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It was 1979 when I discovered The Tubes. About to start High-School, even then I was quite obsessed about music but had yet to find THEE band for me. Then POW! the Tubes spoke to me like no band had before. They were onto their fourth album by this point, but every one was new to me. Wry and sardonic vocals, musically proficient with a "twin guitar attack", swirly synths, and a rhythm section that just plain rocked. And There had never been anything like them. Still hasn't. Choreography and costumes, set changes, and audience participation, sex and drugs and rock and roll. It was a 14 year old boys dream, and every mothers nightmare. Eventually I got to see them perform over a dozen times, traded numerous letters/pictures/artwork, got backstage and shared doobage with 'em, and even shagged a few balls at a WLUP benefit softball game. Still touring with 3 of 7 original members , they were last seen in Chicago 2 years ago at North Halsted Market Days, and they played Milwaukee's Summerfest this past July! Though very little new music has made its way to record stores, the fine folks in England have been kind enough to compile the first two albums onto one CD. Bearing the title "White Punks on Dope", it looks to be just another "Hits" package, when in actuality, it's their first two albums remixed and remastered in their original sequence. Impossibly hard to classify, they drew influence from Zappa and Beefheart, lounge music and rockabilly, disco, Eno, Bowie, post-prog, and whatever else it seemed they could talk their producers into going along with. And even though a few pop-culture references (Paul Williams and Randy Mantooth, anyone?) are quite dated, the music is amazingly timeless. So, kudos to our British bretheren for putting together two albums that not only opened my ears to all kinds of music, but my eyes as well. Related Tubeslinks: Michael Cotten, Prairie Prince, Bill Spooner (Guitar Lessons!!!)

Speaking of eyes, mine have been glued to the book, The Golden Age of Chicago Childrens Television by Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen. Though most of it deals with shows that predate myself, I am still fascinated that at one time there was such a thing as locally produced childrens programming. Sure, we have Chic-a-gogo on public access, and yeah, cable is just chock full of shows geared towards kids, but the one thing they're missing is localism. There is something about maybe, hopefully hearing the name of your town or school (closed 'cause of snow?) mentioned, or you could always hope that one day you too could show your rock collection to the admiral (or captain, or whatever the heck Frazier Thomas was supposed to be). Many people who grew up with these shows have stories to tell about their brushes with greatness. Maybe you got to see the Bozo show in person. Or met someone at a personal appearance at a Burger King or a car dealership. Heck, Frazier Thomas took the Addison bus to work!

I just don't think kids seeing a Spongebob costume at a mall is the same thing. These shows made a kid feel connected to the adult world, more than any animated show of today. And though I have no personal experience with many of the shows covered by this book, I can appreciate the craft and heart that went into entertaining "kids of all ages", something I don't think will be written about this generation of childrens programming.

Check out John's Adventures in Las Vegas and more DVD reviews.