As you can infer from the band name, The Tubes had a fascination with television, which was the theme of the Remote Control album, produced with a concept about a television-addicted idiot savant. In the song "Prime Time," a couple is professing their love for each other in TV jargon: "prime time" is when most people are watching.
Todd Rundgren, who two years earlier helmed Meat Loaf's mega-selling Bat Out Of Hell, produced the album.
The female vocalist on this track is Re Styles (Shirley Marie MacLeod), who was a stage performer with the group but sometimes contributed vocals.
The Remote Control album didn't sell very well but has earned a place in music history as an ambitious and prescient piece of work. The cover art depicts a baby in a custom-built trainer watching the TV game show Hollywood Squares, and inside the band appears as celebrities in the squares. Soon after it was released, The Tubes' label, A&M Records, dropped the band, which was picked up by Capitol. There, they sold far better, thanks in large part to MTV, which showcased the visual element of the band, their strong suit.
This didn't chart in America but reached #34 in the UK, thanks in part to an appearance on the BBC show Top Of The Pops.
At the time of this release, the band had just finished headlining with Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel at the Knebworth Festival in 1978. Not impressed? Well, they also performed in the Cher... Special, a TV musical and comedy revue which aired April 3, 1978 on ABC. In a show which included Cher, Dolly Parton, and Rod Stewart, The Tubes were in the part where the forces of good and evil were battling for Cher's soul. Dolly Parton appeared as an angel with a backing choir who tried to steer Cher to Heaven, while The Tubes wore black leather and reprised "Mondo Bondage" from their first album, representing The Other Place.
The Tubes were known for their extravagant and sometimes shocking stage shows that featured videos, dancers, bondage and a crazy character performed by lead singer Fee Waybill
known as "Quay Lude." But with album sales below expectations, their budget got cut and they had to simplify the show when they toured behind Remote Control
. Waybill posits that the elaborate visuals took away from the music, which hurt their album sales.