Let’s revisit the late ‘80s Lips and take in sundry rarities, artifacts and swag, Wayne Coyne style.
BY FRED MILLS
By early 1987 I had become a massive Flaming Lips fan, having fallen under the spell of their skronkadelic ’86 LP Hear It Is (issued late summer the previous year on the Enigma/Pink Dust label—on white vinyl, no less) to such a degree that I wound up bidding in an auction out of Goldmine magazine—this was the pre-eBay era, of course—to score a green vinyl copy of their self-titled EP from ’84 for the princely sum (at the time) of $24. When news arrived that the Oklahoma trio’s American tour would route them through Charlotte, NC, on September 11, I arranged through their publicist to hook up with them the afternoon of the show and conduct an interview for rock ‘zine The Bob.
Interview, we did—whew. Talking for nearly three hours to Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins and then-drummer Richard English (along with Coyne’s brother Mark, who had originally been in the band but had decided to shift over to roadie duties) was a trip, to say the least, and we even found time to stand outside in the parking lot after dark scanning the skies for UFOs, an obsession of Coyne’s. Later, with their permission, a friend and I recorded the show on both video and audio tape, and the final encore of Led Zep’s “Thank You” segueing into Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ‘69” would eventually surface as a free flexidisc included with the Lips issue (#32) of The Bob as well as part of the band’s 1998 odds-n-sods compilation CD A Collection of Songs Representing an Enthusiasm for Recording…By Amateurs.
That night I also got my copy of HII signed by the band, which you can view at the top of this page. Meanwhile, upon learning that I had paid roughly triple market value for the Flaming Lips EP, Coyne told me he would send me another copy of it, this one pressed on red vinyl, and I dutifully supplied him with my address, thinking, “Yeah, sure…” Lo and behold, about a month later, what should turn up at my Charlotte PO address but a large pizza box doubling as a record mailer and containing the aforementioned platter. (It can be viewed below, along with both copies of the EP.) Coyne had even painstakingly hand decorated and addressed the box, which is the photo that appears at the top of this page. Over the years I’ve been offered considerable sums of money for the box from Lips superfans but rest assured, it ain’t going nowhere. To Wayne Coyne, who gifted me with what is apparently a one-of-a-kind Lips artifact and collectible, I submit my eternal thanks ‘cos I get a big silly smile on my face every time I look at it.
Incidentally, I also store some of my other Lips collectibles in the pizza box, such as… (below) Some of the personal correspondence I had with Coyne in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, including the note that was included with the red wax record:
The original, official Flaming Lips presskit/bio package, primarily consisting of photocopies of various reviews of the EP and the LP:
Original clear vinyl copy of 1987’s Oh My Gawd… LP:
Autographed, original copy of 1989’s Telepathic Surgery LP (note the “Fred Mills kills” sobriquet):
Original pink/purple vinyl copy of 1990’s In A Priest Driven Ambulance LP:
Original brown vinyl copy of 1990’s Unconsciously Screamin’ EP:
Over the years there have been, obviously, scored more collectible Flaming Lips releases, ranging from shaped discs to colored wax to USBs housed in gummy skulls. The Lips, and Coyne specifically, know how to create, stoke and nurture a rabid fan base while simultaneously keep the eBay search engines humming. But I’d like to think that I managed to get in on the ground floor and was able to score most of the earliest artifacts, including at least one that you won’t see anywhere else… A big boy howdy and salute to the Flaming Lips from ye olde BLURT editor – long may you lip!