Neptune entered Scorpio on December 25, 1955 and the world’s gift: Rock ‘n’ roll. Neptune would then retrograde back between Libra and Scorpio until August 1957 when it would turn direct to became fully entrenched in the energy of Scorpio. It would stay here until November 1970 when it said its final goodbye to Scorpio and be fully in its new energy of Sagittarius.
Neptune is the planet that rules spirituality, ideals, drugs, illusions and delusions, poetry, fashion and of course, music. On the other hand, Scorpio is the sign of death and transformation, power and control, the occult, the underworld, sex and taboos. The combination of these two ingredients thrown into a country known as the “melting pot” was a recipe for change that would rock, or rather rock ‘n’ roll the world.
Oil and Water in the Melting Pot
As much as the United States likes to think of herself as a melting pot, like any soup you have ingredients like oil and water that do not mix and this was very much true in the 1950’s of Black America and White America. A form of Apartheid was alive and well in the U.S. until Dec 1, 1955 just before Neptune went to the underworld. At that time a challenge arose to the status quo in Montgomery, Alabama and the challenge was lead by Rosa Parks, a black woman, with her refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. When Neptune turned direct and re-entered Scorpio, it was the beginning of the school year, September 1957 and Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas saw major protests because a handful of black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, started to attend a white high school. For the most part by today’s standards these events fall into the “so what” category but in 1950’s America’s taboos and power structure (Scorpio) were being challenged and dissolved (Neptune). The cultures and standards of a nation on many levels were being challenged including the type of music the culture listened to. Music, in the American psyche in the 1950’s was divided in terms of black and white. There were supporters who favoured tearing down the wall of racial divide throughout history and it seems that the biggest supporters at this time were the ones involved in the arts, especially when it came to music.
Canadian jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson mentioned in a radio interview on CBC, he was part of a tour of the southern United States. It was before the show and after the set up and sound check he went to the men’s room where a police officer told him he could not use that particular washroom because it was for whites only. The promoter, a white man, came over to find out what was going on. Peterson told him what had happened and the promoter asked the police officer “Who pays you?” The officer replied he was paid by the concert hall. The promoter explained that since he booked the concert hall for that night, the officer was now paid by him. The musicians and crew proceeded to down take down the “white’s only” signs and the concert hall, at least for that evening, was desegregated, allowing black and white patrons to sit together and use the same facilities. This was probably the infamous concert in Houston where several musicians were arrested in October of 1955 when Neptune was still in Libra. What occurred at this concert had everything to do with Neptune preparing to enter into Scorpio and while these events are about social and cultural changes they do have a great influence on the music of the era.
The Birth of Rock ‘n’ roll
Rock ‘n’ roll did not come about in an evening by someone developing a new sound and everyone suddenly liking it. Rock ‘n’ roll took some good fifty years to gestate by the blending of different sounds. Down in the south, there was gospel music. Gospel music was a form of song that was African in origin Christianised by the African slaves. From the same origin came worker songs that developed into the blues. On the white side, Irish worker tunes would eventually develop into country music. From the African influence jazz music emerged. Originally, a form of music that was cultural in origin, Black in this case, Jazz managed to bridge to white audiences with the help of fellow artists and in this case it was through the cartoons of the 1930’s. Old cartoons like Betty Boop produced by Max & Dave Fleischer and others of the era featured Black jazz performers such as Cab Calloway and his orchestra. To many white viewers this was their introduction to Black Music.
Cab Calloway seems to set the precedent for what was to come. The Minnie the Moocher cartoon shows Calloway dancing in a style that was a precursor to James Brown and then Michael Jackson. The cartoon got banned for being a too risqué cartoon as Betty was wearing a very high cut skirt. Calloway also had a song called Refer Man, a song about a man who has a penchant for marijuana. Sex and drugs and jazz! Jazz and its spinoff, Swing, had dancing associated with it which helped to bridge White and Black culture. Many White performers started playing jazz and swing music, albeit a more watered down version of their Black counterparts. Such artists as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller gave us the war time era music. The one thing that these artists did was to bring this genre of music to a larger audience. Another form of jazz called boogie woogie which is believed to be from 1870’s, was also an influence to swing and worked its way into the wartime jazz era. It became the anchor for rock ‘n’ roll forming the most common underlining bass line for early rock ‘n’ roll. The song by Danny and the Juniors, At the Hop and Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly are a perfect examples of the boogie woogie beat and bass riff making the transition into rock ‘n’ roll.
Other types of music that helped spawn rock ‘n’ roll were the Blues and Country and Western music. Both originated as a type of folk music or worker’s music which told a story. Blues got electrified in the 1950’s and was the dominant force of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The white man’s version, country was also a big influence to the sound that ended up becoming rockabilly which is short form for hillbilly rock ‘n’ roll.
The Music of Taboos: Sex
The acceptance of sexuality varied greatly between the Black and White cultures in the 1950’s. Black people were far more liberal, or open, than the Whites of their generation. However, this is still portrayed today in Black humour where White people are usually stereotyped as being tight-assed or uptight.
As Rock ‘n’ roll was set to take off in 1954 just a year before Neptune entered Scorpio, one song that I personally feel was a big influence was “Shake, Rattle and Roll” written by Jesse Stone under his pen name Charles E. Calhoun. This song was originally performed as a blues song recorded by black Big Joe Turner. Bill Haley, on the other hand, was originally a country singer but in the early 1950’s he turned rocker and formed Bill Haley and the Comets, an all white rock ‘n’ roll band. The Comets later introduced Shake, Rattle and Roll to white audiences but played in a rock ‘n’ roll style. Many references suggested that at that time black music was “taboo” (Scorpio)and would not be played on radio resulting in many songs originally sung by Black artists being watered down to mush by White artists such as Pat Boone.
The following example shows how Shake, Rattle and Roll was treated within the two cultures as even rock ‘n’ roller Bill Haley was subjected to this watering down. In Joe Turner’s version of Shake Rattle and Roll there is a line which goes:
Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin’ throughWay you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin’ throughI can’t believe my eyes, all that mess belongs to you
In the 1950’s White audiences would not tolerate topic of sex being discussed so candidly and all that mess of a woman could not be mentioned to White audiences, which lead to this verse being dropped from the Bill Haley version of the song. However, there was always innuendo which is not so easy to censor because you would have to understand it in order to censor it. While they were successfully able to censor the aforementioned verse from the song, the following verse was missed:
I’m like a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood storeI’m like a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood storeWell I can look at you till you ain’t no child no more
This new music brought sex to the forefront. There were several songs about dancing and holding and touching. The gyrating dance of Cab Calloway from the 1930’s was brought to the White public of the 1950’s by Elvis Presley. His hip gyrations proved to be too much for prime time audiences on television and Ed Sullivan could not broadcast Elvis below the hips on his show as it was deemed too erotic for the general public.
The funniest of these censoring attempts was the court trials over The Kingsmen’s 1963 recording of the Richard Berry’s 1957 tune Louie, Louie. Convinced the song was laced with profanities and erotic lyrics the FBI launched a 31 month investigation to determine what was being said. Whether the lyrics were intentionally slurred or not, the FBI concluded the investigation by stating that even if there were profanities, they were indiscernible. This is rock ‘n’ roll!
Not only is Neptune the planet of music, it is also the planet of fashion and with rock ‘n’ roll came its own fashion. Neptune’s entry into dark sexual Scorpio, brought with a turn to racier and sexier clothes. The black leather biker jacket became an icon of rock ‘n’ roll. The rough and tumble look was equated to the underworld influences of motorcycle gangs. Black leather jackets are still synonymous with rock music today. The girls of the 1957, when Neptune became fully entrench in Scorpio, wore the long and wide swinging poodle skirt, which became iconic of this era and 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll. However, in 1965 the poodle skirt made way to one of less material, and the sexy mini-skirt was born. This type of skirt showed considerably more leg and caused quite a stir of the conservative moral minded elders. The shortest skirts were previously worn at the knees where as the mini would come up to the just below the buttock. The mini-skirt became the uniform of the rock ‘n’ roll go-go dancers of the night clubs which featured women in cages in high boots and mini-skirts gyrating their hips to the loud thumping beats of the new music. Welcome to Neptune in Scorpio.
By the late sixties, the prim and proper, conservative 1950’s were just a distant memory, as were the grease balls and buzz cuts who made way for the long haired, bearded hippies. With the Summer of Love, free sex and nudity were common. Love-ins were in thing for the counter culture – dropping acid, rock music and free love, this was the time of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It was a totally different world then. Open sexuality, once considered taboo, became the thing to do.
While drugs and creativity have always gone hand in hand, it was never discussed openly. Many creative artists, from Shelley, Dickens and Browning smoked opiates in their day. Many a shaman went on a vision quest to understand the mysteries of life and would come up with creative solutions to life’s problems. Alcohol was a legal drug, outside the prohibition years, in the United States and was tolerated especially in the 1950’s with Dean Martin and the martini set. Marijuana, heroin and cocaine use grew through the jazz era and were still used in the 1960’s except more openly. A drug created in 1938, which had some more underground notoriety gained large popularity in the Sixties. LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) made its way into the rock ‘n’ roll culture. LSD was drug which could produce psychosis type symptoms and was used in psychiatric practises. Psychiatry belongs to the realm of Scorpio and Neptune to that of drugs. LSD made its way into popular culture and was then prohibited by many governments in the mid-sixties.
The common use of this drug inspired songs such as the Beatles Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds which has the initials LSD, however the Beatles still dismiss this as coincidence. Jimi Hendrix’s anthem song Purple Haze was a song about the streaks of purple you see while under the influence of the drug. LSD prompted an entire sub-genre of rock music called psychedelic rock and acid rock. The band Love’s lyrics are a perfect example:
“When I was a boy I thought about the times I’d be a man, I’d sit inside a bottle and pretend that I was in a can In my lonely room I’d sit my mind in an ice cream cone, You can throw me if you wanna ’cause I’m a bone and I go….”
The band The Grateful Dead are infamous for their acid popping crowds and even the stage announcement at the Woodstock concert of “stay away from the brown acid” is synonymous with the concert itself.
Dark Dreams and Dark Themes
Scorpio deals with topics such as death, sex and underground behaviour and Neptune deals with drugs and music as previously mentioned. This brings us to the Summer of Love, 1967, where we were introduced to a couple of bands that reflect those concepts. The first is a band which came out of California and the second came out of New York City. The Doors, a Californian band fronted by Jim Morrison, had a debut album which contained a song which must have turned heads but did not affect their popularity. The song, The End, with deals riding a snake (Scorpio) to the lake and the following passage:
“the killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on, he took a face from the ancient gallery and he walked on down the hall, he went to the room where his brother lived and then he paid a visit to his sister and he walked on down the hall, he came to a door, he looked inside…. Father. Yes, son. I want to kill you. Mother! I want to ……..”
Albeit this reference is taken from the play Oedipus Rex, from the fourth Century BCE, it was unheard of before this era to sing about killing ones father and raping one’s mother.
On the other hand, New York’s Velvet Underground, were not as well known as the Doors but were in fact more influential. The band’s first album sold only ten thousand copies but it is said that all of those who bought it formed a band. A dark album with less accessible music than the catchy Doors tunes (Light My Fire, Break On Through), this album talked about drugs with songs such as Waiting for My Man, a reference to a man waiting for his drug dealer, Heroin, a descriptive song of about shooting up heroin, “with a spike going to my vein” and a song called Venus in Furs:
“Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather Whiplash girl child in the dark Comes and goes, your servant, don’t forsake him Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart”
This was a song about bondage, domination and sadomasochism or BDSM. Once again, nobody openly sang songs about these topics, until Neptune entered Scorpio. The Blue Suede Shoes and Love Me Do era was over.
Neptune in Sagittarius (1970-1984)
When Neptune moved out of Scorpio music changed. Hippies weren’t cool anymore and rock music moved into a different light. Sagittarius is associated religion, philosophy and higher learning and it is in this era that bands such as Genesis with their first album Genesis & Revelations, and Black Sabbath came out. Black Sabbath had many songs which sung about Jesus. Bands like Ocean with their song “Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee” started to emerge. The rock operas Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar came out in this time period. The further into the 1970’s we started to see more super groups as big and expansive Jupiter rules Sagittarius. Records became over produced and one would think that the Neptune in Scorpio period was over and the new brand would carry things over?
Neptune in Scorpio Musicians
Although the days of Neptune in Scorpio were over, what came around in 1977 and onwards were the children born in that era from 1955 to 1970. They had felt the Neptune in Scorpio during their life but because they were born at that time, they embodied it. Music was set to change once more.
There were many bands that were considered godfathers of punk rock music such as Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the New York Dolls and the Ramones. The Ramones went to England and their performances would kick start a musical movement that changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll. John Cummings (Johnny Ramone) was born October 8, 1948 with Neptune in Libra but with the Sun conjunct Neptune. He had Mercury conjunct Saturn in Scorpio as well as Mars in Scorpio. His guitar styling would influence not only punk rockers but even Heavy Metal bands to follow. Rock music had become over produced (Jupiter) in the 1970’s the concept of the Ramones was to bring rock music back to the basics of rock ‘n’ roll.
The seminal punk band to come out England which would garner most of the media attention for punk rock all around the world were the Sex Pistols. These young lads saw the Ramones and decided to start their own band featuring vocalist John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), born, 31 January 1956, 0° Scorpio and bassist John Simon Ritchie (Sid Vicious) who was born 10 May 1957 0° Scorpio. While the punk rock movement was starting to grow, this band put punk on the musical map. While the Ramones sung fun and silly songs, think Beach Boys, the Sex Pistols were Neptune in Scorpio angry, anti-establishment music who breaking all taboos (Scorpio)by wearing Nazi swastikas at a time when many of London’s inhabitants still remember being bombed in World War II by the Nazis. They wore safety pins stuck through the ears and sang songs about abortions and anarchy. It was a totally different tone than the Ramones.
In Manchester, June 4, 1976, there was a concert that yet once again turned the direction of music. The Sex Pistols performed to 30 to 40 people that night, however in there were several young future musicians in attendance that went on to form their own bands. Morrissey was there, who would form the Smiths. Pete Shelley and his band mates formed the Buzzcocks. Mark E Smith went on to form The Fall. The most important of these audience members to see that gig were the ones who went on to form a band called Joy Division.
Joy Division was a band that basically helped influence the entire gothic rock genre. With dark, gloomy lyrics and sombre music, lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis went on to commit suicide at 23 years of age. They would end up be cited as an influence for many bands to follow. Interestingly enough the band members all had Neptune at 0° Scorpio with the exception of Ian Curtis who had Neptune at 28° Libra. However, he was born when Neptune had retrograded back from Scorpio and was getting ready to go back into Scorpio. Gothic music is dark, stark, gloomy and sombre and I remember before we knew what the genre was my friends and I would refer to it as death rock. There were other bands that went on to inspire the genre such as Siouxie and the Banshees (Siouxie Sioux was born with Neptune at 0° Scorpio. Peter Murphy of the band Bauhaus, is considered to be the godfather of goth, and he like Ian Curtis was born when Neptune retrograded back Libra from Scorpio, along with guitarist Daniel Ash but the Haskin brothers (bass and drums) both had Neptune in Scorpio.
The song believed to start the movement was Bauhaus’s Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Lugosi had played vampires in the old horror movies and this song got Goths to dress mainly in black or deep burgundy or red with accents of white. The fashion compares very comparably to that of horror shows of Bela Lugosi and shows like the Adams Family or the Munsters. Heavy makeup consisting of black lines and white faces, whether from lack of sun or white foundation makes of the norm of the Goth style. Spiders, snakes, skulls and bats, all things Scorpio decorate or accent their clothes or homes.
In the mid-eighties, the hard rock sounds of bands like AC-DC and Black Sabbath turned into the Heavy Metal of Iron Maiden and Def Leppard but that merged with the sounds of punk rock to bring about new genres of metal called thrash metal, speed metal and dark metal. This is very fast heavy metal and most musicians were of a higher calibre than their punk counter parts.
Bands like Onslaught, Slayer, Destruction and Venom sing songs with Satanic references (Scorpio) and they dress in black (Scorpio). Slayer’s song Angel of Death on their Reign in Blood album (Scorpio) is about Joseph Mengele, the Nazi doctor that performed experiments on Auschwitz inmates. Onslaught featured songs such as Let there be Death and Flame of the Anti-Christ. Inverted pentagrams and inverted crosses, bullet belts and black clothing were popular with their fans.
During the age of Neptune in Scorpio in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Liberace grew in popularity. His flamboyant style and mannerisms lead many to suspect him to be homosexual although he vehemently denied the rumours/accusations. There were lawsuits against anyone who claimed he was a homosexual however, he eventually died of AIDS in 1986. Although, the walls were coming down around various taboos, homosexuality was one facet that was still hidden in the proverbial closet. Fast forward to the era of the Neptune in Scorpio children! Not only did the punk rock/new wave era bring with it changing rhythms but also changing values. A big hit song in 1977 by punk/new waver Elton Motello (Alan Ward, birthday unknown), Jet Boy/Jet Girl was a pioneering song that paved the way for the future. This song is about a 15 year old boy’s openly gay confession with the chorus being “He gave me head“. Following the popularity of this song the 1980’s saw a wave of openly homosexual artists. Boy George of the Culture Club, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and the Bronski Beat were all openly homosexual bands. The Bronski Beat sang songs which openly discuss homosexual love affairs and the pains of being gay in a straight world. As a young adult during this era, I remember more conservative males cringing at the mention of the band’s name. However, over time people’s sexual orientation has eventually become tolerated to a greater degree at least in big cities like Toronto, where Gay Pride Day draws spectators from all walks of life.
Neptune as a planet dissolves what cannot exist anymore and in the 1950’s it started by dissolving the taboos of cultural surrounding topics of music, cultural divides, drugs and sex. After this period, modern music was never the same; rock ‘n’ roll did not die as the elders suggested it would after 1957. Our views on sex in music had changed and eroded away giving to the free love of skimpy dressed video stars. The Audrey Hepburn sexy look had given way to Jane Fonda’s sexy Barbarella look. The mention of drugs has become common place and not hidden. One can argue which is better and which is worse, but the one thing for sure is that it has changed. With each movement of the planets, they bring us to a new phase of evolution and like the dinosaurs you can choose to stay the same and meet your fate or you can choose to evolve. As Johnny Rotten would end Anarchy in the UK with a summary of Neptune and Scorpio, I will end this article with his words, “GET PISSED, DESTROY“!