse two merely changes the situation. From being ill around one person, to having a general overall sickness. The rejoinder section has a sort of, almost meowing sounding synth added to the mix for the ‘only person I can talk to’ bridge section which is a variant on the spooky section and the double-note strikes break. It’s all so technical…

A new keyboard counter melody is added to the third verse, and strong backing vocals added to the ‘only person’ coda. Then into those double note hits again. The song takes on more of a paranoid tone as the track plays on.

So how do we break this paranoia the destroyer?

An A cappella break for a few measures! WHAT THE FUCK????

Well slap me with a fish and call me Gwendolyn. That’s it. You won, Bill. This year’s Fish Gwendolyn Award goes to Bill Spooner for tossing in a major key a cappella break into the the most paranoid-sounding song since Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and the Kinks Paranoia, so on etc. I mean how does one recover a review after that?

Some nutty ride cymbal playing, some wacky synths and the promise of torture run quickly to the coda break with that ride cymbal pushing all the way and those thick backing vocals, all coming from the padded cell…

The up and down chords lead out with vocal ad-libs and backing vocals through the fade. And that’s all she wrote.

So how does one sum-up the Bill Spooner experience? Those fans who have been lucky enough to interact with him, in person, through email, after shows, all say he is a down to earth, real guy.  I am one of those lucky few. But I see him in a different light. I see him as the true heart and soul of the Tubes.

I must confess that First Chud doesn’t match, say, Love Bomb or even Mall To Mars in terms of sonic cleanliness, mastering level or dynamics. You have to remember that most likely Spooner didn’t have the funds available for an out-this-world mastering studio and in comparison to Mall To Mars, the technology did not yet exist to bring that quality of mastering to First Chud. Still, the sonics of this album are excellent for the time and budget. Remember, the label this came out on, Ralph Records, made most of its money from releasing Residents records. So sonic spotlessness wasn’t a label priority. This album still rocks, Spooner’s signature style and humor are all over this.

Fee Waybill once again fronts the slimmed-down version of The Tubes. An efficient five-piece augmented by Waybill’s continuation of the characters within the songs he sings. Photo by Lynn Vala

I will not deny that the current line-up, Steen, Waybill, Prince, Anderson and the beyond believable keyboardist David Medd, are doing the old catalog a total service. They cover old stuff, newer stuff, even the hits.

But without Spooner, they can’t reach these depths…

If that song didn’t move you, your existential being is in question.

As is the premise of these Private Reserve reviews, I get to tell you about what you can’t have. This may not be entirely impossible with sites like Discogs, et al, but there won’t be many for sale. While you are looking for Spooner albums, keep your eyes peeled for Demolicious because it is no longer available at Spooner’s site (NOTE: Site copyright last updated 2004), http://www.billspooner.com/

There are some copies left of Mall To Mars. It’s a really good place to start as it equally reveals Spooner’s many stylistic influences. If in the rare instance you can find First Chud, and I may be partial but, buy buy buy! It may saeem pricey. But if you get a good copy (as I did) the money is well worth it to own a piece of the Tubes story.

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