Do you realize that an alley in Oklahoma City is named for the Flaming Lips? Since 2007, Oklahoma’s most famous psychedelic rock band has had a portion of Bricktown Street named in their honor, albeit not without some controversy.
The Flaming Lips were founded in 1983 in Oklahoma City. At times a band, at times a collective, they are most often identified with the id of their frontman and band leader, Wayne Coyne. Their initial breakout came when MTV’s Beavis and Butt-head played their 1993 novelty hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly,” which peaked at #55 in the U.S. Billboard Top 100. Their sonic depth continued to expand with more expansive and psychedelic soundscapes, reaching new heights with two massively critically acclaimed albums, The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. They’re perhaps best known for their concerts, which often consist of video and auditory overload including confetti cannons, balloons, and the band entering the stage from a giant bubble.
Coyne and fellow band member Stephen Drozd were also long-time residents and active in Oklahoma City’s arts scene. In 2006, a movement began to honor The Flaming Lips for their work, led by the city’s then-mayor Mick Cornett. Cornett, in hopes of making Bricktown more of a tourist draw, had already honored local musicians such as country star Vince Gill and pioneering jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, but the Lips proved to be a tougher sell. Opposition arose around their relevance, their permissive hippie sensibility, and most of all, their name. A leading opponent called the proposal “laughable,” suggesting the alley instead be renamed for the more sensibly named local group Color Me Badd. At the same time, thousands of people from around the world wrote in, saying that they would make the pilgrimage to Oklahoma City to see the street sign.
The fans won out, and on October 25, 2007, the street was ceremonially named Flaming Lips Alley. Other Bricktown streets have since been named for pop culture figures, such as Oklahoma baseball heroes Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, and Joe Carter, rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson, and most recently, rock yawpers Kings of Leon. And as for the alley? Well, it’s notoriously not much to look at. It remains filled with loading trucks, back lots, and dumpsters. But the Lips didn’t mind, and even embraced its ramshackle nature. As Coyne said at the opening, “For the Flaming Lips to have this, I think it’s the most marvelous spot in all of the city.”