Flying Sorcery

Album: Year Of The Cat (1976)


  • The overwhelming success of the monster hit "Year Of The Cat," which reached #8 in the US singles chart, has perhaps blinded music fans to the fact there there are some other very fine songs on this album. "Flying Sorcery" was inspired by Amy Johnson, the famed British-born aviatrix who became the first woman to fly solo to Australia. Johnson herself followed in the footsteps of Harriet Quimby, the American journalist who was both the first woman to be granted a pilot's license in the United States and the first to fly the English Channel. Both women died premature deaths.
  • Stewart's song also contains references to the Wright brothers' experiments at Kitty Hawk, and the Flying Circus. It was not the first song to be inspired by Amy Johnson, that honor goes to the English popular composer and Johnson contemporary Horatio Nicholls, and his song "Amy".
  • The original title of this song was "A Perfect Immelmann Turn," a maneuver which is named after its inventor, the World War I German fighter ace Max Immelmann. "Flying Sorcery" is a much more alluring title, and it was a wise decision to change it. The song runs to 4 minutes 22 seconds, and was released as the B Side of "On The Border." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3

Comments: 7

  • Serena Luna from ArgentinaI'm afraid the lyrics of "Flying Sorcery" are a tribute to Al Stewart's father who died in a plane crash and, obviously, was a fan of flying. The song addresses him and Al imagines this conversation, what he may be doing "up somewhere in heaven", that he was caught unawares to learn he had died so soon.
    Anyway, i enjoy all interpretations (epecially the ones who highlight poioneering women). i think all interpretations are a tribute to Al's talent. Cheers!
  • Sim from Cleveland RocksGreat song , great musicians
  • Paul from Sonztwin@yahoo.comI appreciate the information that Alexander Baron provided, featured as the main entry for this song, but to look at the song as being literally about flying is, well, mistaken. it references Amy Johnson (and others), but was not "inspired by" her (semantics?). Instead, it's the metaphoric meaning of flying we're talking about here (think Erica Jong "Fear of Flying"). It is about a surprise tryst between two lovers, likely initiated by a daring woman. That second stanza is a lovely, coy, reference to coital bliss - Al is a wonderful poet and historian. Thank you, Bill from Liverpool, for that additional note on Faith Hope and Charity. And for Robert and others who loved the guitar work (since I failed to mention his name before), it's courtesy of Tim Renwick, an immensely talented guitarist also known for his membership with Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, as well as his session work with the likes of Pink Floyd. If you didn't know the story of Amy Johnson, do read it in Wikipedia. Peace.
  • Robert from OntarioIn one of the live shows on YouTube, Stewart says that this song is about a relationship where the two partners were going in different directions. Looked at in that light, the song is an excellent metaphor (allegory?). The first verse is the initial fascination with a new partners independence. The second verse describes the start of the relationship, then rapidly describes the end of the relationship (When I looked the sky was empty).
    I agree with Paul - the guitar solo is absolutely sublime, evoking both the joy of a relationship and a biplane flight on a sunny day.
    In the last verse, "The sun comes up on Icarus" which refers to the Greek myth, where Icarus flies too close to the sun and falls back to earth. Finally Stewart bids his love goodbye, telling her she can "Join the flying circus".
    I don't think I will ever tire of listening to this song.
  • Josh from Dublin, IrelandThere is also a song on A Beach Full Of Shells called Immelmann Turn - a sequel ?
  • Paul from Longwood, FlI've always thought that the guitar solo in the middle of the song is one of the most melodically beautiful in the history of music, made possible by the magnificent chord changes. I love this song.
  • Bill from Liverpool, --'Faith, Hope & Charity' in the lyrics refers to 3 old Gloster Gladiator biplanes that were used to defend Malta from air attack in WW II. They were much older and slower than the planes they faced but heroically defended the island from air attacks.
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