“The Flaming Alphabet” was originally posted in July 2009 at the Psych Explorations of the Future Heart MySpace blog. Looking over it now, besides being slightly outdated, it’s beyond corny (what was I thinking?)…
How to make sense of a consistently varied, quarter-century-plus accidental career? Simple… alphabetically. Generation Ecch!: The Backlash Starts Here co-authors Michael Krugman and Jason Cohen took to that task with “Flaming Lips Z to A” for their Well Hung At Dawn column on Rollingstone.com (July 15, 2002) and it doubled as an introduction to the Lips’ website created for the release of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Somewhat similar, this past winter Wayne Coyne picked A to Z songs for BBC Radio 1’s Rob da Bank and Friends. Together these lists form an overview of The Flaming Lips’ quirks, accomplishments and tastes. Now Psych Explorations of the Future Heart adds a fan perspective: an alphabetic guide to help enthusiasts decide if they are Flaming Freaks… or just casual acquaintances. If you still need help deciding, click on the links for hours of awesome music and related sites.
Although the ABCs can organize and simplify The Lips’ long and eccentric career, it wouldn’t fit right for a band this unpredictable and shambolic to be confined to the conventional, arbitrary alphabet sequence. Thus we start as most Lips’ concerts of this decade have, with R and “RACE for the Prize.” If you too begin all you fantastical adventures blasting “Race for the Prize,” you may be a Flaming Freak. Wayne’s R pick was also an exciting call to action, The Beatles’ “REVOLUTION,” and the “Z to A” list made a dismissive reference to RADIOHEAD (this was back in the days when The Flaming Lips were still relatively ignored/unknown outside of critic list circles and longtime fans, some of whom piggybacked their resentment of this onto the Kid A hype-backlash of the period…or perhaps it’s just the authors of the “Z to A” list hated Radiohead. Either way, the Lips themselves didn’t/ don’t agree).
Moving on to U Wayne offered another tasty pick, Devo’s “UNCONTROLABLE URGE,” and the “Z to A” echoed the majesty of “Race for the Prize” with “UPWARDS to the vanguard.” You may be a Flaming Freak if you’ve crossed state lines to see Wayne descend from a UFO in his space bubble, walk across the audience, and then jump into that song.
Wayne: Radiohead’s “FAUST Arp” (see… I told you the Lips hold nothing against Radiohead)
Z to A: FREDONIA (where the Lips work their studio magic at Dave FRIDMANN’s Tarbox Road Studios)
FUTURE Heart: With so many Lips related F-words to choose from, bear in mind you are probably a FREAKY-FLAMING-FANTASTICAL-FANATIC if you know all the words to “FREE Radicals” … the Sims’ version!
Wayne dug deeper into the klassics for K with Roberta Flack’s “KILLING Me Softly With His Song” and the “Z to A” mentioned Val KILMER who played the Batman that fought the Riddler (Jim Carrey) who devised evil schemes to the tune of “Bad Days”… but didn’t prevail. Speaking of “Bad Days,” if you’ve ever tried to make your own watermelon gun, as you imagine KIM’s to be, and it ended up looked like the smashed mess in the “Bad Days” video, you may be a Flaming Freak.
For W the “Z to A” list dug deep with the classic “WATERBUG,” and Wayne dug not so deep with Britney Spears’ “WOMANIZER”… but as for the man himself: if you think WAYNE’S B.O. reputation is part of his unshakeable coolness, you might be a Flaming Freak.
Wayne: Queen’s “BOHEMIAN Rhapsody”
Z to A: BUBBLE machine
Future Heart: You may be a Flaming Freak if you love at least five other BANDS you’ve discovered through a Lips’ connection (and maybe even have reconsidered the merits of BRITNEY).
Wayne delved back into his Richard Ashcroft love-hate relationship with The Verve’s “SONNET” for S, and the “Z to A” chose another ‘90s jewel, “SHE Don’t Use Jelly.” S is also for SONG titles: if you don’t understand why most bands make ‘em SO SHORT, you may be a Flaming Freak.
H is for The Killer’s “Human” (Wayne’s appreciation is apparently mutual: The Killers selected “Fight Test” when they hosted goTV) and HELLFIRE Marketing (which has since merged into WORLD’S Fair) …but most importantly, if you don’t insist that every second of “HELL’S Angel’s Cracker Factory” and the HIDDEN HIT to Death bonus track demands listening with every spin, you might not be a Flaming Freak.
Wayne: Blood Rock’s “D.O.A.”
Z to A: “D is for Drugs. Believe it or not, the Lips don’t do any!”
Future Heart: You may be a Flaming Freak if you’ve DANCED onstage as a Santa or Martian, a furry animal and a teletubby.
Z is obvious: Wayne rocked Led ZEPPELIN’S “The Song Remains the Same,” and the “Z to A” list began discussing the uniqueness of ZAIREEKA … on that note, if you’ve bought extra CD players just to listen to ZAIRREKA in its full octophonic glory you probably are a Flaming Freak.
For C Wayne chose Echo & the Bunnymen’s “The CUTTER” and the “Z to A” noted Lips’ fans include COLDPLAY (with another dismissive comment…hey “The Scientist” may be no “Race For The Prize” but they’re still charming and wonderfully uncool) and a long list of other artists. Most of all C is for COMMERCIALS: if you’ve sat through stupid NBC sitcoms just to see the Lips’ version of the CHIMES, you may be a Flaming Freak.
Y brings Wayne to Coldplay’s “YELLOW” (told YA) and the “Z to A” to Yoshimi. You probably aren’t a Flaming Freak if you’ve never had a discussion about the grammatical implications of “Riding to Work in the YEAR 2025’s” parenthetical title, “YOUR Invisible Now.”
X is the letter where everybody bends the rules: Wayne with Kings of Leon’s “seX on fire” and the “Z to A” with Wayne’s X-mas obsession. Likewise X is for X-tra copy. If you have the same Lips’ albums in multiple formats (CD, 5.1, vinyl, maybe even cassette) you may be a Flaming Freak.
Wayne chose M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” for M and the “Z to A” noted Wayne loves MICHELLE. You may be a Flaming Freak if you’ve changed your hairstyle over the last three decades MIRRORING the evolution of MICHAEL’s head.
G (or Gees) is for the Sex Pistols’ “GOD Save The Queen” and GIRAFFES (God and giraffes… that pretty much sums up Wayne’s lyrics from the early to mid ’90s). If it was The Lips – not John Travolta – that convinced you to buy some Bee GEEs albums, you might be a Flaming Freak.
Wayne digs T-Rex’s “JEEPSTER,” and we can all dig “Z to A’s” J pick: Mercury Rever and ex-Lip JONATHAN Donahue. Similarly, if you don’t imitate JON Stewart while listening to Transmissions from the Satellite Heart you might not be a Flaming Freak.
Wayne: Pink Floyd’s “IF”
Z to A: IAN Ziering and his insightful alt-rock/ Lips’ commentary.
Future Heart: You may be a Flaming Freak if you can quote INTERVIEWS Wayne has given (always INSIGHTFUL, INDEED).
Wayne PICKED PRINCE’s “PURPLE Rain” for P (PITTY PRINCE doesn’t PERMIT them to PLAY it) and “Z to A” opines the Lips are PEERLESS and not PSYCHEDELIC… PERHAPS. In any case, if you are PLANNING to move to Oklahoma (ideally into Steven’s house) so you can PASSIONATELY PARTY in PSYCHOTIC company every Halloween, New Year’s Eve and Flaming Lips Day (or at least if you are PACKING to travel to see the Lips headline the PITCHFORK festival) you might be a Flaming Freak.
MGMT’s “TIME To Pretend” was Wayne’s T selection and the “Z to A” revealed the TITLE Clouds Taste Metallic was inspired by a remark from a member of TOOL (former Lips’ TOURING partners- there’s also this more recent connection) . But forget about head banging – if you didn’t know who Justin TIMBERLAKE was until he played/ mimed bass with The Lips on TOP of the Pops, you might be a Flaming Freak.
A is for Motorhead’s “ACE of Spades” (OK, so don’t forget about head banging), the AWE the Lips inspire and APPRECIATION. If you don’t regularly wear Steven Drozd APPRECIATION ATTIRE you might not be a Flaming Freak.
N bears Nina Simone’s “Everything’s Changed” from Wayne, and the NME from “Z to A” (for picking The Soft Bulletin as the album of 1999). If you have (or intend to) NAME your first-born Yoshimi, regardless of gender, you could be a Flaming Freak.
Wayne: The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes”
Z to A: VERNON Drozd, Steven’s dad (watch him play “I Won’t Mention It Again” on sax here)
Future Heart: You are probably a Flaming Freak if you’ve actually tried eating VASELINE on toast.
Wayne’s love for The Beatles shines through once more with L, “The LONG And Winding Road,” as does the grandeur of “Race For The Prize” (its former backing video starred the “Z to A’s” LEONARD Bernstein) which brings to mind LIVE LIPS. You may be a Flaming Freak if you brag about seeing (or mourn never seeing) Ronald Jones LIVE.
If Q is for The Who’s “A QUICK One,” QUARTET (which the Lips might be, depending how you count the members) and QUESTIONS??? then A is: yes, you realize the Lips make you cry and yeah this whole alphabet thing is corny but you read it anyway because, yes – you are a Flaming Freak!
Wayne: Harry Nilsson’s “EVERYBODY”S Talkin’”
Z to A: “EVERTHING’S Explodin’”
Future Heart: You might be a Flaming Freak if you have ENTHUSIASM for life, rock n’ roll, pop culture and The Flaming Lips.
All right, now it’s your turn… what’s your Lips’ ABCs?