"These were not normal guys from normal families - you're talking about freaks"
Michele Vlasimsky, Flaming Lips manager 1986-1990
"We're just normal guys trying to make interesting music"
Wayne Coyne, head Flaming Lip, 2001
In actual fact, the truth probably lies somewhere between these two statements. To help you decide for yourself which one it's closer to, this part of the site contains a variety of biographical information about the band and the individual members and associates. To provide some additional background, there are also some interviews and random pieces of information for you to pick through.
As with any story, there's a whole lot more that isn't covered here, but it really would require a fairly lengthy book to do it properly.... so you'll just have to wait for that!! In the meantime, you might like to watch Bradley Beesley's 2000 documentary, "The Flaming Lips Have Landed."
Part 1: In the beginning...
In the beginning... • Making records • Subtractions & additions • Exploiting the major label • Jelly, the use thereof • Another new beginning • Following the arc
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.
--- from the official The Flaming Lips website