Much like certain Tarot cards, I have found that the traditional descriptions of astrological Sun signs don’t always hold up.
I see this most clearly in the arts, particularly in the realm of pop music where I’ve tracked the discrepancies for decades. Although less striking with a more extroverted sign like Aries, the failures of the traditional profile are painfully pronounced with a sign like my own, Virgo, which includes the likes of Eazy-E and GG Allin. Yikes! Not too “virginal,” right?
And yet the fundamental motivations and preoccupations highlighted in these traditional profiles do seem to be correct. It’s more a question of how these pulsions manifest themselves.
Each class metamorphoses with the march of history and progress, changing its affect in accordance with social structure, political organization, and technology. What it means to be working-class, high-income, black, white, male, female, etc., have all changed drastically in the past hundred years and still deviate wildly in accordance to geography.
So it is with the zodiac signs…
Geminis are show-offs. That hyper gifted kid who can play any musical genre… on any instrument… by ear… only to eventually get bored anyways… and then decide that they need to invent their own instrument instead. So they’re always winning the Science Fair.
Or perhaps they should record others! And then change their name! And then change their religion! And then change their gender! Or maybe it would be more prudent to simply take up acting. It’s appalling how talented they are. Indeed, it’s almost enough to make one believe in a god because where else could the Twin be getting all of their awesome brain software. But then their schizoid seams start to show and their next switcheroo lands them in a mental hospital, at which point I cease being so envious.
Geminis are mercurial, macabre, and multi-personality. They’re also easily bored. So the chronic acting bug, the sudden career changes, the mid-career name changes, that’s all par for the course. To be a Gemini is to be in perpetual personality crisis. It’s not that the Gemini doesn’t know who s/he is, it’s just that there are so many hims and hers in every single Gemini.
Artistically, this Mutable Air sign is most notable for its invention of new instruments, its invention of new genres (Hip-Hop and Electronic music both have a serious and formidable Gemini contingent), and early adoption of either/or. They’re also amazingly gifted at blending genres, and at recording and mixing. Their careers are often characterized by sudden reversals and long-term success. Both Prince and Bob Dylan come to mind, as each name represents several successive icons rolled into one long career. And they aren’t so unique in this as Geminis.
However, if the Geminian is appallingly polymathematical, they’re also appallingly uptight about copyright – which is why neither Prince nor Bob Dylan are featured in this article. I can’t find a video that stays up longer than a couple weeks for either of them. Which is a pity because my all-time favorite song is by Bob Dylan. You’d think a sign with so many gifts might be a bit more generous with others… :/
If Aries excel at the refinement of tradition and Tauruses work upon tradition’s very bedrock, Geminis create new traditions by suturing multiple pasts into the present. They blend, meld, and spawn bizarre new offspring of the most futuristic sort. Space oddities, aliens, bisexual hermaphrodites, and new races in new hues. They’re always on to the next frontier and they seem to invent new taboos, thereby breaking the old as if by dizzy-headed accident. And finally, I secretly suspect that they have an unusually intense fascination with war and murder – simply by glancing through the musicians listed here, and then considering the Geminis that I know and love in my own life – although I have no idea why this should be. Thoughts?
Known to be loquacious, mercurial, inquisitive, inventive, and child-like, the Gemini motto is “I think.” Gemini is a Mutable Air sign occupying the Third House of Communication. It is ruled by Mercury, the messenger of the gods.
Let’s consider what Gemini might sound like…
Sun Ra (May 22, 1914) – Born Herman Poole Blount, young Herman had an extraterrestrial experience while in college. Taken up to what he identified as “Saturn,” he morphed from human form and was told by the “natives” to communicate to Earthlings via music. And so he did!
Dropping out of college, he rededicated himself to music until he was drafted for WWII and refused to serve as a conscientious objector. His “religion” forbade violence. His appeal was rejected and he was incarcerated; his family shamed. Upon release, he moved to Chicago and commenced his “Arkestra” which went through its three main incarnations with each subsequent move, first to New York and then to Philadelphia. The no-longer-young Herman Blount changed his name to Sun Ra as an ode to the Egyptian god of the Sun, declared himself a member of the “Angel Race” and became renowned as an afrofuturist, incorporating Swing, Jazz, free improvisation, and the then new-fangled Moog synthesizer with his poetry and “cosmic philosophy.” I’ve chosen to include Love in Outer Space. Space traveling, improvisational multi-intsrumentalist, cosmic jazz man who is constantly changing his name… Gee, whiz! Gemini, much?
Other Gemini Changelings and Jazz Musicians: Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Hazel Scott, Ramsey Lewis, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Lauryn Hill, Wesley Willis.
Les Paul (June 9, 1915) – Like so many Geminis, Les Paul wasn’t born “Les Paul.” He was born Lester William Polsfuss. And he also used the pseudonyms Red Hot Red and Red Rhubarb. As is the fashion of so many Twins, he too was a multi-instrumentalist who worked in several genres. However, it would be no exaggeration to say that Les Paul, “the inventor,” trumped every other musical hat that he wore as Les Paul, “the guitarist.” Responsible, in part, for the hard, modern sound of rock and roll, Les Paul spearheaded the solid-body electric guitar in 1941 and was one of the first to experiment with overdubbing and multi-track recording, both of which are standard in the music industry today.
As a special treat, I’ve chosen to feature Les Paul’s work with fellow Geminian, Chet Atkins, innovator of the “Nashville Sound” and master of every genre you can imagine — “from Flamenco to Country to Bach” — so as to show the quadruple effect of two Twin guitar legends working in concert. Both are masters of technique and pioneers of sound. Enjoy these two! So mercurial, they’re always ahead of the Russians!
More genre busting Geminis: Bob Dylan, Steve Albini, Reg Presley (lead-singer of The Troggs), Jon Bonham, Levon Helm (drummer for The Band with Mr. Dylan above), Cole Porter.
Brian Wilson (June 20, 1942) – If you like the unique sound of The Beach Boys, drop to your knees twelve times and Hail Brian Wilson. He was their main composer, arranger, and producer. A master of melody and harmony, he was also diagnosed schizophrenic. Or was it simply — “alotta strands in the duder’s head”? I mean, this Gemini wrote a ton of hits, so perhaps “crazy” is as “crazy” sounds? The distinction is a fine one with Gemini, and one that slower, less graceful signs might easily botch up at the Twins’ expense. Hopefully, you’ve noticed that the honorable mentions already include a high ratio of the “mentally ill.” The Twin may be too quick-minded for his/her own good. The more galumphing signs just can’t keep up.
Below is Good Vibrations, a Beach Boys classic performed live in the studio in which the ever-brilliant Brian Wilson gently guides the rest of the band as to how, precisely, they are meant to sound — “Hard and strong, all the way… BOOM!” Please note as well – this Gemini, like so many of his twins, excels at studio sound, or if you prefer: at the technological manipulation of the “human.” Gemini’s excel at augmentation.
More Gemini heavyweights: Dean Martin, Paul McCartney, Ron Wood (guitarist for The Rolling Stones and The Small Faces), Charlie Watts (drummed for The Rolling Stones), Topper Headon (drummer for The Clash), Fred Waring (pop singer and band leader from the ‘30s), Benny Goodman (another band leader from the ‘30s).
Stevie Nicks (May 26, 1948) – “The Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll,” Stevie Nicks has gone platinum with others (Fleetwood Mac) and alone. She’s a hit-maker either way. But her musical career wasn’t kicked off until she watched future romantic and musical partner, Lindsey Buckingham, perform California Dreamin’ at a high school party. She spontaneously harmonized with the finger-picking Libra and a hard-hitting musical duo was born: Buckingham Nicks. Imagine that! They later joined Fleetwood Mac together.
Gemini’s have a tendency to channel, and it should be no great surprise that Ms. Nicks wrote the hit Rhiannon on the basis of a novel, without realizing it was the name of a Welsh demi-goddess. When she did find out, she capitalized, introducing the song as an ode to the Welsh witch. And Stevie Nicks was nothing if not a witchy woman in her own right. I first heard a sample of this song when I was 12, in Starbelly off of Hole’s first (only!) album, and I’ve been listening ever since. Mick Fleetwood compared this song to an exorcism – and we can all use a bit that!
More Gemini front-liners: Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, Lionel Richie, Wynonna Judd, Noel Gallagher, Juliette Lewis, Zia McCabe.
Siouxsie Sioux (May 27, 1957) – Like so many other musical icons, Siouxsie Sioux started out her career as a groupie for the Sex Pistols. But you’d be hard-pressed to call her a hanger-on. Rather, that was merely her moment as an understudy, becoming something of thee Prima donna of Punk — with Poly Styrene and Ari Up a close second and third.
The secret to Ms. Sioux’s success, however, lay in her unique ability to morph and channel. Locating herself in the much larger rubric of the multi-century Romantic movement (no, it never ended) — of which Punk was merely one twitchy incarnation — her lyrics span centuries, continents, and religions, while her co-punk musical output was labeled “post-punk,” helping to spawn New-Wave, No-Wave, and Goth, (ir)respectively. Popp-y enough to be popular, but with fantastical lyrics and experimental vocalizations – one of my favorites was always Suburban Relapse. But I’ve included a live version of Hong Kong Garden, because so many of her lyrics were preoccupied with a romanticized Orient, and live performance (for better or for worse) seems to be a hallmark of Gemini.
More Twin Weirdos: Nancy Sinatra, Penny Rimbaud, Paul Weller (The Jam and Style Council, obvi), Dave Navarro (who claimed that Jane’s Addiction was a masculine Siouxsie and the Banshees – which I don’t immediately reject!), Mick Box (guitarist for Uriah Heep), Alan Wilder (drummer for Depeche Mode), Bun E. Carlos (drummer for Cheap trick), John Taylor (drummer for Duran Duran), Fabrizio Moretti (drummer for The Strokes), Carla Azar (drummer for Autolux).
Morrissey (May 22, 1959) – If you really enjoyed the Twin double hit of Les Paul and Chet Atkins, you should know: Morrissey and Siouxsie Sioux did a duet, too. It’s called Interlude and was released in 1994. It’s in the tradition of Nancy Sinatra (Gemini) and Lee Hazelwood (to whom Gemini Lydia Lunch offered an ode, as well, which is why I mention it) – which is so cool! But as this single was post-Smiths, let’s back up a bit… cuz I’m overtly lollygagging on purpose.
I kinda feel like Morrissey, and his Gemnian ways, should need no introduction. So I’ll relate here the legend of him that I grew up with, which is by no means Wikipedia or even “true.” He’s gay. Oh wait! No, he’s not gay – he’s celibate. Because some odd sex act went horribly wrong with Johnny Marr and now he’s traumatized. And now they never talk! Good lord, I might just slit my wrists over this! He’s also vegetarian, cuz Meat Is Murder (no, not Conflict!), so don’t go thinking it’s fanciful or anything. Below is my all-time favorite Smiths’ song, performed live in keeping with the Gemini theme. This song makes me tear up pensively every time. The studio version is here, for the squares who care about “quality.”
More Geminian crooners: Judy Garland, Tom Jones, Boy George, Ian Svenonius, Bill Callahan (Smog), Nick Drake.
Lydia Lunch (June 2, 1959) – Like so many Geminis, Lydia Lunch is multi-talented and multi-genre. But she’s also a numero uno networker. This woman has worked with just about everyone. And if her autofiction is to be trusted, she’s had sex with them all, too. Based on the bitterness of so many heavy-hitting men, I’m inclined to believe she tells the truth. Over and over and over: Lydia Lunch gets the job done! Although she can be a bit acerbic in doing so; she’s even mean to Nardwuar (who is totally right about the Rollerderby/Love interview, btw)!
Besides collaborating with Sonic Youth, The Birthday Party, Einstürzende Neubauten, Thrill Kill Kult, Foetus, Marc Almond and so many others, she led both Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and 8-Eyed Spy, appeared in nearly every early Richard Kern film, and has done spoken word with Exene Cervenka, Henry Rollins, Hubert Selby, Jr., and (again) many more. Not bad for someone who started out as an abused teenage runaway in NYC. Not bad at all. I’ve included Atomic Bongos off one of her solo albums, “Queen of Siam.”
More Gemini musicians working on the DIY fringe: Ian Underwood (multi-instrumentalist for The Mothers of Invention), Steve Vai (guitarist for Frank Zappa), Stiv Bators, Dez Cadena, Jon King (lead singer of Gang of Four), Barry Adamson, Bryn Jones (Muslimgauze).
Tom Araya (June 6, 1961) and Kerry King (June 3, 1964); Vocalist/Bassist and Guitarist of Slayer – Slayer’s a Gemini super group. So expect the (un)usual contradictions, the half-schizo/half-ADD, I’m just a great multitasker perpetually on the verge of an internal breakdown/breakthrough. Whirrrrr, hum, puff… Whirrrr, hum, puff… Pop! Slayer began as the thrash-metal brain child of Kerry King (Gemini) and Jeff Hanneman (Aquarius) – because Slayer is also an Aquarius super group! Half and half, straight down the middle, like some bifurcated Mutable/Fixed Air Extravaganza! — ‘No wonder they’re so fast!’ Tom Araya (Gemini) was soon recruited and Dave Lombardo (Aquarius – who will be featured in this series with Aquarian super group Fantômas) joined shortly thereafter. Slayer started reigning in blood and the rest is history.
Tom Araya is noted for his marked interest in serial killers, which inform the band’s lyrical and visual content. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, he is a Catholic. Clearly the numerous American Christian groups who have consistently threatened the band with censorship didn’t get that memo. Kerry King, on the other hand, has no religious affiliation: neither Christian nor Satanic. But he has affiliated himself with a host of other bands, from being a shared member with Megadeth early on in both of the bands’ careers to appearing on The Beastie Boys album, License to Ill. Never a slave to generic constraints, Slayer made the amazingly wise decision to sign with the then new and almost exclusively Hip-Hop label Def Jam Records in 1986, around the time they broke. Smart boys! Here they are live with their hit about Josef Mengele, Angel of Death.
More Twin Metal: Nicko McBrain (drummer for Iron Maiden), Pete Gill (drummer for Motörhead), Tom Morello (guitarist, Rage Against the Machine), Glen Dover (keyboardist for Megadeth), Kevin Moore (aka Chroma Key, the keyboardist for Dream Theater), Dizzy Reed (keyboards for Guns N’ Roses), Sean Kinney (drums for Alice in Chains), Eric Kretz (drummer, Stone Temple Pilot).
Arabian Prince (June 17, 1965), MC Ren (June 14, 1968), and Ice Cube (June 15, 1969); Rappers: N.W.A. – N.W.A. stands for Niggaz Wit Attitudes. And they needed those attitudes, because if you imagined that it was difficult for Slayer to get on the radio – and it was – well, NWA had it much worse. They were banned from most mainstream radio stations. Yet their lyrics aren’t any more violent. They’re not even more fantastical. It’s simply that the violence is more contemporary, urban, and overtly political. And they’re Black. And armed. And smart. With one half Gemini and a Virgo (Eazy-E), Sagittarius (DJ Yella) and Aquarius (Dr. Dre) rounding them out, they used the odds against them to their own advantage, becoming the avant garde darlings of Gangsta Rap and West Coast Hip-Hop. They also put Compton on the map.
Arabian Prince was one of the founding members of the group, but his contribution became a bit redundant when fellow Geminian, Ice Cube, joined as the main producer and MC. Although the two overlapped on NWA’s Double Platinum sophomore release, Straight Outta Compton, Arabian Prince left the group to pursue a solo career that never quite took off. Ice Cube stayed on for a few years before commencing a solo career of his own. Hugely successful, he’s also had an acting career. The other founding member, besides Eazy-E, was rapper MC Ren.
Check out the opening track of Straight Outta Compton; so controversial at the time that the FBI and Secret Service sent Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records a letter chastising the band. Seems pretty prudent by today’s standards, no?
More Gemini Hip Hop Artists: Darryl McDaniels (founding member of Run DMC), Tupac Shakur, Heavy D, Kendrick Lamar, Krayzie Bone, Cee Lo Green, Notorious B.I.G., Gucci Mane, Andre 3000 (Outkast), Iggy Azalea, Aesop Rock, Kanye West.
Lana Del Rey (June 21, 1986) – I first heard about Lana Del Rey when a friend of mine complained about her college-age roommate. ‘She keeps playing that fucking song!’ Which song? I had asked. National Anthem, my friend sighed. I imagined, on the basis of the title, something wretchedly horrific – like Madonna singing American Pie. But having recently discovered a whole wealth of new Hip-Hop with which I was smitten, I decided to investigate. After all, it was what all the kids were listening to. And maybe the kids were right…
My initial response was to cautiously tell my friend that it could be much worse. Much, much worse. She agreed, but said too much of any one song could make the loveliest music seem like torture. So, in deference to her, I include Gods and Monsters… which also happens to be my favorite. Like, the one that I played over and over and over again in my room like some moony teenager, no doubt driving my neighbors crazy. Lana Del Rey has described herself as a ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra.’ The influences couldn’t be any more Gemini. Enjoy!
More Twin Pop Stars: Kylie Minogue, Lisa Left-Eye Lopes (TLC), Mark Wahlberg, Alanis Morissette, Macklemore.
Word to the Wise for Gemini, i.e. Virgoan criticisms: I love Geminis. My social life flits with their every whim. But that curt, acerbic nature that I noted with Lydia Lunch, I’ve also noted in my Geminian buddies. It makes me not like them. I find the Gemini is really good at shifting blame and parrying, at not taking responsibility. And how do they achieve this? They raise their voice a couple shrill notches as an avalanche of words pours out of their mouth like venom. It is wildly unbecoming. When overextended, many a Twin can let far too much loose in a moment of multi-tasking overload — and that behavior can be so repellant and self-absorbed that forgiveness is no small order – not that the Gemini ever asks for it… Frankly, I think they’re too ashamed… and the behavior is so ugly that they really should be.