Song of the Week 40: Do You Realize?? – The Flaming Lips


Well, do you??

Preoccupied with our little worries, we tend to forget the big things: that we´re spinning around a star fusing hydrogen to helium at its core in a nuclear furnace somewhere out in space, with just a thin skin of atmosphere protecting us from being hoovered up by the vacuum of space. Some think Science sucks the magic and beauty from life, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, that´s all Science is after, the truth. The word awesome is overused these days, but when you ponder the enormity of the universe, and the breath-taking beauty of this precious little planet we live on, the word awesome is appropriate. In fact, that’s what drives many of the great scientists. Take this chestnut from Einstein:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

Here´s an awesome video that might expand your worldview a little…


So, that brings us to a neo-psychedelic/space rock band who´ve experienced their fair share of awe, The Flaming Lips. This is the band who sung on the album, The Soft Bulletin, the song Race for the Prize:

“Two scientists were racing
For the good of all mankind
Both of them side by side
So Determined”

On the same album, they titled a song, “What Is the Light? (An Untested Hypothesis Suggesting That the Chemical [In Our Brains] by Which We Are Able to Experience the Sensation of Being in Love Is the Same Chemical That Caused the “Big Bang” That Was the Birth of the Accelerating Universe)”.


flaming lips wayne coyne bubble

Their stage shows feature costumes, fake blood, giant baloons, puppets, video projections, giant hands, confetti and lead singer Wayne Coyne´s signature human-sized plastic bubble in which he bobbles over the heads of the audience.

The Flaming Lips started out back in 1983 in Oklahoma City, USA. Wayne´s brother Mark originally sang lead vocals, but he left after the first album and Wayne took over frontman duties. Several psychedelic experimental albums followed. They signed to Warner Brothers in 1992 and had a hit with the obscure She Don´t Use Jelly, still their only hit single in the U.S. They have been critically acclaimed on that side of the Atlantic, but most of their success has come on this side, i.e. Europe.

In 1997, they released an album called Zaireeka that consisted of four separate CDs to be played on four CD players simultaneously. It was a mix of traditional musical styles and found sounds (musique concréte) manipulated using studio electronics.

The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi

Their mainstream breakthrough came with 1999´s The Soft Bulletin, and I had the pleasure of seeing them in Dublin on that tour, which rocked. The next album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots continued that success, and that´s where we find this week´s song of the week.

Coyne was interviewed in Mojo and explained the song thusly: During the making of Yoshimi, band member Steven Drozd was trying to kick a heroin addiction. On breaks from playing he was having a tough time with the withdrawal symptoms. Coyne wrote the song, with his the death of his own father in mind, while listening to Drozd crying.

“Whenever I analyze the scientific realities of what it means to be living here on Earth – in this galaxy – spinning around the sun – flying through space – a terror shock seizes me!!! I’m reminded once again of how precarious our whole existence is…”

Without further ado, here is the song, along with the official, and typically strange, music video:

oklahoma state

In March 2009, the song Do You Realize?? was anounced as the official state rock song of Oklohoma after being voted in by a 51% majority out of 10 finalists. The Oklohoma Senate approved the choice unanimously, while the House of Representatives fell three short of the 51 votes necessary to ratify the treaty, with one Republican state legislator attacking the band for its use of offensive language, while another said he opposed the song because he was “really offended” when band member Michael Ivins wore a red t-shirt with a sickle and hammer on it during a band performance. Damn commies eh?

However that evening State Governor Brad Henry annouced he would step in and sign an executive order proclaiming it the state´s official song. He said The Flaming Lips have been working for 20 years making “creative, fun and provocative rock music… The music of the Flaming Lips has earned Grammys, glowing critical acclaim and fans all over the world… A truly iconic rock n’ roll band, they are proud ambassadors of their home state… They were clearly the people’s choice, and I intend to honor that vote.”

I´d recommend watching the below video before reading what follows, as I´ll probably spoil it for you by revealing the ending.

I recently became aware of the above beautiful and poignant version of the song performed by The ´Lips and their friends Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (who I´ll return to one of these days), where the two groups convened on a cemetery to film a much longer droning version, in which Coyne lingers on the line “do you realise that everyone you know some day will die?”, repeating it over and over. He then makes this short speech to the people gathered there for the performance.

“Well, we didn´t know if we´d ever get another chance to play in a cemetery, so we thought that we´d make the most of this simple statement that I feel like the more we realize that even this moment we´re having here is kind of a special temporary thing, the more we´re able to seize this thing, and say let´s make it good, let´s make it meaningful and share it with our friends.”

Lastly, here´s a great rarely seen interview, with Wayne and Steven in their practise room back in 1999.

Well I don´t think I need to say anything else. Time to let the lyrics do the talking. It´s all there in the words and music.

“Let them know you realize…”

Do You Realize that you have the most beautiful face?
Do You Realize we’re floating in space?
Do You Realize that happiness makes you cry?
Do You Realize that everyone you know someday will die?

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun don’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

10 thoughts on “Song of the Week 40: Do You Realize?? – The Flaming Lips

  1. “You realize that life goes fast
    It’s hard to make the good things last
    You realize the sun don’t go down
    It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round”
    No, we don´t realize it at all 🙂

  2. Hi Padraig, thanks for the like on my latest post. I was reading this one and thinking about this last lyric you posted that ended with these two lines.

    You realize the sun don’t go down
    It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

    I know you have seen a bunch of my posts but I wonder if you ever saw this one.
    The post is mainly about different ways of looking at things such as in this lyric by The Flaming Lips. and what is actually the “truth” about things. If you have any time you might find it interesting. (It is pretty lengthy).

    Thanks again for following my blog and comments and likes you have posted in the past.

    By the way I checked out some of your music and liked what I heard.

  3. Thanks for the comment. I hadn´t seen that post, but will check it out tomorrow when I have some time. I´m off to bed now. It´s quite late here in Madrid. Thanks a million for checking out my music too!

  4. Thanks for this post, I always loved that one and had no idea about all those details. A song I’d definitely love to bring to the other side. As late as possible please !

  5. Hi, I’ve followed the Lips for quite a few years now and find their music to work best when you are immersed in it for a while. So I tend to grab one of their records and play it repeatedly for several weeks, until it really starts to make an impact. Their music is so unique (and in the old days, somewhat abrasive) that it needs to get in your head and shove the other stuff out before it really hits home. Anyway, enjoyed the post, the connection you make between science and these musical experimenters and of course big picture thinking.

  6. I find it really interesting and odd that Oklahoma adopted this song as their official rock song! I didn’t realize Oklahoma was capable of doing something so cool. (Says a Texas-born musician.)

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