Wayne Coyne, the key creative force behind Oklahoma band The Flaming Lips, has cut a career path to be marvelled at. Since they formed in 1983, the band has refused to stand still creatively ever forcing the boundaries of experimentalism, yet always managing to shepherd their craft into something audibly pleasing and commercially successful.
Over the band’s 40 years, they have built upon a myriad of influences. The most obvious of these influences would naturally stem from the psychedelic era of the 1960s with bands pushing the musical boundaries using the blessing of, then, novel recording techniques that were used to distort their instrumentals – much like the psychedelic drugs, that were making their presence known among the hippie generation of the time, distorting their host’s creative minds.
Amongst all the psychedelic rock outfits making their dents in history throughout the latter half of the 1960s was, of course, The Beatles, the most influential band of all time. It would naturally come as no surprise that Coyne was inspired by the Beatles, in fact, if I were to list the bands influenced by the Beatles, I would have you here for a fortnight. Alas, Coyne once uncovered the Fab Four album that he regards his most important influence from a young age, the album that would change it all inspiring him to follow his musical dream.
In 1969, Coyne was just eight-years-old and was excitedly crowding around the family record player with his older brothers ready to hear a new Beatles album they had bought. The plain white packaging was perhaps initially concerning after the colourful design seen on the previous album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but after a spin on the record player, all doubts were cast aside. The Beatles (AKA The White Album) was an immediate hit with Coyne who was blown away by the vastness of the double album which contained so many songs of varying styles.
Coyne once said of the album: “My older brothers and I loved it growing up … they loved The Beatles and their friends all loved The Beatles, and so, me being eight years old around people who are 15, 16 years old … that really zapped my young mind…. For the longest time, being a very young person when all that’s happening, I just felt that The Beatles are great music, and they’re popular music and whatever they do must be what music is.”
He continued: “Some of that music is haunting, it’s beautiful, and it’s strange, and it’s happy, and it’s sad, and it’s fucked up, it’s all the stuff,”
On the album, you can hear “freaky” tracks like ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Revolution 9’ as well as the “normal, classic songs” such as ‘Julia’ or ‘I’m So Tired’. With that “big combination of such an extreme of stuff that you can like or hate or be freaked out by,” Coyne has been transfixed and fascinated ever since.
Coyne of course didn’t know at age 8 that he would be up on stage one day, a psychedelic rock star himself. But as he began his musical career in the early ‘80s, he cast his mind back to this breakthrough Beatles album and used its vastness and creative genius as inspiration while paving his own path as a musical legend.