Flaming Lips 1992 Peel Sessions

It was 20 years ago today….
….The Flaming Lips’ Ronald Jones/ Steven Drozd lineup embarked on their major label début album tour with their first official recording session: The John Peel Show.

Here’s the abbreviated back story: multi-instrumentalist, musical mastermind, drumming genius Steven Drozd joined The Flaming Lips in October 1991, by which time the Lips were already signed to Warner Brothers and ready to release their major label début, Hit to Death in the Future Head.  Though the album was recorded with guitarist/ vocalist Jonathan Donahue (also of Mercury Rev) and drummer Nathan Roberts, neither were still in the band, and the album’s release was perpetually suspended (by legal issues concerning clearing a sample).  Freak-guitarist-visionary Ronald Jones joined and recorded demos with the Lips by the end of the year, and that winter the new foursome played a few warm-up gigs in the South.  In April 1992 the Lips toured across the United States opening for Lush.  Starting in North Carolina and winding across the South, up the West Coast to Canada and back down to Denver, these shows spotlighted the new lineup’s interpretations of songs from In A Priest Driven Ambulance – by then two years old, but still their newest LP (due to Future Head’s delay).  

Most of the summer of ’92 the Lips were off, but Hit to Death was finally released on August 11th and they celebrated with a show that night at Oklahoma City’s Rock City Cafe.  It wasn’t until October 13th though that the tour in support of the album truly began: with the Peel session that day followed by two London shows the following night and then two-mini-legs of a fall tour revolving around the Philadelphia/ New York region (in late October/ early November from Philly to Boulder, mostly opening for Throwing Muses; and on their own in late November/ early December back through the North East, ending with their sole documented show at CBGBs).

Which brings us to The Flaming Lips’ 1992 Peel Sessions… not only did they kick-off the Hit to Death tour, they were this line-up’s first major recording session together.  What’s more, even at this early stage, they hint at directions they would explore across their every album for the rest of the decade…

Notice Drozd immediately established his presence in the band as more than “just a drummer.”  His piano skills on their cover of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” in particular distinguished the sound of the new line-up from any prior in the band’s then nearly decade-long history.  As on the two covers the band recorded about this time for tribute albums to be released in early 1993 (Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year,” and Alice Cooper’s “Sun Arise”), Drozd’s knack for arranging ideas foreshadowed both the two albums they created with Jones, and their various projects following his departure through to The Soft Bulletin.

Speaking of which, the Lips returned to record more Peel sessions while supporting Bulletin’s UK release in 1999.

More on that in part 2…

Check back Monday for Part 2 – an extensive 1967-2004 Peel Sessions summary, and an overview of John’s work and championing of The Flaming Lips…

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