Feature: The Flaming Lips, in my life (a visual and written retrospective)By Billy Thieme | August 1st, 2011 | 4 comments
The Flaming Lips play a sold-out show Red Rocks Amphitheatre this Wednesday, Aug. 3. In advance of the concert, we asked two Lips junkies (and Reverb contributors) to share their memories of the band.
It was January, ’95 or ’96 (who knows?) and the Flaming Lips had just finished a show that remains one of a few that have shaped my world view.
As we strolled through the alley beside the Ogden Theatre towards a still open side door, shivering and giggling as we continued to find bits of confetti in our hair, pockets, gloves and (we would find out later) underpants, I noticed that Wayne Coyne –- the Lips’ front man and anti-apocalyptic visionary force -– was still on the stage as the roadies cleared out their equipment. On a whim, I called him over by his first name, and he came as if he’d been expecting us, then spent a good 30 minutes just shootin’ the shit with us.
Coyne made us feel like it was his honor to stand and shiver with us in the snow and laugh about how ridiculous and strange a recent tour with Candlebox (of all popular bands at the time) was, or how the band had recently appeared on the most popular T.V. show at the time, “Beverly Hills 90210.”
Photo retrospective, below, by another Flaming Lips superfan, Reverb’s Michael McGrath. Various images ranging 1994-2010.
That year, the band had started to play shows that they called something like “universal birthday parties” and that have now become their signature act. Coyne would stop the band about halfway through the shows and ask how the (usually) not sold out crowd felt, and then he’d explain his plan. The plan was to make sure that everyone -– each and every person in the building (and, if he had his way, some outside in the surrounding neighborhood –- heck, in the world) was going to have a good time that night. That everyone was going to be a part of the party, and since everyone had birthday parties, this would be a chance for everyone to celebrate theirs and everyone else’s. And then came the glitter, balloons and confetti.
The other part of what made the Lips such an important part of my world at the time, was the fact that their music formed (and still forms) the soundtrack to the life I’ve made with my wife, Amy, and our children. When we met, I’d just recently bought my first copy of “Hit to Death in the Future Head,” and was mesmerized by it. As our love grew and we eventually got married, hits like “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “This Here Giraffe” and “Bad Days” constantly seemed to confirm that we were on the right track. We used to fawn over Coyne’s story about how hard the band wanted to be punk when they covered Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” on “A Priest Driven Ambulance,” and all they could do was re-legitimize the song’s sentimental words to a generation of adult punkers about to step into their adult/parenting/grown-up lives.
Then, Amy’s father fell ill, and eventually passed away, and the Lips even gave us some tunes for that sad time. “The Soft Bulletin” starts of with “Race for the Prize,” a story about the selfless search for a cure for disease –- which directly related to my father-in-law’s fight. Then, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” produced “Do You Realize??” just at the time my wife’s dad lost that fight.
All through everything, the Lips’ music has done nothing if not remind us where we are –- really are –- at any given moment, and how fantastic it all is, despite what our eyes might be telling us. And this really is the true magic behind their music, the lyrics, their attitude and their live shows.
Yes, I am a Wayne Coyne superfan. I’m a Flaming Lips superfan. And I don’t care who knows it. To give you an idea of how much I worship the hallowed rock ‘n’ roll ground that Coyne and the Flaming Lips both create and tread on, consider the full name of my youngest boy: Oliver William Coyne Thieme.
We gave Oliver the name Coyne as one of his middle names partly in gratitude for the memories we shared to Flaming Lips’ tunes over the previous decade. But, more importantly, we gave Oliver that name because we wanted there to be a remnant of Coyne’s philosophy alive and attached to one of our children -– in case the wave of positivity Coyne has constantly espoused and exemplified with the Flaming Lips eventually gave way to the overwhelming need for humans to just give up in the face of what too often seem like insurmountable odds.
So far, the plan has worked.