Rock and Roll Tarot by Chris Paradis - Review by Diane Wilkes

This deck combines my two great loves--rock and roll and tarot (I couldn't possibly choose one over the other, or even attempt to order these passions).  Not only do I have a rock music website, I've worked as a disc jockey, and have even written for Musician Magazine and penned a monthly music column for a Philadelphia magazine.   I've also daydreamed about creating a rock and roll tarot--and even gone so far as to outline the Majors; Chris Paradis has created and manifested a 78 deck that leaves me in awe.

You might think that my review would be laudatory under any circumstances, but the opposite is true.   Anna Ferguson may admire the Arthurian Tarot but I bet she prefers her attributions to the Matthews'--and vice versa.   I admit to a few questions about Paradis' selections--but these are mere quibbles from an extremely enthusiastic admirer of this artistically brilliant, innovative, and cohesive deck. 

My daydream deck ascribed an artistic persona to each of the Majors: Mick Jagger seemed an ideal, strutting Fool and Patti Smith, coming out of the shadows of her husband's death to dance barefoot and gain a brand-new audience, seemed to be a great World archetype--she even has that androgyne thing going.  I also wanted at least one song to encapsulate the card's theme.  Springsteen's use of the vehicle as metaphor throughout his oeuvre made his writings the obvious choice for the Chariot (and I chose that image for the Storyteller Tarot).  Paradis describes his intent thusly: "The lyrics, taken out of context, give each card its meaning.  The images on the cards invoke what that individual or band contributes to the energy behind those words--and a new archetype is born."  Great minds must think alike.

Obviously, getting artist and lyric to dovetail is a challenge--and some cards are more suited to this than others.  Some that seem particularly brilliant: The Lovers wears a line from David Bowie's Modern Love: "Modern love walks beside me, modern love walks on by."  David Bowie is famous for his triangulation, as it were, and the card shows him in three quite different personae.  Prince, whose career has cycled so much he's back to his old name, is perfect for The Wheel of Fortune, as is the lyric snippet: "Life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last..."  Libido (traditionally Strength or Lust) shows Madonna, half glamour-girl, half-Lion.  The passage?  "Ready or not, express yourself."  She is a Leo...

Judgement has also been renamed; in the Rock and Roll Tarot, it is "The Door"--and what could be more appropriate than the band being The Doors, with the words, "Break on through to the other side..."  Temperance has also been renamed.  In The Rock and Roll Tarot, it is "The Bridge," with Paul Simon on the card.  It's not the 59th Street Bridge (Feeling Groovy) that's quoted, though; instead we have: "hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you." (Sounds of Silence)

Tempted as I am to stay onstage with the Majors, some of my favorites are found in the Minor Arcana.  Paradis has broken the suits into musically-related components: Voice (Wands),  Muse (Cups), Guitars (Swords), and Albums (Disks).  I love, love, love all these choices, especially Guitars as Swords.  Paradis has even tinted each suit with one color--red-orange for Voice, Blue Muse (sung to the tune of Blue Moon), Purple Guitars (as opposed to Rain), and the Green Green Grass of...Albums.

My favorite card in the deck is the Queen of Voice.  You know who she is and what she wants (I'll give you a hint: R-E-S-P-E-C-T).  This card has delighted me as much as hearing Respect unexpectedly on the radio (it doesn't matter how often this song gets played--I never get sick of it). 

The Ace of Wands' quote is "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis.  Having seen this artist perform live, I think this selection is pure poetry, as well as hysterically funny.  The King of Muse is Stevie Wonder; the quotation: "This is Love Day...a celebration."  How perfect, even if Wonder's a Taurus and named his publishing arm Black Bull.  

Paradis also includes my very favorite rock icon (who kissed me once, by the way):  Bruce Springsteen.  I actually used to sign my letters "Yours in Bruce."   I see him as the essence of Chariot, but the quotation used works superbly as a description of the Prince of Albums: "He'd measure his need, and then very carefully he'd proceed."  And who is more of an earth mother than Carole King--Paradis has crowned her the Queen of Albums.

The lyric, however, seems more suited to The Tower ("I feel the earth move under my feet.")  Well, maybe not.  The more I think about it, I realize this evokes a Pagan Queen of Disks...The Goddess is alive and magic is afoot...literally.  In the words of the Lovin' Spoonful, I can dig it.

But I can't dig Tina Turner, who pulses with sexual vitality, in the role of the High Priestess ("I'm a Private Dancer").  And Annie Lennox as the Empress doesn't work for me, either. Tom Petty as The Prince of Guitars is a good match, but the snippet "Rebel Without a Clue" initially comes from Paul Westerberg, who would have been an even better choice.  Petty has acknowledged that he must have "unintentionally" picked up the line from hearing the Replacements night after night when they toured as his opening act. Prince of Guitars as plagiarist?  Must be a reversed Prince of Guitars...

But bless Paradis' heart, he has given me (and all you other little rock and rollers) not just permission, but encouragement to come up with our own selections: "I challenge you to add your favorite artists to personalize this deck."  Never will, and you'll have fun doing it.  But, if you're anything like me, you'll garner a lot of tarot insights from the artist's choices. 

And guess what?  Not only are his concepts on-the-money, the art is fantastic.  Several people I know have favorably (!) compared it to the Vertigo Tarot.  It's great rock and roll art, as well as tarot art.  The backs show a classic jukebox, but its logo isn't "Wurlitzer"--it's "Rock and Roll Tarot."   The lyrics are cunningly splashed in fonts over the artwork, and Paradis uses newsprint, imagery and other clever devices that give each card the feel of very well done poster art.  The cards are longer and thinner than standard at 6" x 3"--and the deck is slightly larger than one inch thick, in case you're making a bag for this deck.

While the Rock and Roll Tarot contains no Little White Book, it does contain six extra cards that list the card, identify the artist, and include the quotation used.  Also on extra cards are a list of acknowledgments, a card that can be used as the "blank" card--it contains a musical symbol, and all the snippets put together back-to-back to create a form of free-verse.  

Gotta give this one a ten.  It's got a beat and you can dance to it.  Sorry to burble, but it's like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll...and I believe in the magic of this deck.

I recommend this deck for collectors (it's a great deal--a high-quality, self-published deck for $25!), rock and roll fans, art lovers, and of course...tarot enthusiasts.

Click here to see more of this deck. As of this date (12/20/02), neither this version, nor a smaller version the artist published, is available for purchase.

Click here to see a sample reading with this deck.

Click here to read an interview with the creator of this deck, Chris Paradis.

Rock and Roll Tarot by Chris Paradis

Review and page Diane Wilkes