In the Flaming Lips’ newest song and video, “Mother Don’t Be Sad,” frontman Wayne Coyne tells the tale of being held at gunpoint as a young man when he worked at Long John Silver’s. A sad ballad of a song, the accompanying video features the band socially distancing behind sheets of plastic as Coyne plays a mournful trumpet.
“Mother please don’t be sad/I didn’t mean to die tonight/But those robbers were so fast/Their guns and their anger and I lost the fight,” Coyne sings in his characteristic soft rasp. “So mother please don’t be sad/It’s only me that’s died tonight,” he concludes later in the song. “There’s so much you still have/Remember all the others/That are still alive.”
Coyne obviously didn’t die all those years ago at the fast-food restaurant — he wasn’t even injured — but the experience did alter the course of his life. “Well, until then, I could probably say I didn’t realize I was really alive,” he recently told Rolling Stone. “I never really thought about it. We were living such an insane, healthy, wonderful, happy life — my brothers and all of our friends just running around doing the craziest shit ever. But then I’m laying on the floor thinking: ‘This is how I’m going to die.'”
Coyne said he had a lot of anxiety as a younger man that he didn’t want to follow in his family’s working-class footsteps — that he wanted to go into music. This experience, he says, cleared all that up for him. “After this robbery, for a little while, I just thought, ‘It doesn’t matter. They don’t care. They want me to do music,'” he recalled. “So, I think it helped me in that way — to not feel like I had abandoned these things that my father had worked for. So, I have to say, I think it was probably the greatest gift a young person could have — to suddenly get a new perspective on what’s important in your life.”
“Mother Don’t Be Sad” comes off of the Lips’ new album American Head, out September 11th. Previously released singles include “My Religion Is You,” “You n Me Sellin’ Weed” and “Dinosaurs On the Mountain.” Despite the album’s title, the record is not so much about the state of the U.S. as it is about being what the Lips see as an American band. “I think Flaming Lips music, when it’s at its best — it’s something deeper than Donald Trump,” Coyne said.