The Aquarian and Uranian nature of progressive rock

Aquarius

Aquarius

As both a fan and musician, I have had more than a passing interest in progressive rock (prog rock or prog) for the last forty years. As an astrologer for the last thirty years, I noticed some time ago that Aquarian and Uranian themes are very common in the charts of many progressive rock musicians and that the whole musical genre is essentially Aquarian-Uranian in nature. From the often original and experimental nature of the music, to the eccentric musicians themselves, to the frequently intellectual lyrics in search of the truth. Not all Aquarian and Uranian musicians are prog rockers and not all progressive rock musicians have Aquarius or Uranus strong in their charts but the link is there.

Progressive rock gradually evolved out of the late 1960s, beginning with the more experimental sides of the likes of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys and others. “Progressive” and “experimental” are of course words that are frequently associated with the astrological symbolism of Aquarius and its ruling planet Uranus, both being concerned with challenging existing conventions and exploring new territory. It has been suggested that Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) by The Beatles was the first progressive rock album and it certainly has many features that have come to be recognised as prog rock trademarks. There is an overall concept, a Progrockcolourful album cover – a piece of art in itself – and an extraordinarily wide range of musical and lyrical influences. Others have suggested that In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969) by King Crimson was the beginning of progressive rock. By the 1970s and the likes of Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes having established themselves, progressive rock had emerged as a subgenre in its own right. The term “prog”, sometimes used in a jokey or derogatory sense, appeared much later.

 

 

SevenFourUnusual and quirky (Aquarius) time signatures and unconventional song structures are often a feature of progressive rock. Rather than conforming to the more typical 4/4 rock and pop beat, artists such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree often use alternatives such as 7/4 or 13/8. Pink Floyd’s Money on Dark Side Of The Moon and Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill are examples of using a 7/4 time signature. Aquarian progrock often breaks the musical rules in all sorts of ways – the traditional verse and chorus structures are frequently avoided in favour of extended instrumental sections or other alternatives. Unpredictability is the name of the day, although critics have observed that this can seem musically pretentious, sometimes appearing to sound different for the sake of being different. Such criticism is of course unlikely to bother a musician with several planets in Aquarius or a strong Uranus in their birth chart, who will follow their own path, regardless.

Dave Gilmour, Sun square Uranus

Dave Gilmour, Sun square Uranus

A quick look at the astrological charts of famous progressive rock musicians confirms the prominence of either Aquarius or many close aspects between Uranus and the personal planets. Guitarist Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd was born a Pisces Sun with a square to Uranus. In a 2014 interview promoting Floyd’s The Endless River album, producer Youth gave a perfect Sun-Uranus description when  commenting on his experience of working with Gilmour:- “It’s funny with David, you think he’s going to be one way and then he goes completely the other. He’s unpredictable like that, and that’s good” (1). Keyboard player Rick Wakeman of Yes has Moon and Jupiter in Aquarius, flautist and singer Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (a brilliant eccentric if ever there was one!) has Mars conjunct Uranus in 10th house. The extraordinarily gifted and uniquely intelligent guitarist Robert Fripp (King Crimson) was born with a close Venus conjunct Uranus trine Jupiter and another multi-talented guitarist and musician Steve Hillage (originally with the eccentric and sometimes brilliant Gong) was born with a close Mars conjunct Uranus at the apex of a Cardinal T-square. Kate Bush, who made her spectacular live comeback in 2014, has pretty much transcended all genres but the strong prog leanings are there. She has a natal Sun-Uranus conjunction and almost certainly, depending on the time of birth, Moon in Aquarius.

 

Peter Gabriel's Aquarian birth chart

Peter Gabriel’s Aquarian birth chart

At their 1970s peak, Genesis were one of the most interesting and innovative progressive rock bands. A very English group of musicians making clever and eccentric (Aquarius/Uranus) music, fronted by Peter Gabriel’s clever and eccentric theatrical performances.  Although Genesis became more commercially successful after Phil Collins took over as singer, most prog fans consider that the more interesting and original ideas (Aquarius/Uranus) started to run out after first Gabriel and then Steve Hackett left the band. Both Hackett and Gabriel have natal Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius, being born one day apart on 12th February 1950 and 13th February 1950 respectively. The Aquarian urge for freedom and independence would have played its part in them branching out to pursue extremely successful solo careers, each achieving substantial international recognition for their artistic brilliance across a number of musical genres.

Peter Gabriel - Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius

Gabriel – Sun, Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius

With his Aquarian Sun and other 7th house Aquarian planets on display to the public, Peter Gabriel is the living embodiment of the most highly evolved Air sign. A major feature of Gabriel’s birth chart (2) is a powerful close opposition between Pluto in Leo on the Ascendant and Jupiter in Aquarius on the Descendant. Gabriel has achieved huge recognition and success as both a Pluto in Leo rock musician and a Jupiter in Aquarius visionary humanitarian. The tension between these two is mediated by a gifted and magical conjunction between Mars and Neptune in Libra, a perfect combination for a socially conscious artist and musician. He has often been years ahead of his time (Aquarius), from his founding of the Womad festival, to his support for world music through his record label and recording studio, to his involvement with one of the first music download services, OD2. Receiving the Prog God award at the annual Progressive Music Awards in London, September 2014 from comedian and prog fan Bill Bailey (there’s a fair bit of Aquarius in his chart too), Gabriel said:- “Despite prog probably being the most derided musical genre of all time there were – as today – a lot of extraordinary musicians trying to break down the barriers to reject the rules of music… We didn’t always get it right, but when it did work we could move people and get some magic happening.” (3)

 

Steve Hogarth and Fish - Mars in Aquarius

Steve Hogarth and Fish – Mars in Aquarius

Mainstream progressive rock was carried into the 1980s by Marillion, who are still going strong today. Both the original Marillion singer Fish and new boy Steve Hogarth (who has actually been with the band since 1990) have a prominent Mars in Aquarius. It has often been said that guitarist Steve Rothery is Marillion’s greatest musical asset, and Rothery was born with an almost exactly stationary Uranus in Leo. (Astrologer Stephen Arroyo recently observed that due to the use of computers, the importance of natal stationary planets is now often over-looked (4), something that contemporary astrologers might want to bear in mind.) Marillion were years ahead of everyone (Aquarius) when they famously first used crowdfunding to raise money for an American tour in 1997. As with many newer and lesser known 21st century prog acts, the Aquarian internet has continued to be essential to the band, enabling them to build a worldwide fanbase whilst remaining largely independent (Aquarius) of the music industry.

Francis Dunnery, Sun trine Uranus

Francis Dunnery – an astrologer with Sun trine Uranus

 

No piece on astrology and prog would be complete without a mention of Francis Dunnery, who is himself an accomplished astrologer. The inspired ex-It Bites and ex-Robert Plant guitarist and songwriter has a close Sun-Uranus aspect and Saturn in Aquarius. Appropriately, he runs his own label called Aquarian Nation.

Although progressive rock has always survived and thrived underground, it was uncool for many years. Since Radiohead’s OK Computer in the late 1990s, prog rock’s influence has become increasingly acceptable in the mainstream again – prog is no longer quite such a dirty word!

Notes

  1. “The Making of The Endless River”, Prog magazine, October 2014, p.44.
  2. Peter Gabriel, born 4.30 pm, 13th February 1950, Woking, England. Time of birth is from memory, according to astro.com databank.
  3. “Peter Gabriel honoured at Prog music awards”, BBC News website, 12th September 2014.
  4. “Experiments and Experience with Astrology: Reflections on Methods and Meaning”, Stephen Arroyo, CRCS Publications, November 2013.

This article was originally written for a book on the astrology of music, due to be published by Flare Publications, UK.

Tony Blair – astrological birth chart

With the recent publication of the Chilcot report, here is an updated look at Tony Blair’s astrology chart (born 6.10 a.m., 6th May 1953, Edinburgh in Scotland). Blair of course had the same natal chart at the time of his landslide victory in 1997, at the time of his decision to invade Iraq, and now. As a life changes, so does the interpretation of the birth chart.

Although Tony is an Earth Sun sign Taurus, Air is the strongest element, with a clear emphasis on idealism, social development and communication. In common with many ambitious and driven individuals, Tony has a fairly close square between his Sun and Moon, Taurus and Aquarius respectively. Taurus is solid, down-to-earth, often conventional and materialistic. Aquarius is idealistic, a social reformer, often unconventional, even eccentric.

Another obvious strong feature of the chart is a powerful conjunction of Mars (supported by expansive Jupiter) close to his Gemini Ascendant (rising sign). Any planet this close to the Ascendant degree in anyone’s chart represents a dominant energy of the personality. The Mars in Gemini individual asserts themselves flexibly, verbally and cleverly but dualistic Gemini can often be a bit too clever. Blair’s Gemini ability to communicate enthusiastically and openly is exaggerated by nearby Jupiter in Taurus. These characteristics dominate Blair’s whole personality, bringing an air of confidence, good luck and natural leadership ability. However, it’s perhaps worth noting that Donald Trump also has a close conjunction of the red planet Mars to the Ascendant degree and as the classical music composer Gustav Holst observed, Mars is also “the Bringer of War”.

TonyBlairChart

As shown by the Aquarian Moon close to his North Node in the 10th house, Blair has always been genuinely driven to make his mark on the world by expressing his humanitarian instincts. The Saturn-Neptune conjunction in Libra and his 6th house is also a sign of being committed to putting ideals of harmony and fairness into practice through hard work. At its best expression, this is an excellent combination for a diplomat. Some people now understandably dismissive of Blair as a money-grabbing warmonger might easily forget his work on Human Rights, the Northern Ireland peace process, and even apparently successful military intervention in Sierra Leone where he is widely regarded as a hero.

With chart ruler Mercury opposite Neptune and Saturn, ideas and words may not be what they seem – a struggle with straightforward communication is clearly shown. Tony has his Sun in the 12th house too, an astrological indicator that frequently corresponds with a complicated or confused sense of identity. At best, any ego problems here can be transcended and shared with the collective consciousness and there is often a spiritual theme to the life of a 12th house individual. Blair’s 12th house relationship with God and, as he sees it, the fight against global evil are fundamental to understanding the man.

BlairChilcotAs the Chilcot report approached, the bad publicity for Blair suddenly appeared under the first pass of a Uranus transit, opposing his Saturn-Neptune conjunction with a square to his Chiron in Capricorn, around April-May 2016. A simple interpretation of that could be “a shocking awakening to the balance between Blair’s idealism and realism, together with his wounded ability to take responsibility”, Chilcot confirming what we already knew.

Will Tony Blair be held accountable? Current reports say that he won’t have to face trial for war crimes. The financial integrity of Blair’s business and charity empire has also been questioned. The next two passes of that Uranus transit to Blair’s Saturn-Neptune are in late October-early November 2016 and late February-early March 2017. Pluto also continues to transit his Sun, Venus and Uranus, from mid-August through to early November this year. Over the next few years, both Uranus and Pluto continue to transit all Blair’s significators in the second half of the Cardinal signs and by 2018, Saturn will be well into his 8th house of transformation and “death and re-birth”. Pluto squares Saturn-Neptune in 2019, on its way up to Blair’s Midheaven.

pluto-glyphHowever they play out, there’s clearly some seriously confronting, tumultuous times ahead for Tony Blair.

Kate Bush – astrological birth chart

KateBushThe wonderful Kate Bush returns to the stage tonight for her first live shows since 1979. Although the time of birth is unknown, the astrology horoscope for her date of birth (30th July 1958) reveals some suitably powerful features.

Kate is a Leo Sun, a Fire sign. Leos burn brightly as they take centre stage to radiate inspiring warmth and good humour to everyone around them. Creativity and individual self-expression are key themes and Leos need to be loved and appreciated more than most. The planet Uranus is also in Leo and close to the Sun in Kate’s chart, an indication of a potentially unique and multi-talented superstar. The Moon in Aquarius (Kate would have the Moon in Capricorn if born in the early hours but given her personality this seems unlikely) is a further sign of an original and even eccentric character. The egoless humanitarian instincts of an Aquarian Moon are a good antidote to the Leo ego!

The Sun, Uranus and the Moon combine with sensual Mars in Taurus and Neptune in Scorpio to form a Grand Cross in Fixed signs, although the position and strength of the Moon in this is unknown due to the lack of birth time. Used constructively (not an easy task), a Grand Cross is a major force to be reckoned with! The close square between Sun and Mars needs an outlet for its fiery energy and a Mars-Neptune aspect is very common in the charts of musicians, artists, sportsmen and other charismatic individuals who are capable of transcending everyday life through “magical talents”.

KateBushChart2Kate’s mental intensity and darker side is shown by a Virgo Mercury-Pluto conjunction. Mercury delves deep here, analyzing and investigating taboo subjects with sharp intelligence. Kate’s sometimes disturbing and penetrating insights into life and human nature can be found in much of her work, particularly on The Dreaming. The search for deeper meaning and the need for disciplined wide-ranging philosophical exploration correspond to her Saturn in Sagittarius.

Venus in Cancer indicates a romantic, feminine nature which affects both her artistic self-expression and relationships in general. Emotional security is important for Venus in Cancer and the long-term support of Kate’s family (Cancer) has been essential to her success. She cares – relationships and partnerships have also been helped by Jupiter in Libra (conjunct her spiritually significant North Node) bringing charm, grace and beauty.

KateBushPicAlthough an accurate time and place of birth is required for a full look at anyone’s current astrological trends, it is interesting to see that Kate has chosen to make her live comeback as positive Jupiter moves through Leo and across her Sun-Uranus conjunction. No doubt the “Before The Dawn” London gigs will be a further triumph in her extraordinary career.