Editor’s Note: Tulsa Today writer and music historian Jim Downing recently urged Governor Brad Henry to support the Oklahoma House of Representatives and deny selection of the Flaming Lips’ song “Do you Realize” the official Oklahoma Rock Song. Many feel there are much better examples of quality music to associate with the entire state’s official music history. He ignored the request. The controversy continues.
Analysis: I have a serious retraction to make on the Flaming Lips (Lips) analysis. The drummer’s hand was not amputated. I left out the word ‘almost’. It was his arm that was abscessed. The cover story was that it was a spider bite; probably a Mexican Black Tar or a China White spider. Drozd is ten years clean; good for him.
In a day or two we’ll deal with some of the reactionary feedback we’ve been getting. Before you brand me an addled old coot, let me explain. I love rock and roll more than Joan Jett does, and I am confident that I know as much about rock in Oklahoma as anyone, having performed it for 45 years now; I’m in the thick of it. Musicians don’t have much prejudice. Good music is good music, no matter what genre or era.
True, we get a little jaded as time goes on, since pop doesn’t change much – in a strictly musical sense. There is always good new music coming out, though it may not be mainstream.I had resigned myself to the fact that “Do You Realize” is the State Rock Song, and I had therefore deemed it a meaningless citation. Then the publisher called me Saturday and gave me hope. “The OK House stopped the verification, but the governor wants to veto that.” I was all over it and quickly hammered out a brief opinion and sent it to Jeff Moore at the Oklahoma Historical Society and a hundred or so musicians and music lovers. I finally got it to the governor’s inbox after several tries.
I also Googled the band and got some info on Lips and their lyrics and listened to a bunch of songs with ridiculous titles. Here is what I found:
* They debuted at a transvestite club.
* Their first label was “Lovely Sorts Of Death” (LSD, get it?).
* One song was “Psychiatric Explorations Of The Fetus With Needles” (Pro-lifers should love that image.)
* Then there are “The Queer Of God” and “Charlie Manson Blues.”
* One lyric recorded before they ever toured was ‘everyone in this town is a mental case; they’re dumb f**ks’.
* They first toured with The Butthole Surfers. Good clean fun, huh?
I still maintain Lips don’t represent typical Oklahoma values. Lyrics are sprinkled with profanities and blasphemy. There seems to be an anti-religious theme, still evident in their statement of last week. It may be outrage just for the sake of it; even negative attention is better than none.
I listened to the song in question and it was just dull, not even a catchy tune nor particularly well-constructed. I listened to several songs and heard nothing that I would bother to listen to twice.
Lips makes dense sound collages; that’s easier than learning how to play. And it’s nothing new – it goes back to I Am The Walrus and Stockhausen.
Rumors flew that it was a gay scene, there was blackmail, or that OKC is jealous of Tulsa. None of this could be proven. Leon is from Lawton and Cale was born in OKC.
My personal choice is Home Sweet Oklahoma. Leon probably knows more music than everyone else on the list combined. This song has a funky, rocking chorus, but the verse has a very classical/romantic era chord structure that ends on a jazzy flatted ninth chord. I doubt Lips could figure it out, since they seem to know only two chords and one scale.
“She Caught The Katy” would get my tongue-in-cheek award because just about every band that can groove has done Taj Mahal’s Okie band version of that. I have never had a request for a Lips tune, ever.
Of course, “Joy To The World” is just three chords and it’s genuine. There are some very dexterous guitarists who play obnoxious grating angry metal, so it’s not all about technique.
I had a nice long conversation Monday with Jeff Moore of the Oklahoma State Historical Society, that handled the voting.
It’s no one’s fault that Lips won the vote. The All American rejects had more web presence, but the Lippies were highly motivated. Great care was taken that the system could not be gamed. One could argue this is why we have an electoral college; the flaw of democracy is that the majority will on average be right half the time.
Jeff assures me that they are anti-drug now, having been through the horror of an addicted mate.
I know good music when I hear it, I can often tell what’s going to be a hit and who will still be relevant in the future. There was a post-punk backlash in the eighties; youth with hubris thinking they could just start music history over. Art doesn’t work that way. The best bands know music; they know where it came from and how it developed, thus they know how to carry it forward. Dali painted bizarre things, but he had the technique of a master.
I sent my first short rough draft to the editor, to OHS, and to about 100 musicians and music lovers. None of them disagreed with me that this was a bad choice.
Put simply: It would damage the reputation of the rich heritage of Oklahoma music to let honors go to the Flaming Lips–a completely undeserving band with unhealthy values. You would be on solid ethical ground for refusing such misguided, musically incompetent degenerates the top honor and awarding it to one of the great legendary songwriters who are in the running (Leon Russell, J.J. Cale, Hoyt Axton, and others) all more deserving of such an honor.
I am a retired Tulsa native currently residing in the south of France. In my youth I was a musician and a part of what later came to be called in the industry, “the Tulsa sound”. I was fortunate to have grown up at that time when it seemed that Oklahoma was the origin of some of the most respected and popular musicians in the world.
A few weeks ago, I received a copy of the documentary DVD about JJ Cale’s recent tour, To Tulsa and Back. In attendance for the first viewing at my home, were an Irish writer, a Costa Rican brain surgeon, a Polish professor of theoretical mathematics and quantum physics, a Scot software designer and a few other “expats” from the neighborhood. The one thing they all had in common was a love of the music of JJ Cale… an Okie with a huge international fan base of folks with 3 digit IQs.
It now comes to my attention that my home state is going to make the official state song some bit of generation Z noise, crafted by junkies, The Flaming Lips, of whom I have never even heard. Have you all gone freaking daft?
Ricky Ray :
Although I have nothing against the Flaming Lips (I wonder where this writer got his tattler-style information about them and how much of it is true) and even don’t mind “Do You Realize”, it doesn’t even come close to representing Oklahoma. I am also in complete agreement about Leon Russell’s Home Sweet Oklahoma, which I personally voted for, although you can’t deny Hoyt Axton, JJ Cale, or Wanda Jackson’s entries all come far closer to representing Oklahoma’s Rock Song than “Do You Realize”!
BTW, I had an entry in the contest entitled “Tahlequah Eyes”, which to my opinion is a much better representation of an “Oklahoma Rock Song” than anything by The Flaming Lips, I just don’t have the star power.
If the Lips’ song is not vetoed, you can cut another notch in Oklahoma’s long belt of stupidity.
I have always thought that Oklahoma has more great writers and musicians per capita than any other state. For Jimmy Webb, David Gates, Leon, Johnny Cale, Hoyt Axton, and scores of others to be overlooked by this very average band (Lips) is stupid beyond belief.
Give ’em hell Jim.
My opinion was reinforced by members of The Tractors, Cain’s Ballroom, Tom Hanford, John Henry’s sister, Wanda Watson, Terry Cooper and many more. I understand that the Lips have matured and are not as degenerate as we might think.
But it’s still the wrong choice, and now it’s probably too late to do anything about it. We can hope, though. After all, Milli Vanilli had to give their Grammy back.
Other Reader Mail:
Jim Downing appears to be a religious zealot and that is NOT what I hope the future of Oklahoma will represent. He is an embarrassing hick, showing his age. Did he bother to listen to the song, “DO YOU REALIZE”, or has he just been gathering “dirt” the whole time? I appreciate Gov. Henry’s work, and pray that we will continue to see progress in our state. Jim Downing is a real disappointment to so many Oklahomans, and he doesn’t even realize it.
Editor’s Response: Very interesting note. You attack Jim Downing personally rather than defend the band. The point of the article … it is the music that matters Mallory. The Flaming Lips provide no original contribution of quality thus little value and do not deserve to be ranked near the top of Oklahoma talent. Jim lists specifics, but you attack on religion. Is anti-religion the message that you gather from the band’s music? If that is the shtick of the Flapping Lips? If so maybe Tulsa Today should make that clear in tomorrow’s story. Please let me know, but that and this letter may be used in future publication.
I don’t know Lips that well and don’t give a damn from the live performance that I attended – they bore me. In addition, other well known and highly skilled musicians have heard the group and feel the same. Suck it up and live with the fact that religion is not the issue here – music is.
Let’s hear from the fans if they have the brains and brass to write. We do not dispute that Lips can put on a show – it’s showbiz after all and every happy fan (no matter how uneducated, simple minded, drunk, stoned or lame their tastes may be) is a good fan. God love them each and every one.
Mallory Weindorf’s response to editor
So many people do not feel this way. Of course it is the music that matters, David, and that is why the people voted for them…not because of their “unoriginal contribution”…it doesn’t matter that you have a different taste in music. From what you’ve just conveyed to me, it doesn’t even sound like you’ve given their music a real chance or listen. What a shame.
From the many live Lips’ shows I have attended, I have never felt more alive, and positive that I can go out and make a difference in others’ lives. Wayne Coyne makes it known that we are all in this together, and together, we can choose to be happy and realize that we are not going to be on this earth forever…and therefore we must be good to each other and appreciate each other on a daily basis. You should’ve gathered that from Mr. Coyne’s message to his audience. It is truly inspiring.
From the music festivals I have attended in past years, I have watched the headlining bands watch the Flaming Lips in excitement and awe… from Wakarusa 2008, playing with Ween at Red Rocks, Monolith Festival 2007…those are just a few more recent ones that come to mind. So many rock bands will list the Lips as an influence. I challenge you to go beyond your comfort zone to do a little research. I’m not sure what high-skilled musicians you are referring to…
Having been a Tulsa resident since birth, I’ve been familiar with various Tulsa publications and news media, with a family member producing the news for nearly the last ten years, and I’ve never heard of you, or your publication… not that I am too concerned now.
I will be glad to pass on your sentiments to family and friends. Blessings, Mallory
Hey, Jim Downing. You’re an old man now. You used to know what rock and roll was, but not anymore. You’ve lost it buddy. You know what you can do with your “wholesome” music bull$hit? That’s right, you can stick it where the sun don’t shine. Old fart.