Been away from the blog for a while–busy doing readings, consulting and writing a quick piece for emusic on rock savant, Wesley Willis, a Gemini, (clinically schizophrenic). Some interesting things really popped when i started looking at famous Gemini musicians, mostly the connection between the artist and their alter egos (sort of a creative schizophrenia) and the fact that they usually need another to flesh out their musical vision.
Wesley Willis is an extreme example of Gemini bi-polarity Some people might be familiar with his cult classic, “Rock and Roll McDonalds” that starts out naive, innocent and even goofy, then turns into a nasty little hit piece on McDonald’s, singing about how bad the food is for you, how fattening it is, and that Burger King is better. Everyone whoever heard it for the first time fell in love with it, laughed their ass off and was totally charmed by Willis’ lack of guile. Willis went on to a recording career that basically saw him re-make “Rock and Roll McDonalds” over and over again, using the same music, same song structure and even occasionally the same lyrics. His subject matter leaned towards singing about rock bands and musicians like Nirvana, The Foo Fighters, Courtney Love and KMFDM. These were more like shout outs than actual songs. The repetition in subject matter and language is something that modern psychiatry has linked to schizophrenia and yet, the minutiae, the obsession with details, the tendency to hyperinflate the mundane, can all be considered partial trademarks of The Gemini need to communicate, especially about their most local surroundings and personal experience.
A sense of confessionalism runs through Gemini Prince’s work. When he sings about “Alphabet City” he’s reminiscing about the area he grew up in, in his native Minneapolis. But his narrative extends far beyond his locality. In typical Gemini fashion, Prince has been working out his erotic and sensual side, along with his devoutly religious side for years. Once Prince walked into the studio to record the groundbreaking, Dirty Mind the studio itself became part erotic cabaret, part confessional. In many ways, Prince mirrors the moral conflict that The US has had with sex and salvation through his art and it’s’ no wonder that the US Mars is in Gemini, forming a slightly wide trine (six degrees) with The US Moon in Aquarius. As a nation, we’re restless with Mars in Gemini, crave experience and The Moon in eccentric Aquarius gives us permission to explore the duality in unconventional ways. The US Venus in Cancer however lends a strong conservatism to how we relate across the board, which might explain why Kris Allen (Gemini/Cancer cusp) upset Adam Lambert (Aquarius) on American Idol (much more on this later).
Prince is archetypally Gemini as he works out his relationship with his father in Purple Rain, celebrity in Rainbow Bridge and self-indulgence in Under The Cherry Moon.
Prince, like many Gemini’s has also needed a foil. These came in the form of any number of femme fatales that allowed him to externalize his feminine in his art. From Sheila E, to Mavis Staples, to Vanity, he has used the female voice as a conduit, an externalized and interactive muse. Let’s not forget that has also been a symbol as well as a man. This mercurial nature to move from identity to identity is Prince in action, working out the personal and the mythopoetic through his art. Even his songbook reflects the peripatetic nature of his creativity–it’s all over the place–sometimes frustratingly so.
Contrast Prince’s personal obsessions with those of Michael Jackson (Virgo), who could hardly be typed confessional during his prime, admitting to child abuse only through the media, but rarely if ever referring to it or any other deeply personal subjects in his art. While Michael lacked the psychological daring of Prince, the auteur, throughout his career, he mined the same consistent sources of music; a poppy amalgam of funk, middleweight rock, disco beats and soulful ballads for the entirety of his legacy, which made him both more predictable and thus more successful than Prince, as he rarely strayed very far from the mainstream.
Much like Prince, fellow Minnesotan and Gemini, Bob Dylan was also known for his deeply confessional art, though unlike Prince, his lyrics are far more obscure and layered, but also like Prince, Dylan’s art was restless and always on the slightly confrontational edge. He was a folkie, a voice of the civil rights era, hailed as the new Woody Guthrie and then he turned his back on the whole movement by whipping out an electric guitar at The Newport Folk Fest, sending the folkie nation into paroxysms of disbelief and abject betrayal. But this was par for the course for Gemini Bob. His restlessness even led him to convert to Christianity for a while, like Prince, working out his faith and salvation on You Gotta Serve Somebody. If the folk nation felt betrayed by Dylan plugging in, imagine how his fellow Jews must have felt when Bob started warbling about Jesus? Oi vey! Unlike many Geminis though, Dylan rarely needed anyone. He had a brief dalliance with Joan Baez, who really brought him into the coffee house scene, but was as individual as he was enigmatic.
Such was not the case with fellow Gemini Miles Davis. Davis, like Dylan and Prince was also into busting convention. While Dylan was shocking the folk world with his electric conversion, so too was Davis, plugging in and singlehandedly giving birth to jazz fusion with the groundbreaking, Bitches Brew. Davis surrounded himself with young guns like Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin and Herbie Hancock. These young lions of jazz were unattached to traditional be-bop and The Leonard Feather crowd. Davis turned up the volume and turned them loose. The indignant howl from the traditional jazz lover and critics circle must have been music to Davis’ ears. Speaking of “Howl” we can’t riff on Gemini, in such a Gemini fashion without mentioning Gemini, Allen Ginsberg and his own convention busting manifesto. Ginsberg’s “Howl” marked the arrival of a new form of language and narrative in American poetry. The wasteland had extended it’s boundaries to the free verse of the beat poets and Ginsberg was the first to offer up his own cultural translation of disenfranchisement. Unlike Elliot’s elegaic eulogy of loss, Ginsberg offered up a screed, a rant, a glimpse into the slamming future of poetry itself. Ginsberg of course had his other in Peter Orlovsky, his longtime collaborator and muse.
When it comes to the concept of Gemini needing the other, can there be any greater example of Gemini, Paul McCartney and Libra John Lennon? As much as the two of them feuded and fought, they were the creative counterbalance that kept them spinning in the cradle orbit of prime creativity. Without the other, they both would have been less effective as singer, songwriters. One could argue that McCartney needed Lennon more based upon the output of their material post Beatles as anything that Sir Paul did with Wings never came anywhere close to Shaved Fish, The Plastic Ono Band, Rock and Roll and of course, the classic, Double Fantasy.
Since we’re riffing in Gemini, sprung source fashion, even The Beatles themselves needed their creative other, the one band that they always measured themselves against and that was not The Rolling Stones. No, for The Fab Four, it was The Beach Boys that always set the bar and the creative force behind The Beach Boys, was you guessed it, Gemini, Brian Wilson, who was always chomping at the bit, tiring of their squeaky clean, surfer guy image, wanting to create pop masterpieces like Smile. Unlike Prince, Miles Davis and Dylan, who constantly turned the table on the public, allowing the duality of the Gemini nature freedom to roam, Wilson was hemmed in by his father and the pressures of his label. While he struggled to free his bi-polar muse, he withdrew further and further into himself, internalizing the creative drama, importing sand into his house, framing a box around it and planting a piano in his living room beach. It was the beginning of Wilson’s descent into madness, moving closer to Wesley Willis than Paul McCartney. It took the controversial therapist/svengali, Eugene Landy, to help Wilson resurrect his sanity. Again, we see Gemini needing the other in order define and re-define the self.
The subject of creativity, especially musical creativity and Gemini is a fascinating one and I haven’t ven touched on Tupac and Andre 3000, also Geminis.
Oh, I almost forgot. The controversial finish to American Idol might get even more heated as one of the show sponsors offered power codes to help boost Kris Allen’s vote totals well over a miilion, supposedly the margin that separated he and Adam Lambert. Can you say, “Mercury Retrograde.” Look for more of this to come to light as Mercury goes direct on 6/1.