Sometimes rumored to be about a girl's first lesbian encounter, the lyrics to "Astronomy" were written by the group's producer: the former music journalist Sandy Pearlman.
Secret Treaties began as a concept album based on the character Desdanova, who appears in "Astronomy." You can spend a lot of time with headphones on trying to figure out what's going on in this song, but Pearlman explained it when he spoke with NME in 1975. We should point out that the British press loved the Secret Treaties album, giving it great reviews, but attempts to interview the band during this period were dominated by Pearlman, who did most of the talking, often to the bewilderment of the journalists.
Anyway, here's what he said about the song: "It's New Year's Eve and Desdanova walks into the Four Winds Bar (which was a real place - an actual joint on Atlantic Beach). He plays this game with two girls which has to be completed in the six hours from midnight to dawn 'cause he can't stand the light. It's so sort of... corrosive. There's a parallel with the rose which is similarly over-fulfilled, a symbol of over-ripeness and decadence. The dog is Susy's familiar and the carrier of starry wisdom from the actual dogstar. Lovecraft had this term 'starry wisdom cult' which was so apt I had to use it."
The music was written by the group's brothers, drummer Albert and bass player Joe Bouchard. Eric Bloom
did the lead vocals.
Blue Öyster Cult recorded a new version of "Astronomy" for their 1988 concept album Imaginos, which was based on Pearlman's poem "The Soft Doctrines Of Imaginos." The concept is that Imaginos is born in 1804 and given superhuman powers. He can take on various identities and time travel, and he plays a part in events leading up to World War I where the story ends.
This version of the song contains a spoken intro by the author Stephen King, who explains the Imaginos concept. This version was made into a video as well.
A video was made for this song, but the band doesn't appear in it. Directed by Daryl Maxwell, it features a castle, a prisoner, and some apparitions. Like their songs, BÖC videos were often rather cryptic.
Metallica recorded the song for their 1998 album Garage Inc.