From the 1989 album Telepathic Surgery
, this is one of the Flaming Lips
' most unusual and diverting early tracks. At 6:40 minutes in length, it is divided into three parts - the eponymous UFO
story, two minutes of blazing guitar
experimentation, and a stunningly mournful
and beautiful section of unaccompanied piano
The "story", which appears to be a recording of the band talking in the studio, is a recollection by Wayne Coyne of two childhood incidents. His narrative is accompanied by studio sound effects.
"Right, so the other day, I was talking with Michael Stipe, and we're talking about the very first memory he had, the very first thing you had in your head (eerie note starts playing in the background, getting gradually more intense, as if in a sci-fi movie) and, umm, dude, I think I sorta freaked him out a little bit.
'Cause umm, I told him when I was about three or four years old, me and my little brother used to go out in our backyard, and we'd go up on top of this swing set out there, climb up on top. ("Who was it?") It was Mark. And umm, and we would, we'd climb on top of the swing set, and we could, we could sit up there (incomprehensible) and we'd watch these drive-in movies that were about, you know, like a half a mile away over on this hill, and we'd just sit up there all night, and we would, we'd just watch the movies, ok. And we had a pretty good view of, like the sky there, you could see the sky pretty good as we were watching the movies, ok.
One night we were out there, sitting up there watching the movies like usual, and we're watching on the horizon there, SIX UFOs, no kidding, alright, in formation right there. (Someone else laughs: "Too fucked!") Really! They're right there in formation, six UFOs right there ok, so we're just little kids, ok, and it sort of freaks us out a little bit, so I get down, I get down off the swing set, I go in to get mom. 'Cause that's what you do when you're a little kid, you just go get mom, because weird shit's happening. So, by the time I come back with mom to check it out... they're gone. (Laughter). Duuude... ("Yeah, I see that!") (More laughter).
Ok, and so no one believed me, ok, so I'm about ten or eleven, and me and Mark are playing football in this view of our house, ok, and we've had about enough, we've been playing for a while, and we're getting ready to go in, and umm, we're walking up to the house there, ok, and it's... this is real - it's the same sort of day, you can see the sky pretty good, and the sun's sort of going down but it's still pretty light out, you know what I mean, ok, and umm, we're watching, we're walking up there, viewing the horizon, and no bullshit, the same six UFOs are right there in formation. (Laughter. "Woah, that's heavy dude!") Right there, dude, I know, man! It's right there in formation.
But we don't freak out this time, ok, 'cause we, you know, we saw 'em. (Incomprehensible)("Yeah.") And they're right there, hovering right over our heads, man, and we sit there, and they come closer and closer, and we're sitting there, here we go, and we're waiting on 'em (Incomprehensible), and they make this really weird sound, you know, I'll never forget it, they made this sound, and it sounded like this." ("Like this" echoes repeatedly.)
An ominous guitar riff
then starts, and leads into a furious two minutes of guitar noise
and crashing sounds. Eventually this implodes and gives way, after a squall of electronic sounds, to a lone piano
. This plays a piece so gentle and mournful it doesn't just not sound like the Flaming Lips
, it doesn't sound like any rock band
at all. Simple and beautiful, it's more like something from The Soft Bulletin
than typical early Lips fare - and that album was still ten years away. Interestingly, this was just one of several unrepeated stylistic diversions on Telepathic Surgery
Is the story true, or is Coyne fucking the listener around? I can't find anything about it online. In any case it's a fascinating track, and if listened to in the dark, with headphones, all those spooky background sounds make it a little disturbing.