The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne has told the story of Jack White giving him a fibre-optic Jesus at a Beck show.
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The tale was immortalised in the appropriately-titled Flaming Lips rarity ‘Thank You Jack White (For The Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)’, which is included in the band’s new 20th anniversary edition of ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’.
In a new interview with Consequence, Coyne recounted the tale that inspired the song, explaining: “Right, well, we were in Detroit playing with Beck. We did this tour with Beck when his ‘Sea Changes’ album came out and our ‘Yoshimi’ album had just come out. The Flaming Lips were opening up for Beck, but then also we were Beck’s group.
“So, we’d go out there and play for 45 minutes as The Flaming Lips, and then we’d shuffle a bunch of stuff around on stage and Beck would walk out and we’d do Beck songs, [which is] a lot to do. It’s a big endeavour; a lot of songs to learn, a lot of instruments changing, a lot of stuff. Kind of a clusterfuck of a tour. But I think by the time we got to Detroit, we had kind of gotten over trying to make it as great as we could. It was kinda like, “Well, it’s gonna be as good as it’s gonna be.” And we started to have fun instead.”
Coyne went on: “So we’re in Detroit, and that’s where Jack White used to live. He came to the show and, I have to say, I’m not sure he got the fiber-optic Jesus for me. I think he just had it. He definitely was there to be backstage with Beck. And I don’t know if he expected us to be backstage or if he thought about it or even cared. This was one of the places where we would all sort of be together in a backstage area.
“A lot of these places were like, Beck would be in one area and we’d be in another. But in this one, we were kind of jammed together, so I’m not positive Jack White really knew he was gonna give that to me. I think he had it and then he sort of was like, “Oh, hey, you want this?” It’s just always a little bit awkward, you know? I think Beck is awkward. And Jack is great, but he’s aggressive. He’ll be the first to talk in a room. It was an awkward, weird moment because I think Jack was trying to include Beck, and Beck was trying to be cooler than he was or something, and we just didn’t care by then.”
“And so, he gave us the fiber-optic Jesus,” the singer added. “I took it home and then we were doing some session where we needed some extra songs. We didn’t have any extra songs, so we would sometimes just make a song up right there. And I made up that song.”
He added: “So, he gave me the fiber-optic Jesus, and I remember plugging in thinking, “Man, this is cool.” I mean, it’s not that cool if it doesn’t come from Jack White, but it’s cool that it came from Jack White. I think people think that’s something that I would have. It’s not really something I would have. I wouldn’t collect stuff like that. But if Jack White gives you one, then you keep it.
“I took it home and I plugged it in the front of my house on the mantle. It was plugged in for about a year, and then it stopped working. I never turned it off. And when I went to see it, I was like, “Hey, I guess the light burned out or something.” Then I saw there was a sticker that said, “Don’t leave this on for more than eight hours at a time.” And I left it on for like a year.”
Admitting he “[doesn’t] know where it is now” but is “sure I still have it,” Coyne said: “You just don’t have room for everything in your house, so I’m sure I still have it. I wouldn’t throw it away.”
Elsewhere, Coyne has spoken about a lost Flaming Lips musical which he said screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wanted to be about 9/11.
The band are set to head out on a 2023 tour, where they will play ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ in full to celebrate its 20th anniversary.