The Tubes formed in 1972 in San Francisco from two Phoenix bands after both relocated to San Francisco in 1969. The Beans featured Bill Spooner, Rick Anderson, Vince Welnick and Bob Macintosh, while The Red White and Blues Band featured Prairie Prince, Roger Steen and David Killingsworth. After playing the 1970 World’s Fair in Japan, David Killingsworth left the Red, White and Blues Band leaving Roger and Prairie to audition bass players unsuccessfully. The Beans had been a local favorite in Phoenix selling out shows with a tongue in cheek concept rock show called “The Mother of Ascension” featuring costumes and props before moving to San Francisco. After moving, Bill Spooner worked at the Fillmore West sweeping floors in between Beans gigs at the Longshoarman’s Halls and other depressing venues. The band’s loud, heavy jamming style didn’t attract attention and the band would go back to Phoenix and sell out shows to make rent. Bean’s manager and former Alice Cooper Group drummer John Speer suggested they add Prairie and Roger along with their roadie John Waybill for one of these shows. Waybill’s nickname among the band was “Fee” short for “Fiji” thanks to his insane head of hippie hair.
“The Radar Men from Uranus” played the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix as well as a show in Mexico where they were run out of town by the police and Rick Anderson almost drowned after he was washed out to sea while swimming. The group would stick together and play shows at biker bars such as The Inn of The Beginning. The vocals at this time were shared by Bill, Roger and Fee as different characters. Prairie Prince and Phoenix high school friend Michael Cotten were attending art school at the San Francisco Art Institute at this time, they started attracting local press attention by painting a mural of crashing waves on the side of the Cliff House Restaurant. Michael Cotten was asked by Bill to buy a ARP synthesizer instead of a film camera and began to perform with the band as well as create props and costumes. One of the first “Tubes” shows was at the Art Institute cafeteria as part of an art show for classmate and future Hollywood director Katherine Bigelow. While experimenting with their stage show and art, Prairie and Michael met a model named Re Styles while painting the Cliff House Mural. Re has appeared in both Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (1973 film) and Sun Ra’s Space is the Place and posed for Playboy and Penthouse. Prairie and Re began dating and she started performing with the band playing Patty Hearst and dressing in wild leather outfits during the “Mondo Bondage” dance with Fee. After several years of playing biker bars the band needed help. The band had a temporary agreement with producer David Rubinson and played on bills with The Pointer Sisters and Sylvester (singer) but were still trying to find an audience. Prairie Prince had been hired by a newly formed fusion rock band named Journey to record demos and approached their manager Herbie Herbert, a former Santana roadie and Bill Graham employee. Herbie made a deal with Bill Graham that if the Tubes could sell out three local shows, Bill would give him an opening slot on the show of his choice.
Herbie booked shows at a local club called the Village which sold out thanks to themes inspired by the San Francisco post-hippie underground culture such as “The Streaker’s Ball” and “Mondo Bondage.” Much to Bill Graham’s dismay Herbie Herbert chose an opening slot for the upcoming Led Zeppelin show at Kezar Stadium. The band pulled out the stops including Fee dressed as an early version of “Quay Lewd” throwing “Cocaine” (flour) and “Pills” (candy) at the crowd who threw it back. Bill Graham threatened Herbie that the band would never play in San Francisco again but calmed down and eventually fell in love with the band, booking them at Winterland and other California venues for New Year’s shows and Halloween. After the 1973 Led Zeppelin show, Herbie wanted to manage the band but Bill Spooner and the group went with local management team of Mort Moriarty and Gary Peterson also known as “Bag O’ Bucks.” Mort was interested in the use of video in rock music and saw the Tubes stage show as the future of music video. Bob Macintosh tragically died of cancer at this time leaving Prairie as the only drummer. In 1974, Bag O’ Bucks filmed a Tubes show at the California Hall and shopped the “video demo” around Los Angeles. Finally after working with lawyer Greg Fischbach, the band signed with A&M records.