Wayn Coyne during a Pink Floyd meets Wizard of OZ freakout at Red Rocks, August 3, 2011. (Photo: Michael McGrath)
In January, ’95 or ’96 (who can say for sure?), after a Flaming Lips show that (despite the fact that they’d opened for, of all bands, Candlebox) remains one that shaped my world view, my friend and I approached an 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. Wayne Coyne – the Lips’ visionary front man – was onstage as the roadies cleared out their equipment. On a whim, I called, 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 that incongruous Candlebox tour was, along with an appearance on “Beverly Hills 90210,” and how all of it seemed so, so surreal.
… there may not be any other band in the world that carries the psychedelic pedigree of Pink Floyd more aptly than the Flaming Lips. Stylistically, and in stature, the two bands form a perfect progression, from progressive progenitors to psychedelic punk superstars.
Not too long before that night, the Lips had begun to explode their shows into “universal birthday parties,” now their signature act. The intent was that everyone – in the building as well as in the surrounding neighborhood – become a part of the huge party. It was that time that the Flaming Lips became an inextricable part of life for me – a part that wrapped up my whole family in its wild embrace.
And then came the glitter, balloons, bullhorned lyrics and confetti. Birthday parties – universal – fit the bill.
Vitamin' vocalist Lizzie Allen takes on exquisite vocals for "The Great Gig in the Sky." (Photo: Michael McGrath
Last Wednesday night’s explosive tribute to Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” turned out to be another triumphant groove in the Lips’ giant party history.
Coyne’s inflatable ball antics – already legendary around the world – reached new heights that night (quite literally), as he walked across the heads and outstretched hands of the sold out crowd, stopping easily halfway up the amphitheater. He stood up inside the ball, and pumped his fists triumphantly before perilously wandering back down to the stage. Meanwhile, confetti cannons shot their loads out from the stage, while 100 Dorothy Gales danced on either side of the stage to Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse,” before the band led us all in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” from the classic “The Wizard of Oz.” Look at the video here.
The mixture of the classic film and Pink Floyd’s classic record is the stuff of pop psychedelic stoner history – reportedly the two synch up miraculously when played beside one another – and Coyne and co. took full advantage of their relationship. They interspersed masterful renditions of Pink Floyd classics – that actually did more to update them than merely copy them – with often hilarious versions of songs from the beloved film soundtrack.
A clear highlight was Coyne’s attempt to get the entire sold out amphitheater to sing a call-and-response version of “If I Only Had A Brain,” which didn’t fair too well – but not for his lack of trying.
Just like the show had a soundtrack tie-in, so did my life develop one as I grew to follow the Lips over the past two decades, starting in early 1992, when began to build the foundation of my family.
I’d just recently bought my first copy of “Hit to Death in the Future Head,” and was mesmerized by it. As I headed into my last (as in final) marriage, hits like “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “This Here Giraffe” and “Bad Days” appeared and confirmed that the path my partner and I were on met the Lips’ approval.
Wayne Coyne exudes a constant, and constantly enlightening, positivity. (Photo: Michael McGrath)
The Flaming Lips formed the soundtrack to my life then, and they still do.
As a family, we still re-tell Coyne’s story about how hard the band wanted their cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” on “A Priest Driven Ambulance” to be THE sardonic punk anthem they heard. It did nothing but re-legitimize the song’s poignancy to a generation of adult punkers about to step into their lives, and the story remains prescient.
Later, when my wife’s father fell ill, and eventually passed away, “The Soft Bulletin,” that year’s soundtrack, gave us “Race for the Prize,” with its fitting search for a cure. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” produced “Do You Realize??” just at the time my father-in-law died, and that song has been heard at so many weddings, funerals and family parties in our community ever since.
Coyne and the Lips’ music, lyrics and attitude has done nothing if not try to remind us where we are – really are – now, and how fantastic it all is, despite what our eyes might be telling us.
That Red Rocks show continued to wind into that early August night, much to the chagrin of a surprising number of “Pink Floyd Purists,” reportedly complaining heavily about betrayal in the urinal lines. That in itself is interesting, considering that there may not be any other band in the world that carries the psychedelic pedigree of Pink Floyd more aptly than the Flaming Lips. Stylistically, and in stature, the two bands form a perfect progression, from progressive progenitors to psychedelic punk superstars. The only difference may be in Wayne Coyne’s endless optimism and infectious smile, in comparison to Roger Waters’ and David Gilmour’s – maybe all the Floyd-members’- mostly dour outlook.
Wayne Coyne scrambles back down Red Rocks, atop the heads and hands of the sold out crowd. (Photo: Michael McGrath)
I’m a superfan – of the Lips and of Pink Floyd. I saw the beauty of the re-telling of “The Dark Side of the Moon,” by the band most qualified to retell it.
More than that, I follow the hallowed rock ‘n’ roll ground that Coyne and the Flaming Lips both create and tread on enough to have given my son Oliver the name “Coyne” as one of two middle names. The other one is mine.
We did it because we wanted there to be a remnant of Coyne’s philosophy alive and attached to him always – in case the wave of positivity the enigmatic singer espouses ever subsides.
So far, the plan has worked.