Last revised May 19, 2014
In 2012 The Future Heart broke news of Wayne Coyne’s plan to continually remake legendary albums as collaborative side projects and release them in a series of limited run, multi-color vinyl. Some readers doubted he would follow through, but alas that October The Flaming Lips, New Fumes, Stardeath and White Dwarfs, Linear Downfall and Spaceface issued Playing Hide and Seek with the Ghosts of Dawn, a remake of the 1969 prog classic In the Court of the Crimson King, and followed it with those bands’ “Exploding the Moon a Million Times” tour. In January 2013 Wayne began covering Stone Roses songs with HOTT MT, New Fumes and others, first reported by The Future Heart shortly after. That project blossomed to include The Flaming Lips, Stardeath and White Dwarfs, Polica, Def Rain, Peaking Lights, Depth and Current, Jonathan Rado (Foxygen), Spaceface and Lip$ha entirely recreating The Stone Roses’ 1989 eponymous debut LP, calling it The Time Has Come To Shoot You Down…What A Sound and releasing it on Record Store Day Black Friday. Almost exactly one year since the start of The Stone Roses recordings Wayne began enlisting various artists for his next project…
…a complete remake of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“We’ve done a couple of these things but I think Wayne is trying to make this one a little more high-profile,” Steven Drozd told Rock Sucker in March. Since then it’s been revealed the new project is titled With A Little Help From My Fwends, will be released on October 28, 2014 and includes a long and diverse list of collaborators. On May 18th lead single “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was made available both as a single track for purchase and a free download to fans that pre-order the album on Amazon or iTunes (Amazon also offers CD and vinyl pre-orders). That same day the Lips appeared on the Billboard Music Awards with Miley Cyrus performing “Lucy” (pre-taped in Manchester on May 14, 2014, watch above). All proceeds go to The Bella Foundation, an Oklahoma City animal rescue non-profit.
“All money goin to help dogs and cats in OKC!!!” Wayne announced on May 5th along with With A Little Help From My Fwends’ tentative original album cover by Joshua McClesky (aka Wild Moon Dreams). A different cover by Oliver Hibert was revealed in Wayne’s May 9th instagram and twitter posts that also clarified “all proceeds goin to The Bella Foundation https://thebellafoundation.org/ to help OKC’s homeless dogs and cats !!!!” Wayne further confirmed on May 18th that “all the money from our Beatles Sgt. Peppers futuristic re imagined record called With A Little Help From My Fwends…goes to thebellafoundation.org” and that “every time With A Little Help From My Fwends is bought..these dogs are helped!!“
“I’ve been doing stuff with Foxygen, they’re my favourite band at the moment,” Steven told Rock Sucker as the collaborations were still being planned in March. “We’re trying to get them to do a Sgt. Pepper track, I think we’re talking to MGMT, trying to get a bunch of different bands…Tame Impala – they would definitely be on the list…I’m sure Wayne will try to get Phantogram to do a track for the Beatles record.”
“It’s really just a lot of great friends of mine who are all contributing,” Coyne told Rolling Stone on May 7th. “Sometimes it’s two groups doing a song; sometimes it’s one. And it’s not always the Flaming Lips and someone; sometimes it’s just other groups.” Although the artist line-up hasn’t been officially released, numerous hints have been dropped on social media. Most famously Wayne Coyne posted a picture on instagram of “Miley in the studio vomiting diamonds while singing Lucy In The Sky…” (shown above), adding that track features “Andrew from MGMT too” and that “if you’re a Beatles and John Lennon freak you gonna love love love this track.” Miley’s session came the day after Wayne and Steven guest performed with Miley on her Bangerz tour’s Tulsa concert (they also played together at the Los Angeles Bangerz show, inciting a polarized reaction from fans).
In addition to Wayne’s updates, Moby, Zorch, New Fumes (Daniel Huffman’s one-man-band, and the artist who contributed the most to The Time Has Come To Shoot You Down…), Brooke Kelty (the other half of Huffman’s new duo Birdflower), Linear Downfall, and Stardeath and White Dwarfs have all posted online about their involvement in the project:
- Birdflower recorded “Within Without You” in January. Steven and New Fumes continued work on the track in May.
- While at Dave Fridmann’s Tarbox Road Studios with The Flaming Lips finishing the Electric Würms debut record, Linear Downfall recorded parts for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “Fixing a Hole.” They discussed both projects in this interview with The Future Heart. Since then Steven toyed with “Fixing a Hole” some more. It’s possible these tracks will be credited to Electric Würms, not Linear Downfall. In fact, the pre-order page for the album on iTunes lists “Fixing a Hole” to the Würms.
- Steven also worked on “When I’m 64,” with Def Rain and New Fumes
- Wayne revealed on Instagram: “Day The Earth Stood Still Robot voice goin to My Morning Jacket to try to stick it in their mega-mix of Seargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band!!“ A picture of Jim James was later included in a photo set tweeted by the band promoting the pre-sale.
- Zorch recorded “Good Morning, Good Morning” (and then they ate tangerines at the Lips’ Pink Floor Studio) (and then they mixed the track at Austin’s 5th Street Studios)
- Stardeath and White Dwarfs are working on “Lovely Rita”
- Treasure MammaL discussed their “She’s Leaving Home” sessions and how they became involved in the project in this article, and released a video for it here
- Foxygen and MGMT are regularly teased as well, though their contributions are unclear
- A slew of contributors were tagged by Wayne in his May 9th instagram post revealing the album cover: #foxygen#flaminglips #moby #mileycyrus #mgmt#mymorningjacket #seanlennon #phantogram#newfumes #beatles #birdflower #morgandelt#treasuremammal #sunbears #electricwürms #stardeathandwhitedwarfs #lovemoneyparty
- Although Tame Impala have not been mentioned since Steven’s Rock Sucker interview, they were tagged along with the other collaborators on May 18th
- In addition to Oliver Hibert’s album cover art, Joshua McCleskey also created art for the project (though it’s unclear if it will be part of the finished product).
The Flaming Lips are also filming a video for their cover of Pepper fav “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, released as a free download last year and played at all of the Lips recent concerts (including BUKU and Hangout Fests), as well as on Letterman’s “Beatles Week” in February as a duet with Sean Lennon (trivia – on the Late Show Sean was wearing the same hat his father wore at the Fab Four’s last ever photo session, aka The Beatles Again LP shoot) (or, at least that’s the rumor going around). More details on the music video are here. Watch a teaser below:
The decision to cover Pepper follows the Lips ringing in New Year’s 2014 with a Beatles tribute set, and featuring “Lucy” at most of their recent shows. In fact a large chunk of Lips’ career is directly inspired by the Fab Four and since the ’80s they’ve consistently covered Beatles (and John’s solo) tunes, most notably a Lennon-Beatles mini-set at their 2011-12 New Year’s Freak Out with the Plastic Ono Band. Pepper particularly influenced Coyne, though growing up he only listened to the left side of its famous stereo mix. “I listened to Sgt. Pepper a lot, not realising that huge chunks of vocals and instruments were missing,” Coyne revealed in Uncut’s September 2010 issue. “When I hear a proper mix, it sounds wrong. My versions sound better! They have this eerie, empty quality.”
If you’ve never listened to The Fabs’ stereo LPs on individual speakers the above videos are a perfect crash course introduction. The stereo mix of “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” has their playing on the left speaker with the vocals mixed almost entirely to the right, similar to the mixing approach of The Beatles’ early albums. Isolating the left side, it essentially becomes an instrumental with Paul’s ever-playful bassline taking a lead role. “Good Morning Good Morning” has the Beatles’ performances on the left speaker and the brass arrangement played by Sounds Inc. on the right (along with Paul’s bass, and the refrain – inspired by a TV commercial jingle for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes). Isolating the left side, the rhythm section rocking through Lennon’s odd meter phrasing is at the forefront – rather than buried behind brass — and the track takes on a different vibe than when heard conventionally (similar to the version on Anthology 2 except the stereo left version has Paul’s fab guitar solo).
“We’re always talking about it, trying to figure out which Led Zeppelin record we could do,” Drozd admitted to Rock Sucker. “We might branch into doing a Sonic Youth record – I would love to try Evol or something.” Covering classics is a way for Coyne in particular to have fun recording with both his Lips bandmates and younger artists while creating fresh versions of LPs he’s long cherished – so he can hear them anew. This time around, it’s also a fundraiser for The Bella Foundation SPCA, helping stray animals in Oklahoma City. Coyne acts primarily as an executive producers and curator, while often documenting the process on social media. With all of this in mind, it will be interesting to see how Coyne oversees recording Pepper – the fattest sacred cow of them all….
In 2012 and again last year fans replied on twitter with the albums they’d most like added to Wayne’s ongoing remake series @TheFutureHeart. The Beatles were the most represented band – including Pepper – with other common responses being like-minded ’60s masterpieces like The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out, The Who’s Tommy, and Grateful Dead’s Anthem of the Sun). Wayne himself admitted to Spinner in 2010 that the Lips had considered taking on Black Sabbath’s début:
“As we were doing ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ we thought, just as your mind tends to do, ‘What other records could we do? We had considered, as the grouping [Flaming Lips with Stardeath and White Dwarfs], that we might cover Black Sabbath’s first record…We like enough of the Black Sabbath songs, it’s short and probably enough people know a few of the songs that it would be interesting. Sometimes when groups do cover version of obscure songs it kind of takes the fun out of it because you’re like, ‘Well, I don’t know the song to begin with, so I don’t really understand where your take on it is.'”
What would be your dream full LP cover for a future project? Sound off below!