Friday, 5 February 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 53 (Top Five): Horoscopes

♫ Was there ever a more star-gazing band than the Moody Blues? (and Pink Floyd don’t count by the way – they hated their tag as a ‘space age band’!) As a fond farewell to this Moody special we look at five other bands who have recorded songs about astrology – and offer a (very) brief glimpse into the horoscopes of the bands themselves...

(A – less brief – word for you, dear reader. I’m amazed that I’ve lasted 53 newsletters without referring to another of my hobbies – and yet I don’t profess to be that good at casting anyone’s signs as yet. All of the birthdays included here come from the ‘British Entertainers Astrological Profiles book’ – there’s a sport stars edition too which I don’t own I’m afraid -  although the interpretations of what this all means are all mine. They are also very simple and stick to just a musician’s star sign rather than his lunar or ascending sign – mainly because I don’t know them for all the people on this list - although if you want to get into this hobby yourself it goes without saying that the more complex it gets the more detailed your answers and chance of understanding a personality in all its complexities rather than just the outline as showed here. And in case you’re wondering, yes I do have Mercury in Gemini which means that not only am I prone to writing things in my spare time I’m also likely to provide really long rambling explanations where four words would probably do).    

            THE MOODY BLUES’ HOROSCOPE SAYS: Surprisingly for such an ‘out-there’ band, the Moodies are dominated by earth signs, with a sprinkling of intellectual air and headstrong air for good measure.  The only horoscope that I have in any detail is for Justin Hayward, a Libran – hence all those Moodies albums about balance and his own particular writing style that pits quiet ballady openings against epic choruses (think ‘Question’) – with a Gemini moon sign (lots of thinking and an ability to put this into words) and a scorpion ascending sign (hence, perhaps, the rather long silence between band members in the mid-1970s). Justin is joined by his partner-in-crime John Lodge (a Leo – whose hair does make him look like a lion during its 1980s incarnation when its very long); air and fire generally help each other along and this pair certainly do that. Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas – born just a few days apart – are both earthy, practical Capricorns (hence Mike’s ability to get a Mellotron to work when practically all other musicians gave up using it after 1967 and Ray’s down-to-earth songs about reality – presumably he’s got some sort of pisces rising/lunar element too to account for all those airy-fairy songs he wrote too!) That just leaves Graeme Edge and I’m ashamed to say I’m not actually sure when he was born at all, although most drummers seem to be born in Taurus, Virgo or Capricorn I’ve noticed (steady enough to hold groups together whilst being unhinged enough to join in with everything else!)

5) Pink Floyd “Astronomy Domine” (Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, 1967): OK so this one’s a bit tenuous but if everybody else refers to the band as ‘space age’ then I’m not going to disagree! Change this song title to ‘Astrology Domine’ though and it would make a lot more sense about where Syd Barrett’s coming from with this song – ‘blinding signs flap, flicker flicker flicker..’ Must have been another one of those band rows then!   

THE BAND’S HOROSCOPE SAYS: A great deal of water signs here, with Scorpion Waters and Piscean Gilmour both trying to tug the other one into doing what they want to do (Roger noisily, Dave more subtley). Usually these two water signs are meant to get on quite well, understanding how the other one thinks without actually talking much about it, but once they do start having different opinions about things neither man feels it is his duty to compromise and co-operation suddenly gives way to fights. Roger’s inability to forget any hurt may also have had something to do with the amount of Floyd anti-war concept albums (his dad, a leading socialist of the day, died in WW II despite being a conscientious objector). Dave, meanwhile, is less likely to thrive on conflict and his early songs for the band in its (brief) peaceful years lend themselves more to escapism (‘Fat Old Sun’, etc). There’s also two air signs here that in other bands might have been the leaders, but here get suffocated by all that emotional blackmail from the water signs (Rick’s a libra, hence his quiet nature and need to keep things balanced in the band;  Nick’s an aquarius, hence his off-beat humour). The biggest surprise, however, is that Syd Barrett – that high-wiring dare-devil, taker and maker of all things psychedelic who got lost after one trip to other worlds too many – is a steady, reliable Capricorn! His sign would explain all his songs about his past and childhood, however...   

4) The Kinks “Full Moon” (Sleepwalker, 1977): “You see before you a truly broken man, ‘cause when it gets to midnight I don’t know who I am, the full moon’s a calling and it’s put its curse on me and it won’t ever let me be”. Yes Ray Davies speaks for lunar Cancerians the world over, pouring his soul into a moody song about his changing moods and his inability to fight off some unseen power pulling the strings for him. This song, like many other Ray Davies classics, also draws on his legendary insomnia – a Cancerian trait – while ‘All Of My Friends Were There’ from ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ (1968) reveals a lot about the insecure side of his Cancerian personality. 

            THE BAND’S HOROSCOPE SAYS: All that inter-band feuding might not be simply down to Ray and Dave being brothers – their two signs of Cancer and Aquarius don’t really understand one another at all. Dave is into experiencing things and being in the middle of everything going on, flouting authority because he thinks he knows just as well (if not better) than those in charge and simply enjoying experiences for their own sake, rather than building them into a story that has shaped his life to date like Ray. The elder brother is more into understanding those around him, even to the extent of missing out on experiences himself, and its interesting to note that many of the Kinks’ albums are actually more about Dave’s life than Ray’s (1975 ‘Schoolboys In Disgrace’, for instance, is all about Dave being expelled from school for making the love of his life pregnant and the fall out this creates in his life). Dave’s autobiography ‘Kink’ is an illuminating read and among the most illuminating chapters are those about his brother’s less endearing character traits – money scrounging, hoarding, playing band members off each other and being generally grumpy – which all happen to belong to his star sign. They also reveal a lot about Dave’s own sign – off-beat Aquarians have their own set off rules to follow which they rarely let on to outsiders and its notable that Dave never actually challenges his brother on any of these points – he didn’t even let Ray in on the fact that he was writing a book! The pull-and-tug between these two very different characters is best summed up by Ray’s song ‘Two Sisters’ (‘Something Else By The Kinks’, 1967) who are clearly Ray and Dave; the former is a trapped housewife looking on enviously at his sister flouting herself at parties, only for the jealously to swap when she comes home to an empty house. In this context it’s amazing that bassist and Capricorn Pete Quaife – forever tired of being caught in the middle of the brothers – lasted four years in the band, while the similarities between Dave and fellow Aquarian’, Kinks drummer Mick Avory, probably had a little something to do with all their on-stage fights over the years.  

3) George Harrison “Pisces Fish” (Brainwashed, 2002): “I’m a pisces fish and the river runs through my soul” One of George’s parting messages to the world finally gave in to one of his own past-times of astrology and dealt head on with George’s multi-faceted personality. A spiritualist who loved motor racing and owned lots of companies, the Eastern anti-materialist Beatle who took the Beatles to the Maharishi in India whilst at the same time grilling manager Brian Epstein over money matters far more thoroughly than his three colleagues; this song is George to a tee.

            THE BAND’S HOROSCOPE SAYS: The Beatles’ collective horoscope is one of the most fascinating of all the AAA bands. They are ¾ water signs leaving ¼ air sign outsider– something that seems surprising at first glance for a band that for the most part got on very well and understood each other ‘almost psychically’ (a McCartney quote). But its actually Paul whose the odd one out, his Gemini sun sign sitting at odds with John’s Scorpio sign (no surprise there!), George’s Pisces and Ringo’s Cancerian ones. Paul’s duality and switch of moods only really comes into play big time in his solo career (has there ever been two more opposing releases than the adult ‘Hi Hi Hi’ and the written-for-under-fives ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’, singles released just three months apart?), although his quicksilver brain and ability to juggle different things at the same time came in very handy during his Beatles days. Lennon’s sheer magnestism played its part in the Beatles’ days too, attracting the attention of Brian Epstein in the first place and going on to dominate the Beatles’ early years with the fire in his eyes. Studying McCartney’s horoscope against Lennon’s is interesting too – each man desperately wants something the other has, whether it be Lennon’s charisma or McCartney’s charm – and work together well only if they have a common interest at stake; after that its all out war! (see Lennon’s sarky ‘How Do You Sleep?’ and McCartney’s almost-but-not-quite-as-sarky ‘Too Many People’). George and Ringo, meanwhile, want peace and harmony in which to think spiritual thoughts, with each backing the other up throughout the Beatles’ years and afterwards, always feeling what the other one is thinking (note that its ‘John and Paul living in the material world’ in George’s solo song of the same name – Ringo isn’t only excluded from the Beatle’s harrumphing, he’s even playing drums on the track – Ringo’s sweet B-side ‘Early 1970’ covers similar ground in its sense of confused hurt).    

2) The Beach Boys “Funky Pretty” (Holland, 1973)/ “Solar System” (Beach Boys Love You, 1977): She values flowers more than gold, thinks of her men as knights of old, she’s very spiritual I’m told, a-woah”/”Solar system brings us wisdom...” No less than two horoscope-focussed songs from the brothers un-grim, both from the pen of Brian Wilson and both dating from his most extensive ‘lying in bed’ period. The first, an epic arrangement with lyrics provided by manager Jack Riley is a hymn to the Pisces star sign and its very romantic artictsic-ness. Interestingly its not Brian but cousin Mike Love whose the Piscean in this band – and his general demeanour is nothing like the picture of delicate otgher-worldly Pisces written in this song! ‘Solar System’ is more general and yes, before you ask, it probably has a lot more to do with astronomy than astrology. But its description of each planet in turn (descriptions that also match the depictions of the star signs ‘ruled’ by each planet) and the lines ‘what do the planets mean?’ and ‘solar system brings us wisdom’ suggest Brain might have had both on his mind...

            THE BAND’S HOROSCOPE: Brian Wilson’s sudden interest in astrology during his most major ‘staying in bed’ years of 1973-77 may have been in an attempt to understand the role both his family and his band members had played in his life, a situation which had got increasingly out of his control during those years. Born to one of the most archetypal grumpy and wronged-in-childhood Cancerians on the planet (father Murray), eldest son to two younger brothers including a fiery Sagittarius (a sign which the wanderlust Dennis Wilson fits to a tee) and a perfectionist Virgo brother (ditto Carl Wilson), Brian’s multi-faceted star sign did its usual thing when under heavy pressure and promptly collapsed, leaving him ‘characterless’ (Gemini’s are many things to many different people and often ‘forget’ their own characters when stronger elements are around to pull them out of shape). Brian’s Gemini sign is also traditionally meant to cope with circumstances only on an artificial level and – while that’s not true of any Geminians I know – it is true that this star sign more than most relies on escapes from their troubles and worldly matters more than most, always looking for new ideas from new exotic places too (hence both Brian’s drug taking c. 1966, back when the rest of the group had yet to try them and his ‘escape’/retreat back to his bedroom). Cousin Mike Love is the surprise of this band’s star signs (a fiery Piscean Mike – like Roger Daltrey – started his music career as an angry out-of-control teenager and ended it as a peace-loving spiritualist; not quite the huge life change it sounds – they both just learned to trust others and let go a bit). Al Jardine, meanwhile, is – I think but I read this a long time ago and I might be wrong – another Virgo, who understandably feels a bit lost with the amount of tension within the rest of the band.

1) Stephen Stills “Fishes and Scorpions” (Stephen Stills II, 1971): “Gemini lady, did you see me chasing you? I don’t think I did, I only tried to get through”   Love in the stars? Don’t tell that to Stephen Stills who spends most of this song looking at each of the horoscopes in a detached way before a killer surge of emotion in the middle eight makes it clear that he’s dabbling in this new hobby merely to try to work out what makes his mysterious loved one tick and how he should handle her. As the person in question is the flighty Geminian Rita Cootlidge, a singer-songwriter present in many of Stills’ songs and who is eventually lost to charismatic Aquariun Graham Nash – the answer is that there isn’t an answer – the Geminian he talks to one day isn’t the same as the one he speaks to the next. Note too Stills’ adamance that he wasn’t actually doing the chasing – that’s his stubborn Capricorn goat side coming through even though his narrator is desperately trying to denounce the whole astrology thing as nonsense. Listen out too for the mention of various CSNY star signs: ‘lovers of lions stay away at feeding time’ – ie avoid Crosby when he’s in one of those hurt moods or you’ll get your head bitten off; fishes and scorpions meanwhile – Young being the latter – dance to the changing seasons, much to the confusion of this straight-laced reliable Capricorn. Interestingly aquarius – Nash – is missing. Perhaps his secretive sign meant that Stills never actually found out his birth date in all those years of working together? Well, I don’t know if its fantasy either, like it says in the song, but there you go.

            The four members of CSNY each represent a different ‘element’ and to my knowledge they’re the only group that does this. Hence the fact that each of them is so different to the others: Crosby is a fiery Leo (hence that lion’s mane of hair again), sure of his place in the universe and the importance of his contribution to the world, whoever it shocks (see ‘Triad’); Stills is an earthy Capricorn, a workaholic who thrives on deadlines and homely pleasures (and secretly worries that if he doesn’t work hard enough he’ll end up like the homeless OAP in his song ‘4 and 20’) ; Nash is an airy Aquarian, one with a certain nobility but also a slight rebelliousness, always living to his own set of rules and, despite a certain diplomatic air, carries a certain anger for those who don’t play fair (hence the amount of girlfriend stealing that went on in the 70s!) (see various protest songs from ‘Wind On The Water’ to ‘Dirty Little Secret’ and beyond); Young is a watery scorpio – a triple scorpio if rumour is to be believed though I don’t have enough details of his birth to work that out - going wherever his muse and feelings take him with a dark, secretive side that enables him to cut off those nearest to him when his heart takes him in a new direction (hence the band changes that have taken place on every single album since 1969 without fail!) Taken all together, its no wonder this band had so many fights – spectacular four-way fights at times – and often went years without speaking to each other at all. But its easy to see that they have a common bond too: each of the four is equally concerned with spiritual matters and the importance of unity, peace and harmony; they just go about achieving their goals in different ways, often to the obliviousness of the fact that the others aren’t following their methods.

♫ Well, that’s it for another issue – tune in for news views and music 54 where business will be resumed as normal! We just leave you with news from Philosophy Phil who has pointed out two rather large mistakes in the Labour and Conservative UK election manifestos this year: Labour’s current NHS slogan, via swine flu, is ‘catch it, kill it, bin it!’ whilst the Conservatives have gone with the snappy ‘it can’t go on like this!’ Apt messages both! See you next time!

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