Uranus is Afoot: After the Gold Rush

You never know when astrology might come in handy. Sure, it can help you choose a career, find a mate, raise a kid, buy a house, sell a house, manage your health, manage your wealth. That’s all well and good, but let’s talk about something really important, something on a higher plane. I’m talking about Neil Young. Specifically, his 1970 song “After the Gold Rush.” It got into my head the other day when I heard it played on KMKB. It stayed with me and became something that Lonn Taylor wrote about –– an earworm. The song just wouldn’t go away.

I needed to sort it out.

The song was inspired by an obscure screenplay by Dean Stockwell, a good buddy of Dennis Hopper. The play was about California’s apocalyptic last days before sliding into the sea. Turns out Stockwell and Young were neighbors in Topanga Canyon outside L.A. in the late 60s. Young was struggling at the time with a creative drought. After reading the screenplay, he composed his entire album After the Gold Rush in three weeks, recorded it on March 12,1970 and released it on August 31 of that year.

The screenplay (which was never produced) acted as creative catalyst. But Young’s real muse lies above, and trust me, when planets align optimally, you can really kick ass. When they don’t,  patience is paramount. So what astrological transits helped launch Young’s most mysterious song?

To answer that question, we need to understand what Neptune was up to in the early spring of 1970. Why Neptune? First of all, it’s the planet that rules music. Neptune is all about dreaming, imagination, intuition and the spirit world. Where you find Neptune in the chart is where you seek the ideal. It also governs drugs and drug addiction. When first asked what the song was about, Young replied: “Hell, I don’t know. I just wrote it. It just depends on what I was taking at the time. I guess every verse has something different I’d taken.”

Turns out there were a slew of Neptune aspects surrounding the time when Young wrote and recorded After the Gold Rush. To set the stage, Neptune entered (ingressed) the sign of Sagittarius in the early spring of 1970. Sagittarius (ruled by Jupiter) expands and broadens the energy of the planets that come into its orb of influence. Around the same time, Neptune went retrograde, thereby doubling down its influence. This transit allowed the planet Mercury (communication) to favorably align with Neptune four different times in March of that year. With that much positive Mercury energy concentrated in your corner, believe me, your message will be heard.

To further strengthen his hand, both Venus (art, beauty, what you really enjoy) and the Sun (how you shine out into life) also harmoniously aligned with Neptune that same month. Now for the platinum icing on the cake: the album itself is written and recorded in the sign of Pisces. Who rules Pisces? Duh, Neptune. And just to cosmically ensure that the release of the album would be as successful as its recording, the planet Mars (action, assertive strength) squares Neptune exactly on the release date, 8/31/70.

So far, so good. But what’s even way more fun is to now look at the song’s lyrics through an astrological prism –– which helps clarify and reinforce the meaning of this hauntingly beautiful song.

**

After the Gold Rush

Well, I dreamed I saw the knights in armor coming,

Saying something about a queen.

There were peasants singing and drummers drumming,

And the archer split the tree.

There was a fanfare blowing to the sun

That was floating on the breeze.

Look at Mother Nature on the run

In the nineteen seventies.

Look at Mother Nature on the run

In the nineteen seventies.

I was lying in a burned out basement

With the full moon in my eyes.

I was hoping for replacement

When the sun burst through the sky.

There was a band playing in my head,

And I felt like getting high.

I was thinking about what a friend had said.

I was hoping it was a lie.

Thinking about what a friend had said.

I was hoping it was a lie.

Well, I dreamed I saw the silver spaceships flying

In the yellow haze of the sun.

There were children crying and colors flying

All around the chosen ones.

All in a dream, all in a dream

The loading had begun.

Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun.

Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to a new home.

 

**

There are three verses which describe first the medieval past, then the present, and finally the future. Young later told his biographer Jimmy McDonough: ”I recognize this thread that goes through a lotta my songs that’s this time travel thing.” So what is the study of astrology, if not a tool with which to metaphorically explore time travel? Like history, astrology never repeats itself exactly, but it frequently rhymes. At its core, Young described the song as a reflection on the environment, and man’s relationship with it, in the form of a dream.

The word “dream” (governed by Neptune) appears in the very first line, and is repeated four times throughout the song. There’s a Lakota Sioux custom that when a tribe member has a dream that they cannot decipher on a personal level, they are obligated to share the dream with the entire tribe to better understand its communal message. That’s exactly what Young does with this song, sharing his vision with the world. In the first verse, he uses the word “archer.” Turns out the symbol for Sagittarius is “The Archer.” When you pair Neptune with Sagittarius, his personal dream then expands into a larger global context. And the message? Mother Nature is most certainly on the run.

In the middle verse, representing the present, the songwriter is “lying in a burned out basement with the full moon in [his] eyes.” If that image doesn’t suggest full Moon conjunct Pluto, then go ahead and rescind my fake astrology degree right now. Pluto is the underworld, represented by the burned out basement. (Incidentally, Neil Young’s birth sign is Scorpio, which is ruled by Pluto.) When a full Moon conjuncts Pluto, dreams and visions are extremely vivid and profound. Pluto is about death and rebirth, transformation and empowerment. It is at this low point in the song that “the sun bursts through the sky.” For those data scientists out there, the sun appears four times in the song.

One of the lyrics that kept echoing in my brain is: “I was thinking about what a friend had said. I was hoping it was a lie.” Friendship and prevarication is an intriguing pairing. I come back to Neptune’s shadow side to try to make sense of it. Where you find Neptune in the chart is also where you find deception. As to what that deception was, your guess is as good as mine.

Historically, “gold rush” literally refers to California’s mining success in the mid-19th century. That golden ore then morphs into Hollywood film and television riches in the 20th century. In the 21st century, it’s about Silicon Valley wealth. But what happens after the gold rush? What does Young’s idealistic dream see after the age of earth-bound materialism? His imagery in the final verse reflects Aquarian qualities like innovation, tolerance, art, science and altruism: “Silver spaceships … flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun.” But in the dream, not everyone is on board. Bottom line, I guess the choice is up to each of us. As for Neil Young, he has made his choice. Besides sharing this lyrical and prescient song, he remains intensely committed to environmental and social activism to this day.

PS – Next time: Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon” (just kidding).

PPS – For Neil Young fans that prefer listening to his music over reading it, check out his newest album Homegrown, which he wrote in 1973 but did not release until June 2020.

Jack Copeland is a retired busboy radiologist and Judd Foundation tour guide. Sources for this column include: 1) Learn Astrology Vol 1 by Marion March & Joan McEvers 2) astrosofa.com 3) astrologyking.com 4) loudersound.com 5) songfacts.com 6) genius.com  7) Notes from astrologer Tom Brady. 


Related