Henry steps in after House blisters Lips
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer and BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Friday, April 24, 2009
4/24/09 at 9:41 AM
“Do You Realize... this is one boneheaded move.”: James D. Watts Jr. blogs on the Oklahoma
House turning down “Do You Realize??”
by the flaming lips.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House on Thursday killed a measure to make “Do You Realize??” by the Flaming Lips the state's official rock song. But Gov. Brad Henry will sign an executive order Tuesday, naming the Flaming Lips song as the official rock song of Oklahoma.
On Thursday, the House voted 48-39 on SJR 24, with 14 members absent. It takes 51 votes to pass a measure in the House. Thursday was the deadline for the measure to get out of the House. That meant the measure was dead for two years, said Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, who worked to get a state rock song established.
“An executive order is not ceremonial, but it falls short of actually being a law,” said Phil Bacharach, press secretary and chief writer for Henry's office. “It does have the effect of law, however. In this case, it certainly has the effect of law in that it will definitively make 'Do You Realize' the official rock song of Oklahoma.”
Henry praised the band for their stewardship to the state.
“For more than 20 years ago, Oklahoma's own Flaming Lips have produced creative, fun and provocative rock music,” Henry said in a press release Thursday evening.
“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.”
Some legislators believe that a shirt worn by Flaming Lips bassist Michael Ivins when the vote winner was announced at the Capitol on March 2 was offensive. Ivins wore a red T-shirt with a yellow star-and-sickle logo, underneath a blazer.
“I don't know why he made the choice to do that,” said Rep. Corey Holland, R-Marlow. “The great thing about this country is he has the right to make whatever statement he wants to make. I have the right to be offended by that.”
Holland said the choice of attire was not appropriate.
“I felt that the consequences of that were that I would not be able to support that as our state song,” Holland said.
Holland wasn't alone in that sentiment.
“We have better things to do at the state capitol than waste our time voting for a group that can wear a communist T-shirt in the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. “I have no use for honoring the Flaming Lips. It is a total waste of time. It is not what the taxpayers sent us to do, to honor some group that we might find their lyrics less than acceptable.”
Those from the Flaming Lips camp were devastated by the news.
“This is heartbreaking,” said Warner Bros. publicist Rick Gershon in a phone call Thursday. Gershon has worked with the band for years.
The song, from the Grammy-winning 2002 release by the Flaming Lips, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” defeated nine state rock song finalists chosen by a panel working with the Oklahoma History Center.
More than 21,000 people voted, and the song won by a two-to-one margin, said a Thursday press statement from Dorman's office.
“If all it takes to undo a democratic vote of the people is to be offended by something a person says or wears, then we are in grave danger,” Dorman said in the statement. “They may as well have burned Flaming Lips albums on the House floor today.”
Said Flaming Lips tour drummer Kliph Scurlock from his Twitter online social networking web site soon after the resolution failed: “Scared Oklahoma Republicans just stripped the Flaming Lips of the State Rock Song honor,” he wrote in one post, then continued, “I really shouldn't be amazed when Republicans do something bafflingly stupid, but I somehow still am.”
Scott Booker, the band's manager and CEO of the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, said to media Thursday evening, “As many people around the world know, the Flaming Lips are proud to be from Oklahoma. We want everyone to understand that only a minority of the representatives voted against this law,” he wrote. “Regardless of what the minority in the House of Representatives wish, the Flaming Lips remain proud ambassadors of the state.”
During the 2008 legislative session, the Legislature approved House Concurrent Resolution 1047, which established a selection process. Oklahomans nominated 454 songs. A panel narrowed that to 10.
“It is nonsense that that is the will of the people,” Reynolds said. “It is ridiculous to claim it went to a vote of the people. It didn't go to a vote of the people at the polls.”
Longtime Chicago music journalist and Flaming Lips biographer Jim DeRogatis weighed in during a phone interview with the Tulsa World on Thursday. “I think the irony here is that the legislators forget that Oklahomans are renowned for blazing their own paths,” said DeRogatis. DeRogratis has followed the Flaming Lips for more than 20 years, and his book, “Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips,” was published in 2006.
“The legislators that vetoed this didn't consider Oklahoma's history and people like Woody Guthrie and Will Rogers. Both of those guys had ideas and notions that rubbed some people the wrong way.
“But what's so unique that the Flaming Lips are like Woody and Will. This makes me think of the Marx Brothers and their famous quote,” he said. (“I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member,” said comedian Groucho Marx.)
The bandmembers “are probably asking themselves if they'd really want to belong to any club that would consider having them as a member, anyway,” he said, then laughed. The selection of the official Oklahoma rock song is part of a greater effort of the Oklahoma Historical Society to celebrate the state's rock 'n' roll heritage with an exhibit entitled “Another Hot Oklahoma Night,” slated to open May 2 at the Oklahoma History Center.
Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, said lead singer Wayne Coyne is a constituent in his district.
Rice said the House action is troubling because the public voted on the song. Second, soldiers fight to uphold right to express oneself, Rice said.
“To vote against it because they didn't like their t-shirt is hypocritical,” Rice said, adding that the band was warmly embraced in the Senate when the resolution passed.
“We are proud to have them here,” Rice said. “It is too bad this message is being sent.”
Jennifer Chancellor 581-8346, Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Some lawmakers were offended by the T-shirt that Flaming Lips bassist Michael Ivins wore at the Capitol on March 2. Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman