The Astromusical album series was released in 1969, in the wake of Woodstock, the “Aquarius song” and neo-bohemian, baby-boomer ultra-hippie astrology revival. It was clearly brilliant timing and not only because it was on-trend at the time: Jupiter was also conjunct Uranus, one of the best possible astro-configs for commercially successful launches of unconventional phenoms.
There were 12 distinct albums for each zodiac sign, with fashion by the opulent Oscar de La Renta, a suave Cancerian success story. He had Mercury conjunct Jupiter in Leo and a special genius for flamboyant ballgowns, powdery floral bomb perfumes and inaugration frocks for first ladies.
They were photographed by the iconic Capricorn Francesco Scavullo, renowned for his pioneering Cosmopolitan mag covers and proto-cool high-society/sub-cultural hybrid portraits. With his Sun conjunct Mercury and a Venus, Mars + Uranus conjunction, he was a walking Zeitgeist, a moment waiting to happen. Look up his work on Tumblr or something and you’ll realize – or re-appreciate – the extent to which everyone copies him.
Maya Angelou Wrote The Album Notes
And the astrologer was the then widely syndicated Carroll Righter. Or was it? This is not widely, if at all, known but Maya Angelou – yes, the Maya Angelou – wrote at least some of the astrological content.
I’ll explain how I discovered this in a moment but first: aside from the style impact, the albums were not musically creative. Each zodiac sign album featured ten orchestral versions of well-known songs that supposedly “embodied” their sign.
Notably: the Gemini album has several tracks with “wind” in the lyrics – Blowing In The Wind, Cast Your Fate To The Wind etc. Cancerians are allocated a lot of Moon songs, while Leo is nearly all Sun-themed. All the Sagittarian songs are riffs on ‘free’ while Capricorns have variations on Climb Every Mountain and Sweet Smell of Success.
Why Is Aquarius Apocalyptic?
The song picks for Scorpio and Aquarius, however, seem to have gone a bit whack: Scorpio includes Stormy, Jealousy, Strangers In The Night and Strangers On The Shore. And even though Aquarians can be difficult, the “theme song from Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse” seems a tad intense for an easy listener? You can see all the tracks at Discogs if you’re interested.
The astrologer Carroll Righter, a triple Aquarius who “did the stars for the Hollywood stars” went on an extensive promo tour and talked about how he selected the songs, amongst other esoteric media morsels. But each album also included a booklet for each Sun Sign that it seems the eminent Maya Angelou wrote.
To elaboarate, the Astromusical house series was the first product of GWP – a new record company created by a charismatic, colorful former firefighter called Jerry Purcell: A Libra, he also had Uranus in Aquarius on his North Node and Mars conjunct Neptune in Scorp.
He did a lot of cool things beyond the scope of this post but he was an early backer of Maya Angelou, releasing her spoken poetry on vinyl and paying her a stipend so she could write.
So this is some of what she wrote about her 1968 experiences in A Song Flung Up To Heaven, her sixth volume of autobiography:
If Maya Angelou did write the actual booklets along with the album, they’re collector’s items – obviously. We need to get hold of some to check. Or, is she just referring to the descriptions beneath each sun sign? It’s plausible that she did because (a) she said so and what Maya says goes and (b) Carroll Righter apparently employed a young Robert Mitchum – the film noire actor – to write horoscopes at one point.
It’s so rare to read an anecdote like the one above – so often these tales are more of the post-traumatic variety: are there still Jerrys today? Or was it a 1960s Staten Island fireman thing?
Other questions: Why are the Saggo and Pisces images so different to the rest? Was the Sagittarius dress no good for a full-length photo? How come Pisces is portrayed with more skin – no de la Renta regalia – in a more subservient style than the others? Which picture is your fave and what song tracks would you ‘prescribe’?