ST. CHARLES – Fee Waybill and his band The Tubes will perform their 1981 hit album titled “The Completion Backward Principle” in its entirety during an April 4 show at the Arcada Theatre in downtown St. Charles. Chicago area band Off Broadway is also on the bill.
Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Waybill about the upcoming show. The interview has been edited for length and style.
Eric Schelkopf: I understand that you thought it was the right time to do “The Completion Backward Principle” in its entirety.
Fee Waybill: Well, we’ve been thinking about it for a long time, actually. You know, we’ve never done it before. Even when we released the album back in ’81, we never did it straight through in order. We did a bunch of the songs, but I don’t even think we did every song.
It just felt like the time was right because of the political climate. The idea of “The Completion Backward Principle” was based on kind of a sales technique. We found this record years ago in a record store and it was a sales technique record for this guy named Stanley Paterson.
The idea was that imagination creates reality. This was like when you still had door-to-door salesmen. You were supposed to imagine the completed sale before you walked up to the door. That was the whole concept.
Back then, we did it with the gray flannel suits. The early ’80s were kind of a very corporate time. It was the beginning of MTV and videos – a lot of formulaic bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon.
We had been so psycho all those years and on all those albums on A&M, and we were doing a lot of theatrical stuff. Then we said, ‘What if we all slick our hair down and wear gray flannel suits?’ We were spoofing the corporate rock world.
That’s another reason I think we decided to revive it, because the business has changed so much. It’s so corporate now. There’s like, what, four big companies. And that’s it. Being online is really the only way for a new fledgling band these days.
After we do the album, then we do our other classic numbers, “What Do You Want from Life?” and “Mondo Bondage” and “White Punks on Dope.” You got to do “White Punks on Dope.”
Schelkopf: People would riot if you didn’t do that song.
Waybill: They would riot, exactly. We want to keep our fans happy. So we do it all.
Schelkopf: Given that “The Completion Backward Principle” is satirical in nature and is kind of poking fun at corporate rock, did you find it ironic that the songs “Talk to Ya Later” and “Don’t Want to Wait Anymore” from the album became hits? Or was that all part of the plan?
Waybill: Yeah, that was definitely part of the plan. When we left A&M, we had done six records with A&M, and we never really had a hit. We never really sold enough records to make them happy. We have an incredible live reputation. But, of course, that wasn’t helping them out at all.
So when we signed with Capitol, that was the plan. They told us if we wanted to work at Capitol that we needed to get on the radio and sell records and have some chart success.
So we found David Foster. He had just written a No. 1 song, “After the Love Has Gone,” for Earth, Wind & Fire. So he was up for it. And he had never done a rock album. He had never worked with a rock band. He had done all these R&B songs and worked with R&B groups.
We always wanted to have an R&B kind of feel and so we thought it was perfect. And yeah, we wrote the corporate ballad, “Don’t Want to Wait Anymore.” And sure enough, that was the first single that they released.
But we had a lot of success with that album. So Capitol was very happy.
Schelkopf: I was wondering if any longtime fans were wondering what you guys were doing, and afraid you guys were selling out.
Waybill: Absolutely. We got that accomplished. They absolutely did. We got that kind of push-back for sure. But what are you going to do? It was either get on the radio or get out of town, pretty much. But it didn’t affect our live performance. The live show has not been diminished at all.
Schelkopf: Now that you guys finally got on the radio, how did that change you guys?
Waybill: It changed everything. We started playing bigger venues. We started selling records. We made more money. Instead of playing 250-seaters, we were playing arenas. Everything was upgraded.
Schelkopf: Does imagination create reality?
Waybill: Yes, imagination does create reality. I always imagined that I could be a rock ‘n’ roll singer. I would be walking around the house singing Beatles songs and thinking about being in a band. It does work.
If you go
WHAT: Fee Waybill and his band The Tubes
WHERE: Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. April 4
COST: $39 to $79