Popstrology

Thanks to Kate, who actually looks at The New Yorker that arrives at our home each week, I know about popstrology. To quote the item in the magazine:

“Popstrology is a system for achieving self-awareness through the study of the pop-music charts—specifically, by determining which pop song was No. 1 on the day of your birth. If, for example, you happen to have been hatched during that brief, blissful period in October, 1976, when the airwaves were ruled by ‘Disco Duck,’ you may have inherited from its creators, the opportunistic d.j. Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots, an ability ‘to parlay simple needs and even modest gifts into the precise degree of greatness to which you aspire.’ (As it happens, 1976 was the Year of Rod Stewart.) Popstrology is no parlor game; its methodology is elaborate and broad—the book is almost four hundred pages long. [Popstrology creator Ian] Van Tuyl identifies forty-five constellations (Lite & White, Mustache Rock, Shaking Booty), and, for each No. 1 artist (or ‘birthstar’), he provides a chart, which maps the birthstar’s signature qualities on a matrix of sexiness, soulfulness, and durability, among other variables. (Van Tuyl has no truck with coolness; popstrologically, there are no bad pop songs.) In the introduction, he writes, ‘Popstrology is a powerful and flexible science, and where its adherents take it in the years ahead is anyone’s guess.’ ”

The piece goes on to give Van Tuyl’s popstrological analysis of several names in the news, including the current president of the United States, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Michael Eisner, and Robert Iger. He had to do special readings for these people since the formal borders of popstrology cover only the era from April 1956 (the First Year of Elvis Presley) through August 1989 (the Year of Paul Abdul).

About Wolfowitz, Van Tuyl says: ‘He’s a Mills Brother. “Paper Doll.” ‘ He began to recite from the song: ‘ “I’d rather have a paper doll to call my own than have a fickle-minded real live girl.” ‘ A meaningful look. ‘Reality can be complicated. Real life can be sticky. On the other hand, two-dimensional representations of reality never change. They never betray you. Commitment to beliefs, whatever those beliefs may be, is probably common among Mills Brothers.’ ”

If you’re a true child of the popstrology era, look up your sign here. If you weren’t born in the magic years, you have to look up your own Number One. Here’s a good place to do it: the Wikipedia’s “Years in Music.” In my year, Elvis had his first recording session and Bill Haley released “Rock Around the Clock.” But those were just the faintest glimmers of the rock-and-roll dawn. The Number One song when I was born, it turns out, was “Make Love to Me,” by Jo Stafford. Hmmm. I’ll have to find that somewhere.

4 Replies to “Popstrology”

  1. I was born in the year of “Hey Paula” and “It’s My Party”. In spite of that, the popstrologer predicts a winning combination of savvy and high-spiritedness for me.

  2. Amazingly, to me, I remember “both” those songs, though they hit the air before I really started listening to the radio much. It was 1965 before I got really hooked.
    I’m going to refrain from that particular walk down memory lane, though.

  3. I’m a Supremes in the third year of the Beatles, born to “You Just Keep Me Hangin’ On.” That’s somewhat mitigated by the possibility that I was conceived under the sign of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” And the combo would explain things I’d rather not elaborate on here…

  4. The third year of the Beatles? You’re a mere slip of a lass!
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.
    OK: So, here’s where chronological offset comes in. I really started listening to top 40 radio in The Second Year of the Beatles. I was in sixth grade that year. And by the time The Third Year of the Beatles was in full swing, I was really hooked. The first song that I remember being totally fixated on — embarrassing to say in a public forum, but it was “Good Lovin'” by the Young Rascals — was during that year. I could challenge your patience with all my wonderful musical memories of your, um, birth year.
    As another friend of mine says, “Thanks, Grandpa.”

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