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.