November 23, 1992/August 30, 2015
The following was written on August 31, 2015
Today I’m going to build a time machine to go back to November, 1992. The Flaming Lips will still be two months away from recording their breakthrough release, Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. I’m going to warn Wayne of a few things (Ronald’s departure, Steven’s drug use) and try to convince him not to leave his wife, which I believe sent him on a negative spiral, causing his recent behaviour. I probably won’t tell him about the Parking Lot experiments, the 24-hour song, or how a kid who is currently on the Mickey Mouse Club will someday mime bass on British television with them while wearing a zebra costume. I know he’s Wayne Coyne, but that might freak him out a bit too much.
I will then take him to a hospital maternity ward, where we will “bump into” Billy Rae Cyrus, who has just released the biggest album of his career. But we’re not there to see him. We’re there to see his newborn daughter, Destiny Hope Cyrus.
“Wayne, when this girl is a teenager, she’ll have a TV show on which she plays a pop star who suffers split personality disorder, or something, I’ve never actually seen it. But a few years later she will be one of the biggest pop stars on the planet and the two of you will meet when you decide to cover Sgt. Pepper in its entirety, which I still haven’t heard. You will release records in limited edition gummy skulls that no one will hear, but what will really divide your audience is when you work with this baby who will someday be known as ‘Miley.’ I’ve just returned from a time in which you shoot a confetti cannon through her legs at the climax of the MTV VMAs. You will have just played a song about smoking pot and loving peace, and while you are all wearing plushy costumes, that will not be the main focus, it will be the dancers, which are competitors from a show on which Ru Paul judges other drag queens.”
“Wow, people are still talking about Ru Paul in 2015? I don’t believe you.”
“A lot of things are strange in the future, Wayne. Strange things will happen to you, but after playing a song on Beverly Hills 90210, working with Yoko Ono, making an un-watchable Christmas movie and releasing a record that has to be played on four separate CD players at once, your most polarizing stunt is your relationship with this baby.”
“It sounds very punk rock, though, to make a record about doing drugs and tricking MTV into letting us perform it on the biggest show of the year.”
“Yes, but remember how I told you Steven almost died from doing heroin? Don’t you think it’s strange and hypocritical of you to — “
“Nick, the future sounds very judgemental.”
“You can blame the Internet for that.”
“The Internet? Like AOL?”
After explaining the Internet to Wayne, I will decide to abandon mission. He will give me a hug and tell me to have a safe trip back to 2015. He will genuinely mean it.
Things will be what things will be, and we should all just be grateful to have had as many great eras of Flaming Lips music as we have. The genius pre-Warners era (culminating with 1990’s In A Priest Driven Ambulance), the Ronald Jones era and the Soft Bulletin/Yoshimi era still exist. Even though I don’t have the energy for gummy skulls, rainbow costumes and Miley’s “whatever, I’ll do what I want!” schtick, I’m glad that Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd are still bringing weird to the people, and on a bigger scale than ever before.
(Note — I once had the honour of being a Flaming Lips dancer, and after the show Wayne spent an hour hanging out with everyone, signing shoes and talking about the magic of Medicine Hat, Alberta. It was one of the best moments I’ve had meeting a musician I adored, which is why his public behaviour around this time was so puzzling. After writing this on August 31 of 2015, I did listen to the Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz record, featuring many songs written/produced by Wayne and Steven, and it’s a beautiful album, as is this year’s Oczy Mlody. That’s all.)