The Flaming Lips might never have happened if Tommy Coyne hadn't talked his kid brother Wayne into going to see The Who.
“As much as you can realize anything when you're 16 and 17 years old, I suddenly realized I wanna do that,” Wayne Coyne, 52, said of his first Who experience in the mid-'70s at what was then called the Myriad Convention Center.
Now a star in his own right, the Oklahoma City psych-rocker has since become friends with his boyhood heroes and is considering taking in the British band's Valentine's Day show Thursday night at Tulsa's BOK Center.
“The Who was one of these groups that was a little bit more — I don't know, to me anyway — about this obsession, this power, this drive to express yourself, you know?” Coyne said. “And it was radical. I mean it was just radical the way that they played and performed what seemed to be just normal pop songs, you know? When you're there in front of them, they were transformed into just these radical statements.
“And that's hard to do. I see that even now, the longer we're in a group and all that, I see it's like, damn that's hard to do, you know, night after night, them playing with that intensity and that sort of, I don't know, it's almost like violence. It's like church, but it's violent and loud and it's (bleeping) cool. I think everybody knows how radically transformed I was after seein' them.”
Other local fans have vivid concert memories of The Who that go back even further, when the hit single “Magic Bus” was racing up the charts and the band — guitarist Pete Townshend, vocalist Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwhistle and drummer Keith Moon — flew into town for a two-night stand, Aug. 23-24, 1968, at Wedgewood Village Amusement Park, which used to liven up an area on Northwest Expressway just northwest of NW 63.
Greg Wells, now 64, was the trusted young park employee sent to pick up the band at Will Rogers World Airport.
“Townshend had a recorder and he was real quiet,” Wells recalled. “He was way, way to himself. I guess he had a lot of music goin' on in his head. Entwhistle was a regular guy, Moon was crazy, and Daltrey was carrying a ditty bag. And as he got off the plane we started walking down the concourse and he unzipped the bag and pulled out about a four-foot snake and wrapped it around his wrist and his arm and put his thumb in his pocket and walked out with a snake on his arm. And I guess it was a fashion statement, but it was something he did.”
Both shows would be played from a pavilion roof next to the park's swimming pool. The first night, a Friday, happened to fall on Moon's 22nd birthday, and before the show park owner Maurice Woods presented the drummer with a birthday cake.
And in typical “Moon-the-loon” fashion, he dumped the entire cake on the heads of the crowd.
“I thought that was just really disrespectful,” said Kathy Green, who was 14 at the time, with a season pass to the park. “And then the next thing I know, they're destroying their instruments, and it scared me! I didn't know that was their signature performance thing. I mean, you know, I was from Edmond, which was just a little sleepy college town.”
Green has since become a lifelong Who fan.
Meanwhile back in '68, brothers Jerry “Buzz” Scovill, now 62, and Bret Scovill, 59, were also Wedgewood employees when The Who showed up, and they helped out when Townshend announced that he wanted to meet an authentic American Indian.
No such employee was unavailable, “So we talked Mike Rosso into telling (Townshend) that he was an Indian,” recalls Buzz Scovill.
Rosso was a ride operator who was a tall, dark-skinned, black-haired, full-blooded Italian.
Townshend bought it and was happy and fascinated to meet Mr. Rosso.
“They had Rosso pose as an Indian, and (Townshend) was satisfied,” Bret Scovill said with a laugh.
Wells said Townshend spent most of the next day gluing his broken guitar back together for the Saturday show. Meanwhile, Wells took Daltrey, Entwhistle and Moon on a tour of 7-Eleven stores where they bought hundreds of dollars worth of junk food.
The best story Wells has is when Daltrey told him he felt bad and needed to go back to the hotel. Wells obliged, and on the way, Daltrey asked if Wells would stop at a Dairy Queen and buy him a hot dog, since the singer had no money on him, which Wells did. When they got back to the hotel, Daltrey invited him into the room and paid Wells back for the $2 meal.
“It was a small amount of money, but who would have the humility to pay me back for a meal that I bought him?”
Who, indeed? For all their weirdness, the kids from London were, for the most part, all right.