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TV’s Most Surreal Music Performances: The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips are an amazing cover band. Of course, they aren’t just an amazing cover band — they’re one of the weirdest, wildest, most influential and innovative bands in the history of indie rock.

Wayne Coyne and his merry band of pranksters are better known for a treasure trove of amazing albums and one-of-a-kind live shows, but over the years, they’ve definitely exhibited a special knack for busting out some pretty crazy covers.

From their full-album tributes to the Pink Floyd classic ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ and the Stone Roses‘ self-titled debut to unforgettable covers of single songs by everybody from David Bowie and Led Zeppelin to Daniel Johnston and Radiohead, the Flaming Lips know how to put new twists on old classics.

Given their psychedelic slant, it’s no surprise the Lips have frequently turned their attention to the lysergic majesty of later-era Beatles. The band reportedly has a remake of the Fab Four’s masterpiece ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ in the works, with the likes of MGMTTame Impala and Miley Cyrus, for chrissakes, lined up as guests. But it’s certainly not the first time they’ve redone the Beatles.

Maybe you’ve heard the Lips’ cover of ‘All You Need Is Love‘ with  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes? Or their stab at ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds‘ with Sean Lennon on Letterman? Or how about their bizarre version of ‘I Am the Walrus‘?

All those were pretty sweet, but their sweetest Beatles tribute may very well be the absolutely mind-bending rendition of ‘Revolution’ they offered up on Halloween night 2011 at the MTV O Music Awards, the cable network’s annual celebration of all things digital music.

The Lips rocked the tune in honor of recently deceased Apple co-founder and chairman Steve Jobs. Appropriately, the tune was both performed (in part) and recorded (in full) with the help of iPads.

It was a playfully strange yet surprisingly faithful cover of one of John Lennon‘s most enduring anthems. As guitarists Derek Brown (with an iPad jammed under his strings) and Steven Drozd crunched away with shronky, treble-piercing riffs, Michael Ivins tickled the keyboard ivories with minimalist melodies and drummer Kliph Scurlock tapped away on the skins with his fingers.

Meanwhile, Coyne — sporting white-framed fly shades and wrapped in what looked like one of those shiny foil blankets marathon runners don at the end of a race — presided over the proceedings like an alien visitor from the future, talk-screaming the tune’s lyrics through a little silver microphone with the compression levels cranked to 11.

“When you lose a genius of that caliber, they’re never really gone, they live on all around us through our memory, their words and their work,” said John Lennon‘s widow, Yoko Ono, while introducing the performance. Thanks to Coyne and his fellow Lips cohorts, we have just one more genius way to remember both Lennon and Jobs.

Next Surreal TV Performance: The Who

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