Flying Sorcery

Album: Year Of The Cat (1976)
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  • This aeronautically themed song is what Stewart described as "an extended metaphor." In an interview CD for the album, he explained: "It seems to be about airplanes, losing each other in a fog bank. In fact, it's about lovers who for whatever reason, part. I love the end of it: 'Call me if you ever need repairs.' That seems to say everything about relationships."
  • In the lyric, Stewart mentions 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.

    The song also contains references to the Wright brothers' experiments at Kitty Hawk, and the Flying Circus. It was not the first song to reference 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. Stewart came across that phrase in a book he was reading and was intrigued by it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England
  • "Flying Sorcery" was released on the Year Of The Cat album, which was recorded at Abbey Road in London and produced by Alan Parsons. It was used as the B-side of the "On The Border" single.

Comments: 9

  • Paul from BredwardineWhen this was released it was my favorite song on an album that felt a bit too light for me after the previous three, but now I think it’s one of his best lyrics as it combines everything special about his poetry in one song, history and love, and aeroplanes.

    I know he says it’s a metaphor, but there are a couple of things that feel specific, the pictures on the wall coupled with “brushstrokes of the day” leads me to think this was triggered by a memory as does the image of the woman in the flying jacket with the tear. The reference to oil drums is brilliant as anyone who has flown light aircraft will have had their sense of smell ruffled by that line.

    The older I get the more I enjoy this as it triggers my own similar memories. The girl in the leather jacket and the ride of a lifetime.

    Yes, also one of Tim Renwicks most inspired contributions, up with Larry Cartons exquisite solos on Steely Dans albums.
  • AnonymousThere are still on this earth many women as Amy johnson who would live to fly free and live their dreams and aspirations, but are being tied down by mediocre men who make them nothing but slaves. Carmen vega florida
  • 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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