The psychedelic band from down under play two shows with Wayne Coyne and gang
It is said that the Flaming Lips was a band born shortly after a gatecrashed party. 1983 was the year and Wayne Coyne, a $60 a week fish-frying employee of Long John Silver's, had finally saved up enough money to buy the Les Paul he'd been eyeing in a local shop window. The parents of a young Michael Ivins were out of town, people got drunk, and a guy called Mark Coyne arrived uninvited. Windows got broken, and this is where our story more or less begins, "..the next day Wayne shows up with a drummer guy and said, hey, I've heard you've gotta bass." Despite Michael's misgivings about his own skills, "I thought four strings would be easier. It wasn't," they got together and jammed, "We must have played the Batman theme about ten times." Looking back, Wayne remembers that, "I learned to play fairly well within a couple of weeks, and everyone thought I was going to be the next Hendrix or something. I never really got much better than I was after those first two weeks..." In a short while, they had got Mark, younger brother of Wayne, to do the singing, and they made a four song demo tape, featuring the by then ubiquitous 'Batman Theme', along with 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere', and a couple of other songs - 'Killer On The Radio', and 'Handsome Johnny'.
Despite somewhat inexplicably deciding to call themselves the Flaming Lips (Wayne - "It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was definitely better than the Tijuana Toads. Besides, we always thought we would eventually change it."), they eventually scored a first gig. It was at an all-black bar, and they were supposed to be playing old time R&B of some sort. Against all the odds, they managed to earn two encores, each one consisting solely of the Batman theme, naturally. Not that Michael found the experience particularly easy - initially he had a few problems with being able to turn around and face the audience while playing. There followed a gig at a transvestite club in Oklahoma City, called the Blue Note. This was all pretty weird, but somehow fitting, for four skinny twenty-something (well, except for the drummer who was pushing thirty) straight white guys playing what they thought of as 'death rock'. Soon after all that craziness, the drummer guy moved on and (as far as anyone knows) joined the airforce.
More drummers came and went but by 1984 the Flaming Lips were settled into the line-up which would cut their first record - with Richard English now fulfilling the percussive duties, and the band practising regularly in a disused meat locker. A wily move of buying their own practice PA system opened doors for the band. Having the only PA in the Oklahoma punk rock circles that they found themselves moving in gave these four young men the opportunity to open up for all the hardcore bands of the time, in return for running the sound for everyone else. While opening for bands such as Husker Du, Black Flag and the Minutemen, the fast developing Flaming Lips were able to inflict their curious punk noise (they had moved on from the death rock by now) on various unsuspecting hardcore fans. "You weren't supposed to like Black Flag and Led Zeppelin, so we lied and said we loved hardcore," explains Wayne, "At those shows we usually ended up sat in the parking lot listening to old Bee Gees records." In actual fact, the band were playing a lot of Who songs, as well as throwing plenty of weirder covers in amongst their own very not-hardcore creations. Their desire to provide some 'proper' entertainment was also growing, and Wayne would usually employ various combinations of jumping around, lying down to play, and generally knocking things over.
The Flaming Lips will release their thirteenth studio album titled, The Terror, on April 2nd in the US and April 1st in Europe.
It is comprised of nine original compositions that reflect a darker-hued spectrum than previous works, along with a more inward-looking lyrical perspective than one might expect — but then again, maybe not. It’s up to you, the listener, to decide what it means to you.
Wayne Coyne explains, “Why would we make this music that is The Terror — this bleak, disturbing record? I don’t really want to know the answer that I think is coming. Maybe this is the beginning of the answer.”
The Terror is a bold and expressive journey that has evolved over The Lips’ nearly 30-year tended garden of sonic delights that ebbs and flows with extraordinary splashes of darkness and light, pleasure and pain, chaos and order. As we’ve come to know The Flaming Lips, the real beauty lies with the knowledge that to expect the unexpected is all part of the manic fun.
“If we have love, give love and know love,” Coyne says, “we are truly alive and if there is no love, there would be no life. The Terror, we know now, that even without love, life goes on…we just go on…There is no mercy killing.”