Al Stewart – On The Border / Flying Sorcery (1977, Vinyl) - Discogs

2021 Song Draft- Round 7 Pick 4: Run-Sew- Read- selects- ‘Flying Sorcery’- Al Stewart.

Flying Sorcery–Al Stewart

Lyrics and music by Al Stewart

Released in 1976  

When you flip over to Side 2 of Al Stewart’s 1976 album ‘Year of the Cat’, the first song you hear is Flying Sorcery. This song was also released in 1977, as the B-side of the single, On the Border. I’ve not ever heard Flying Sorcery get airplay, except on Radio Caroline (the historic UK station I recommend at every opportunity.) The song is a tribute to Amy Johnson, pioneer aviator from England, who lost her life in a mysterious crash during WWII.

  The song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klsTowdcEsk  

The song is packed with metaphors that a listener could apply to many aspects of life and relationships; all unrelated to Amy and aviation. But my love for this song stems directly from its aviation lyrics, its tribute to Amy, and its pretty music. I grew up 50 miles from Amelia Earhart’s childhood home, and just a bit longer drive from Wichita, the ‘Air Capital of the World’, where I now live. For me, being captivated by aviation and aviators comes with the territory. Whoever made the Youtube slideshow to go with the song did a wonderful job of compiling captivating images of vintage airplanes, as well as pictures of Amy Johnson and graphics of her famous flight paths. I’m grateful for the video, which truly does the song justice, imo.  

Lyrics (from https://genius.com/ ):

With your photographs of Kitty Hawk

And the biplanes on your wall

You were always Amy Johnson

From the time that you were small

No schoolroom kept you grounded

While your thoughts could get away

You were taking off in Tiger Moths

Your wings against the brush-strokes of the day

Are you there?

On the tarmac with the winter in your hair

By the empty hangar doors, you stop and stare

Leave the oil-drums behind you, they won’t care

Oh, are you there?  

Oh, you wrapped me up in a leather coat

And you took me for a ride

We were drifting with the tail-wind

When the runway came in sight

The clouds came up to gather us

And the cockpit turned to white

When I looked, the sky was empty

I suppose you never saw the landing-lights

Are you there?

In your jacket with the grease stain and the tear

Caught up in the slipstream of the dare

The compass rose will guide you anywhere

Oh, are you there?

The sun comes up on Icarus as the night-birds sail away

And lights the maps and diagrams

That Leonardo made

You can see Faith, Hope and Charity

As they bank above the fields

You can join the flying circus

You can touch the morning air against your wheels

Are you there?

Do you have a thought for me that you can share?

Oh I never thought you’d take me unawares

Just call me if you ever need repairs

Oh, are you there?

  According to genius.com, this is Al’s favorite track on the Year of the Cat album. It’s mine too.

  More about Amy Johnson:  “Amy Johnson CBE, born 1 July 1903 – disappeared 5 January 1941, was a pioneering English pilot who was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia. Flying solo or with her husband, Jim Mollison, she set many long-distance records during the 1930s. She flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary and disappeared during a ferry flight. The cause of her death has been a subject of discussion over many years.” [Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Johnson ]  

Other participants in this song draft have mentioned the overwhelming challenge of choosing only 10 songs from the nearly endless pool of great music out there. My method for narrowing down my selections was to group my long list of possible selections into categories, and then rule out all but one song in each category. Still not easy, but it provided me a method. My Flying Sorcery pick came from a potentially vast category I created of ‘poignant’ songs. Among my other finalists for this pick were: ‘This Shirt’ by Mary Chapin Carpenter, ‘I Give In’ by Sara Evans, ‘Stewart’s Coat’ by Ricki Lee Jones, and ‘Hymn to Her’ by the Pretenders.


  1. New song and so good, especially knowing the background information on who it is about. Wonderful slide show. I can’t help but notice how free and happy she looks in the pictures as she lives her dream. The music is beautiful and the lyrics are lovely poetry. Thanks for sharing your method for choosing your songs. Good choice and write-up, Diana!

  2. Seems new to me though I think I had the album 40ish years ago…I love ‘On the Border’, the a-side, under-appreciated tune. Al is a fine songwriter and very knowledgeable on so many aspects of history. Good pick!

  3. Nice choice Diana, and good to see Al Stewart represented in the Draft. I bought this album on the strength of the title track “Year of the Cat”, which is one of my favorite songs of the 1970s, and had considered writing about it. As you stated, there are far too many great songs to choose from, and having to pick only 10 is really hard.

    • Thanks. I say the title track Year of the Cat is worth writing about for sure. I like that one, and On the Border. They both certainly made their mark on the 70s music scene. Our radio stations way overplayed them, which helped me appreciate other tracks on the album.

  4. I’ve never heard this one and it’s great. I like his big hits and always wanted to explore more…this one was worth the wait.

    • Thanks. Wow, that is something if I came up with one you haven’t heard before. 🙂 Year of the Cat and On the Border were so big, but I get the impression the other tracks on the album are not known at all. There are some interesting ones on it.

    • I agree with Max. I’ve never heard this one and my knowledge of him was limited to radio play in the 70s. His singles listing is a narrow band of 1976-1980…then, nothing. I always enjoyed hearing him on the radio. He had a unique voice and I love a Scotsman.

      I liked the song and video with all the plane images. I live in the state that has Kitty Hawk.


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