I had always wondered what it took to be cool. I knew what it took to be not cool; all I had to do was look in the mirror and a prime example was before me (Hint: It involved liking Star Trek, comic books and eventually answering a call to ministry. None of these things are seen as cool by those whose business it is to define that quality).
Thank goodness Wayne Coyne has cleared it all up for me! Coyne is the lead singer for the Oklahoma-based band The Flaming Lips. The Lips formed in 1983 and Coyne has been the mainstay of the band since that time. He and the band members live in Oklahoma and were honored in 2007 by having an alley in the Bricktown area named after them.
Recently, an online poll co-sponsored by the Oklahoma History Center named the Lips' 2002 release "Do You Realize??" -- a No. 32 chart-buster in England -- as the Official Rock Song of Oklahoma. As part of the center's "Another Hot Oklahoma Night" rock exhibit happening next month, the center invited people to nominate songs written or performed by Oklahomans. Ten finalists were selected, and some 21,000 online votes were cast. "Do You Realize??" gathered more than half of those votes, better than 10,000 total.
Last month, the Oklahoma Senate passed a resolution proclaiming "Do You Realize??" as the state's official rock song. But this week, the Oklahoma House balked at doing the same -- a couple of representatives didn't like the T-shirt a band member wore to the Senate vote or the colorful language Coyne used to express his joy at having an alley named after the band. Coyne referred to them as "a little minority of small-minded religious wackos." Governor Brad Henry said he would sign an executive order proclaiming "Do You Realize??" as the state's official rock song, so Coyne said he is "very cool, how he's come to our rescue." See, now I know what "cool" means -- it means agreeing with Wayne Coyne.
Well, Mr. Coyne, had I been a representative, I would have voted against your song too, but that's because it's an obscure tune from a weird band that has built an unaccountably long career by convincing people that oddity equals originality. Among the other nominees was "Let's Have a Party" by Oklahoman Wanda Jackson, known as the Queen of Rockabilly and recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Also on the list, a little ditty called "Heartbreak Hotel," co-written by Oklahoma school teacher Mae Boren Axton and first recorded by some guy from Mississippi. Her son, Duncan native Hoyt Axton, wrote "I've Never Been to Spain," recorded by Three Dog Night. It contains the well-known line, "Well I've never been to heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma" and was among the nominees not approved by the just more than one third of one percent of Oklahoma residents who liked "Do You Realize??" better.
"Do You Realize??" would probably be more recognizable to most people from a Mitsubishi commercial than anything else. Aside from commercials, the Lips' major chart success was the 1993 song "She Don't Use Jelly," which has as much to do with Oklahoma as "Do You Realize??" but was somehow passed over.
Ah well, what do I know. I've never been cool and it's probably too late to start now.