I wish the dinosaurs were still here now
It'd be fun to see them playing on the mountains
Dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous eras between about 230 million and 65 million years ago. The prevailing view is that the mass extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs was caused by the impact of a large asteroid that fell in the Yucatán Peninsula at Chicxulub, Mexico. Here, Wayne Coyne expresses a wish that the dinosaurs hadn't been wiped out.
When Coyne wrote the song, he recalled a childhood fantasy. "I remember being in the back of the station wagon with my family as we were traveling down a highway, in the middle of the night, on our way to Pittsburgh," Coyne said. "And seeing these giant trees, pretending that they were dinosaurs, falling over and killing each other."
This was the last time Coyne was an innocent child using his imagination in the back of the vehicle. From then on, whenever he was with his family driving down a highway, he'd instead be worrying that his father would fall asleep, crash the car, and everybody would be wiped out.
Things could have been so great
But now I think it's too late
To see them playing on the mountains
Coyne told Apple Music: "The times we went back after, I didn't see the dinosaurs in the trees. They were just trees. You can't get that back. It's trying to make that into a song that an adult can relate to instead of being like a children's storybook or a Disney movie."
The Flaming Lips released the song as the third single from their 16th studio album, American Head. Bassist and keyboardist Michael Ivins told Uncut magazine the songs have a lot in common with The Lips' classic 1999 record, The Soft Bulletin.
"It all of the sudden came together with The Soft Bulletin," he said. "The melodies and the words and how the chords work together evoked an emotion instead of it just being... we are rocking! It wasn't an emotional journey before. Then take a song on American Head like 'Dinosaurs on the Mountains' - that could be a silly children's song, but to me it's this crazy metaphor; it has this weird regret to it, it's knowing that you can't change the past and you have to move forward."
Released on July 10, 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the song's music video features the band members playing in inflatable human-sized bubbles. The Flaming Lips continued to use them as a way of summing up the isolation of the coronavirus-riddled year. On October 12, 2020 the group performed a concert in their hometown of Oklahoma City while entirely encased within bubbles. Audience members were also protected by plastic bubbles.