Music was just beginning to be an obsession for me when the trio relesed Ghost In The Machine in the autumn of 1981. All I knew of the band were the hits – Message In A Bottle, Don’t Stand So Close to Me, and De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da – but I loved everything I had heard.
By the early summer of 1983 – with the arrival of The Police’s fifth album Synchronicity – my friend Beej, a Police obsessive, had caught me up on the four previous albums, dubbing me copies of them from his older brother’s vinyl.
I taped Synchronicity from the radio on Frog’s Midnight Album when it was debuted prior to its release and weeks before I could get into Cincinnati and to a record store to buy a copy.
And for a period of time, Sting was one of the coolest cats on the planet and The Police were as big as almost any act of the rock era.
In high school, The Police might have been the only band for which there was a consensus among all demographics.
And then they were gone.
Sting went on making music as did Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland.
(I might be one of the few people that owned both albums by Animal Logic, Copeland’s short-lived band in the late ’80s/early ’90s with bassist Stanley Clarke and singer Deborah Holland)
I hung with Sting’s solo career into the mid-’90s and though there were some moments that matched the brilliance of The Police – the gorgeous Fragile from …Nothing Like The Sun comes to mind – the music didn’t resonate as much as the stuff he’d done with Andy and Stewart.
Then, sometime in 2002 or so, I was doing some freelance work for Billboard and the editor contacted me about doing something on a new group’s debut album.
The interview with the band’s singer, Joe, began slowly. He was polite but there was a lot of silence coming from the other end of that trans-Atlantic call.
Then, I noted that one of the songs – titled Listen To My Babe – was, if you listened closely, not about a girl but a pet.
“Good man,” he said. “Good man.”
He seemed geniunely pleased and a bit surprised.
(apparently most reviewers had missed it)
Near the end of the call, I told Joe that, while doing some research, I had discovered that his father was Sting. which hadn’t been in the press material the publicist had sent to me.
He politely expressed not wanting that to have that be the focus and I assured him that, though I had to mention his father, I was writing about his band.
So, I was mortified when I read the piece in print.
The editors, who titled my submissions, had affixed a headline that mentioned Sting’s name but not that of the band.
Perhaps worse, a line had been added, one which I hadn’t written that – as I read it – stressed the advantage of having a well-known musician father in getting a record deal.
I felt horrible, but there was nothing to be done.
No more than a week or so later, I was speaking with a woman who, as the owner of a large yoga studio, had a number of famous clients. I knew her casually from a piece I had written on her years as a DIY musician in the ’80s.
I’d asked what she’d been up to and it turned out that she had just returned from some time visiting Sting and his wife in France.
She then informed me that she had mentioned to them that I had written about a reissue of one of her albums as well as about Joe’s band.
This news had, apparently, piqued Sting’s interest and – I was told – he proceeded to ask a number of questions about me.
I realized that it was entirely possible that Sting had read or would read what I had written about his son’s band.
The man who had once been one of the coolest cats on the planet and whose lyrics I knew backwards and forwards when I was fifteen might actually have read something I had written.
And, if he had, he probably thought I was a douchebag.
I’ve always believed that The Police had an almost perfect career – five stellar albums that each sold millions released over five years and an exit from the stage as the biggest band on the planet.
Here are four tracks by The Police that just seemed right this morning…
The Police – Walking On The Moon
from Reggatta de Blanc
Sparse and chilly, with a reggae vibe that was elemental to the sound of The Police, Walking On The Moon indeed captures the mood that I can imagine would be fitting for a stroll on the lunar surface.
If the next human to set foot on the moon is a music fan who lived through the ’80s, will they be able to do so and not have this song playing in their head?
The Police – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
from Zenyattà Mondatta
Three albums in and the British trio broke through with Zenyattà Mondatta which took them to the Top Ten on the album chart as well as the singles chart with the deceptively insightful and ridiculously catchy De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.
The Police – Invisible Sun
from Ghost In The Machine
The Police had begun to address political issues on Zenyattà Mondatta with songs like Driven To Tears and Bombs Away. With the moody, darkly tinged Invisible Sun, Sting’s lyrics broached the subject of the strife in Northern Ireland.
The Police – Synchronicity II
Like a lot of listeners during the summer of ’83, I wore out my copy of Synchronicity which spawned four hit singles including the aggressive Synchronicity II which gave guitarist Andy Summers an opportunity to cut loose.
I have to admit that, at the time, I found the song a bit jarring within the context of the album and – aside from manic squall of Mother – it was my least favorite song on the record.
(and, personally, I don’t think I knew anyone that liked Mother)
But, over the last twenty-five years, Synchronicity II has grown on me because it is so wickedly aggressive and apocalyptic.
Also, the lyrics resonate more as I now can relate to things like “every single meeting with his so-called superior” being “a humiliating kick in the crotch” and the depiction of the rush hour as a “suicidal race” amongst contestants “packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes.”