Not to sound like a children's TV show -- even though this band has been the adult version of one for some time now -- but The Flaming Lips' secret is imagination. Frontman Wayne Coyne has never been one to weigh his options and calculate a career trajectory -- his next move is always just the last cool thing he thought of. These days he's more popular than ever thanks to stunts like, oh, say, releasing music inside of gummy fetuses, but he's been doing this for 30 years now.
Yes, traveling back to the band's first full-length, Hear It Is (1986!), he was already writing songs called "Jesus Shootin' Heroin." Other early career highlights included the self-explanatory "Everything's Explodin'" and a cute seven-minute piano ballad that implores you to "Love Yer Brain" because "it keeps you from going insane." They rocked a lot more back then -- hello "Drug Machine in Heaven" -- and their other modes were pretty much weird Pink Floyd-style ballads and even weirder experiments (the spoken-word "Put the Waterbug in the Policeman's Ear."
Following the surprise 1993 hit "She Don't Use Jelly," a detuned nursery rhyme they got to sing on 90210, the Lips got even grander with one of their most accessible albums to date, 1995's Clouds Taste Metallic. That was as close to guitar pop as they were ever gonna get, with fully mapped-out melodies like "Christmas at the Zoo," "Bad Days" and "This Here Giraffe." Things would only get grander (and more mainstream-friendly) from here, but The Flaming Lips never stopped traveling further out into who knows what. Here's where it all began.