You’ve may have a favorite band name. It’s not necessarily the name of your favorite band. It’s maybe something odd or weird or even just kind of random. I’m not sure which my favorite is, but “Wishbone Ash” is definitely a contender. I don’t think it’s “random.” I think I read somewhere it has something to do with the wood used to make musical instruments. I suppose it doesn’t matter. Let’s do a tarot reading for Wishbone Ash’s album Argus.
Wishbone Ash is one of those classic prog-rock bands. Wikipedia says they influenced lots of other acts, but they’re not too well-known today. I think. At least, I hadn’t heard of them before Google just suggested them to me one day.
What that means for us is that I’m doing something a little different from our usual fare. So far, every album I’ve read has been one I’m very familiar with. I’ve listened to A Passion Play for over seventeen years now! Argus was well-received back in 1972 when it was released. I like it quite a bit. It’s apparently “medieval themed,” again according to Wikiepedia. But so far as I know there’s no overt story or concept to the whole album. I may look that up at the end of the reading, depending on overall length.
Also, I’m using a deck I haven’t used before, called the Robin Wood Tarot. It was designed and illustrated by Robin Wood, which makes the name fairly appropriate. I first saw it in high school; a friend of mine used it. I think she was the first person I’d ever met who identified as a witch. The deck is overtly pagan, with most of the obvious Christian symbols stripped out. Some people say all the Christian symbols are gone, but, well, I mean, Temperance, Justice, and all the other major arcana are still in there. Those cards all come from Christian morality plays, so you’d have to take them out entirely. That’s not important though. I thought they would be appropriate for an album consciously going “back in time” like Argus.
As always, my procedure works this way: I’ll write my first impressions of the piece. When you see the tarot card, that means I’ve flipped it over. I actually don’t know what’s coming during these posts until I am midway through them.
The album kicks off with a slow, gentle song about memory. Well, that is to say, the first few minutes are that way. The track itself is over nine minutes long! It would have to change tempos at least once just to keep things interesting.
The song reiterates, over and again, this looking backwards. The speaker is specifically talking about a relationship, it sounds like. It could be something else, but I suppose we all tend to think that first when listening to rock or pop music. The speaker ultimately says he needs the thing he’s speaking to, so he can be new and strong.
10 of Wands
The ten of wands is about struggling against a burden. Wands usually denote something in our passions or our spirit. The image is of a man carrying way too many wands down the road. He can’t even see where he’s going. The traditional reading is that if he just put down the wands he could do this a lot easier. A couple of trips would be easier on him, even if they took longer. And as slow as he looks, they might not take longer. However, this card shows a town far in the distance. It’s possible there’s a good reason he can’t leave these lying around. Maybe someone would steal them; maybe it’s going to take days to make this trip, not hours, and it just wouldn’t be worth it to risk losing a few.
The card is about burdens, and the song’s speaker certainly has those. He feels down and knows he has to just keep going anyway. He is weighed down by his memory of the past, even though he thinks something in that past is the only thing that can help him now.
Here the speaker meets someone else who feels the same way — or so he says. He tells us that the man feels his pain inside him, and that the world “passed him by.” At the end, the speaker asks the “sometime world” to do so, to pass him again. “Life had kept him waiting” makes me think of Dark Side of the Moon. A similar feeling emerges from a few songs, where the speaker there didn’t know he could just go.
So I’m already suspicious of the speaker. I don’t think he’s lying; he’s just fooling himself. He thinks he needs this one special thing from his past. He doesn’t need it. I immediately wonder if the album is about the way we view the past — it’s “medieval themed” because so many people have nostalgia for that time without knowing anything about it. People think we could go back to those times, or any “other” time, and the world would be better.
The speaker, as the song speeds up again, asks to be passed by. Are things moving too fast for him? Maybe the song’s about that slow, plodding pace from the ten of wands. Maybe that’s the only pace he feels he has left in him.
10 of Pentacles
The ten of pentacles is usually a pretty cheerful card. The image lines up with that, right? People are hanging out, there’s a dog in there somewhere, all these kids are sitting with this Santa looking dude. In this context, what the card makes me think of is the idea of time passing people by. This older man seems to be spending time with his grandchildren, and he certainly doesn’t look unhappy. But he probably has regrets. He has things he’d do if he could be twenty-two again, even for a day. The card structure suggests this too — in the background, framed by a huge wall arch, a younger couple are making eyes at each other. They’re probably the parents of the children, but they’re still in love and strong and all that good stuff. They’re what the older man no longer has, even if he has other things that’re good, too.
I think this reminds us that the feeling in the song doesn’t have to be one of total bitterness. It doesn’t have to overwhelm you and become the only thing you are. Everyone feels that time gets away from them. I once complained to my dad that I didn’t understand where the year went, and he said not to complain about that — that meant I was getting old. I don’t think I was even thirty yet!
With Thanksgiving just past and Christmas coming up, maybe that’s a good place to end it for today. This album only has seven tracks on it! (If you look it up, you’ll probably find a deluxe edition with more, though.) I figure this is a good place to pause. Next time we’ll make our way through the rest of the album.