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"Astronomy" is a song by rock band Blue Öyster Cult that has appeared on several of the band's albums. It was first released on their 1974 album Secret Treaties. Their second live album, Some Enchanted Evening, included a version with an extended guitar solo and a third version was included on the Imaginos album. It was also re-recorded for the band's Cult Classic collection in connection with the TV miniseries of Stephen King's The Stand. Most recently, the song was included on the A Long Day's Night album.
|Song by Blue Öyster Cult|
|from the album Secret Treaties|
|Length||6:28 (1974 studio version)|
8:18 (1978 live version)
6:47 (1988 studio version)
8:45 (1994 studio version)
10:19 (2002 live version)
The preface to the preceding song (Flaming Telepaths) is a short piece of classical music arranged for a music box. Members of the band recall that the sound engineer found the piece on a special effects disk and inserted it because he liked it. The band liked it too, and so it stayed, but the piece and its composer were uncredited on the album. In 2017 it was finally identified by Nona Monahin, Instructor in Renaissance and Baroque Dance at Mount Holyoke College, as an excerpt from a waltz by I. Ivanovici, called, “Danube Waves” (Donauwellen). The original source remains a mystery.
The song's lyrics are selected verses from a poem by Sandy Pearlman, the band's producer and mastermind behind their image, called "The Soft Doctrines of Imaginos". In the poem, which was later partially released under the BÖC moniker in the album Imaginos, aliens known as Les Invisibles guide an altered human named Imaginos, also called Desdinova, through history, playing key roles that eventually lead to the outbreak of World War I.
In "Astronomy", the character of Imaginos comes to realize his heritage and his role as the altered human. References are made to celestial objects throughout the song: "The light that never warms" being the moon, "The Queenly flux" the constellation Cassiopeia, "My dog, fixed and consequent" being Sirius, the dog star. The "Four Winds Bar" may be a reference to the Tropic of Cancer. All in all, it has Imaginos explaining his position as part of Les Invisibles.
A music video of the 1988 version was released by Sandy Pearlman in the United Kingdom. The video had no footage of the band playing, and instead focused on the story told by the song. Longtime BÖC fan and author Stephen King recorded a spoken narration for the video, which is as follows:
Imaginos (performed by Blue Oyster Cult) - A bedtime story for the children of the damned. From a dream world, paralleling our earth in time and space, the invisible ones have sent an agent who will dream the dream of history. With limitless power he becomes the greatest actor of the 19th century. Taking on many ingenious disguises, he places himself at pivotal junctures in history, continually altering its course and testing our ability to respond to the challenge of evil. His name is 'Imaginos'.
- Metallica did a cover of the song for their 1998 Garage Inc. album.
- Arch Enemy used the chorus for their song "Pilgrim" from the Burning Bridges album.
- Albert Bouchard's band the Brain Surgeons recorded the song for their 1997 album Malpractise with Deborah Frost on lead vocals. Albert's post-Brain Surgeons band Ünderbelly released a version of the song with original Soft White Underbelly singer Les Braunstein on lead vocals in 2011.