While recording Clouds Taste Metallic in 1995, The Flaming Lips had a book of Bob Dylan’s lyrics in the studio …
….and “Santa Calls” by William Joyne (an author and illustrated most famous for publishing over 50 children’s books and creating characters for Toy Story and A Bug’s Life).
So what comes from having these two books among Wayne Coyne’s inspirations?
Songs like “Christmas At The Zoo.”
Coyne’s lyrics rarely tell such a complete story as they do in “Christmas at the Zoo,” and its vivid and playful imagery make it a quintessential example of Wayne’s writing at its best. It’s brilliantly simple – with a child-like wonder – but also with a thought-provoking perspective from a man who has experienced life. Is it a kids story for adults or a philosophy discourse for children?
“I opened up the fence where the peacocks were, the lamas were unleashed the snakes and seals could all get out, but they refused to leave….”
Like Dylan, lyrics like these are open to many interpretations. Though Wayne probably didn’t have this in mind as he wrote, it can even be heard in Biblical terms as the animals (symbolizing us humans) are offered salvation only to refuse the savior.
However you hear it, central to the story is the image of a “White Christmas” – a song which the band started covering regularly two and a half months after Clouds was released (skip to 47″ in the below video to hear them play the standard in 1995). There’s perfect symmetry to Wayne’s words and how he uses the idea of snow. The song optimistically sets up the story in the first line,“Their wasn’t any snow on Christmas eve…”
– only to concludes in the final couplet:
“It started to snow on Christmas Eve in the middle of the night/walkin through the state park zoo and everything is white…”
Whether the last line is heard as an indication that the animals are doomed for rejecting their savior, or just as a light-weight ironic twist (like if O Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” rocked!), it gives a new meaning to what a “White Christmas” represents as the snow traps the animals from the freedom they rejected.
Here’s some similarly playful Christmas songs:
Summer Villains and Three Day Threshold’s “I Want a Zoo for Christmas” is a straight up children’s song, but kids of all ages can enjoy it.
“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is a holiday novelty song famously recorded by Gayla Peevey. A local child star in early 1950s Oklahoma City, the song gave her national recognition.
For those with more current tastes, check out Fountains of Wayne “I Want an Alien for Christmas”
Name That Holiday Tune #9
Every Monday-Friday until Christmas a new video is posted on this blog and at youtube/psychexfutureheart with unidentified holiday music. If you can name the tunes and the artists performing them in the comment section below before anyone else, you could win cool prizes from Dwelling Spaces. You can watch all the prior contest videos – plus many more – in this nearly 14-hours-long holiday music/ video playlist, or at youtube/psychexfutureheart.
Video #9 is below!
…and follow twitter/FutureHeartDay for updates, other hints, and miscellaneous holly jolly…