Defining generations: music, ideals and disillusion 1953 to 1998

by Anton D'Abreu

I half completed this book 17 years ago but there was no interest from general publishers as they saw it as too academic a treatment of a downmarket topic (the collective astrology may also have confused them) and no interest from astrology publishers probably because there were no charts in it and it was an attempt to prove something they already accepted. It was a pity as the book remains the first academic or non academic attempt to define generations. Next year the book is going to be published but I have had to scale back the scope of the book to focus in detail on three not four or more generations. See Graph A(PDF) for the rise and fall of the generations Leo up to Sagittarius - note the surges for N in Libra in 1967 and N in Scorpio in 1989 - their two key 'summers'.

Astrologers are well aware that the sign location of Pluto, Neptune and Uranus in a chart denotes a generational character. For instance I am Pluto in Leo, Neptune in Libra and Uranus in Gemini - you could say I am from a generation fundamentally enthusiastic but self-indulgent, from a generation often termed 'the peace and love' generation and from an innovatively communicative but perhaps impractical sub-generation. My book is solely concerned with the recent Neptune placement in Virgo, in Libra and in Scorpio and uses data from the UK Top 10 singles charts between 1953 and 1998. The book tests out whether there are three generations born between 1928 and 1970 and assesses their different perspective on those eternal themes of pop music: love and sex, anger and heartache, loneliness and peace.

The identification of, and differences between, these three generations, those born approximately between 1928 and 1943, between 1943 and 1957 and between 1957 and 1970 are truly striking. The book focuses in on how each generation's distinct idealism is mirrored, often amplified in the pop star and his or her music, and how its members achieve a powerful identification with each other by sharing the same response.

A detailed analysis is made of all the post 1950 popular musical movements - Rock 'n' Roll, The Sixties, Glamrock, Punk, Disco, New Wave, the New Romantics and the more recent 'Indie', 'dance' and 'boy band/girl band' styles. Each musical movement is succinctly described and chronicled and the birthdates of each of its most successful Top 10 Singles artists analysed to assess whether collectively they constitute a generation and if so what birthdates define that generation. The birth data of 900 musical acts had to be traced. For groups I had to track down the birth date wherever possible of each member of the group then calculate the exact average. The results are most striking if we select those artists gaining over 10 Top 10 hits - see Table 1(PDF)

The Neptune generation formula is uncannily precise - anyone with a good knowledge of pop music can see musically speaking which generation any musical act will fall into and yet because of the retrograde motion of Neptune it manages to avoid the simplistic notion that a generation commences being born on one day continuing through to give way to another on one other subsequent set day.

But there are surprises near the dividing lines. The Everly Brothers and The Shadows might be expected to be Neptune in Virgo but so are the Rolling Stones and the Beatles - even if George Harrison is manifestly Neptune in Libra. The leading harmony groups, the Beach Boys and the Hollies only just make it by weeks into the Neptune in Libra group. And very close too, Blondie, Adam Ant and UB40 just avoid joining the Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran and U2 in the Neptune in Scorpio generation. The formula match is so precise I am fairly sure one member of a female Irish pop group was a little economical with the truth as her much younger birth date pushes the group into the Scorpio group - quite at odds with the easygoing material they sung.

Some idea of the conceptual analysis in the book is given in the following summary of the character of the Neptune in Virgo generation. See how many characteristics that would appear in a merged conceptual map of Neptune and Virgo you can pick out, see how they are at the heart of that generation's music

Generation V - born 1928 to 1943 (Neptune in Virgo)

Generation V was a perfectionist and self-contained group. Its most popular artists were Elvis Presley, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Key characteristics unite these different acts and separate them from some of the artists who shared the charts with them but were born later. These artists expressed a simple and precise but perfectionist imagination and idealism. Always private, in control and self contained.

Their appeal lay on a continuum between the tough and the tender. This generation idealised the strong, the resilient, the rugged and the rough. The archetypal story of the girl who falls for the 'leader of the pack' immortalised by the Shangri-Las eponymous song, contrasts the macho rough world of the 'Hells Angels' biker with a 'pure and tender love'. A variant on this forms the main story line to the 'Grease' movies, which later celebrated this generation. In contrast in many songs like Elvis's 'Love me Tender' there was a gentleness, a delicacy, a softness, even a fragility about the manner in which they expressed their love, that so differentiates this generation from those that followed.

The image was not only tough it could be mean, As author Nik Cohn put it "the Rolling Stones looked mean, just impossibly evil...they were mean and nasty". They were also highly strung. Not for nothing did they record 'Nineteenth nervous breakdown'. Moreover, much of their music was of a nervous, tight or stretched quality - physically, instrumentally and lyrically jumpy, jittery, skittish, restless and fidgety. This was also the musical generation that came up with body contorting dance crazes like the Twist and the Locomotion. Their hypersensitivity, which came out as touchiness or peevishness, is linked to the extraordinary toll taken by illness or death from drugs in an era when drugs were either pharmaceutical and prescribed or hard addictive and unequivocally criminal. Indeed it was hypochondria as much as drug addiction that gripped so many - Elvis Presley being the classic example.

This was a generation obsessed with loneliness - loneliness because there was no lover, loneliness because the lover could not be there and perhaps most of all loneliness because the lover had left! This generation idealized a man who was a 'loner'. Not for nothing was the Beatles' acclaimed magnum opus album entitled 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely hearts club band'. When you're alone, as the Everly Brothers sang 'All you've gotta do is dream'. And this generation did share the same dream. And their singers kept on dreaming. What was that dream? It was a dream of pure love -an almost 'divine' love. Indeed not only are religion and dedication stamped through many of their musicians' biographies, but the main topic of their songs - romantic love - is primarily about devotion. Not for nothing was the hit song of the film 'Grease' which celebrated this generation - Olivia Newton John's 'Hopelessly devoted to you'.

This generation gave a special status to sorrow. It's songs are drenched with mention of tears, crying and sorrow - almost every other song features one of these words. Roy Orbison the 'high priest' of dreams for this generation. " became the master of the epic ballad of doom laden despair." and Del Shannon sang " his teenage tales of loneliness, despair, broken hearts, failed relationships, infidelity and ultimate doom" . This generation had an emotional fantasy made up of devotion, loneliness and dreams, sorrow, tears, crying . At its core is the figure of man as a fool or a clown and far above him an angel or is it a devil?

For a group of musicians whose lyrics were full of such pure dreams, the tragic outcome to so many of their lives is a harsh counterpoint. But despite the despair that stemmed from crushed dreams many of this generation's musicians kept on dreaming to the end. As John Lennon sang in 'Imagine' : 'You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one'. Nevertheless the controlled and self-contained approach of this generation to idealism allied to their emotional inhibition was a double edged blade. It may have ensured the survival of some like Cliff Richard and all but one of the Rolling Stones but it brought a very private tragedy to countless other of its artists. And as with the whole of this apparently down to earth generation they were very conscientious about their ideals but when disillusion came, in contrast to the other generations, they suffered in private.

Anton D'Abreu's background is in broadcasting. In addition to his uniquely detailed work on generations, he has spent 9 years writing what he hopes will be seen as a definitive scientific assessment of whether key stages in humanity's development can be matched to outer planetary cycles. His website and FB page monitor contemporary crises & other major developments. A firm believer in astrology he sees himself as a contemporary historian with the unenviable task of bridging the gap between the mass of sceptical historians, philosophers and scientists and those astrologers who accept some form of scientific approach to Collective astrology is needed. He can be reached at