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Grue
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Darkness.

As you know, I have a special fondness.  Many of us have a love-hate relationship with the underside of the human psyche and the forces influencing it.

Growing up, I first discovered The Police when I came across a lost "Ghost in the Machine" cassette on a teacher's desk.  It sat there for a couple days, unclaimed.  So I asked if I could have the cassette and the teacher said yes.

I put the tape in my home stereo.  The haunting synthesizer in Spirits in the Material World struck a chord (pun intended) with me.  I was raised on my parent's collection of hippie music and 60s love ballads.  I managed to grow up in the 70s without significant exposure to Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, or even the Beatles.  Instead, I heard lots of classical, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and Simon & Garfunkel.

No wonder I was filled with suppressed angst.

"Ghost" was something completely different to me.  The haunting Spirits synth pounded my brain with repeated listening.  Stewart Copeland's bare but hypnotic drum interjections accented the moody, subdued lyrics.  This was not a hippie ballad or happy disco.  This was music expressing hopelessness for the human condition in simple, pure terms.

It was exactly what I was looking for.

Where does the answer lie? / Living from day to day
If it's something we can't buy / There must be another way





Two years later, Synchronicity hit the stores.  I was twelve, a very formative year in social development, and already addicted to the Police angst.  Ironically, Synchronicity offered some of the meloncholy soul searching (King of Pain, Synchronicity II) but the rest of the world went nuts over Every Breath you Take and Wrapped Around Your Finger.

(aside: WAYF introduced me to Scylla and Charybdis, a passing interest in Greek Mythology, reading the Illiad and the Odyssey as an adult, and finally the theme idea for FFTI II.  Thanks, Sting.)

The song that called to me the most was Synchronicity II.  The song tells the story of a depressed father with a horrible work and home life.  In parallel to the father's depression, the Loch Ness monster rises from the depths and comes ashore.  In both scenes, the song leaves us with an impending sense of doom for a tragedy yet to come.



According to Sting, "(Carl) Jung believed there was a large pattern to life, that it wasn't just chaos. Our song Synchronicity II is about two parallel events that aren't connected logically or causally, but symbolically."

The portagonist's home life seemed to parallel mine with eerie syncronicity.


Looking back...

With two albums in my possession, both of which I loved, I then went back and dug up older versions of the Police's first albums. A seven to ten year old had little use for the ska-punk of Outlandos d'Amour (1978), Reggatta de Blanc (1979), and Zenyatta Mondatta (1980).  But they fit my teen years perfectly.

I grew to appreciate the combined musical talents of Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers.  The early albums were not the big-budget production numbers of Synchronicity.  They were elegant and simple in composition.  Yet all three musicians layered the instruments to make a sound bigger than the band.  All three were artists.  Each had some freedom to explore different instruments or sounds.  Ultimately, what made the final album was up to Sting.

The final result was an ecclectic mix of experiemental artistry.  Much of it sucked by critical standards.  They band didn't even try for mass appeal until later albums.  They produced the music they wanted to write.

There are three main themes in the Police songs:

1. Loneliness - The guy never gets the girl. He longs for her from afar.  He fails to overcome anxiety.  He's maniuplated or controlled.  There are no happy love songs until Sting matures as a solo artist.
Next to You, So Lonely, Hole in My Life, Can't Stand Losing You, Message in a Bottle, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

2. Political/Philosophical - Since the band members were Born in the Fifties, social and political activism were common themes. The punk beginnings carried through in a number of songs, but few made the mainstream.

3. Sympathetic Depravity - My favorite theme.  Sympathetic Depravity is a term I coined for taking a horrible character or trait, and creating a song from this perspective.  The tone and lyrics refelect the tortured soul is a victim of both choices and circumstance.

The most obvious, but least artisitc, example is the prositute in Roxanne.  I really dislike the song, so you won't hear it here.

By far my favorite of this bunch is Don't Stand so Close to Me.  A teen student makes life very uncomfortable for a young teacher.  As a teen when first hearing this song, the theme was more timely than it was perverted.




Who can love a stalker?  Most of America, apparently.  The song Every Breath You Take is about obsession.  Oddly, it was one othe most popular "wedding" songs of the 1980s and 1990s.  You're all a bunch of sickos.  Once the number one song of all time, you don't need to hear it from me.

However, I will post the unofficial prequel to it, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic is about an insecure man without the courage to approach the woman he longs for.  Sting had some horrible relationship issues...



Finally, Sting stops beating around the bush with his disfunction.  A number of songs refer to protagonists that are clearly insane or semi-sane in an insane world.

As a solo artist, Sting remade a horrible song into one of my favorite arrangements of all time.  There is really is only one way to close out the blog. The following is the Grue theme song of life.  



If you only listen to one song of this blog with me, come sing and dance with me in the night's rain.  Dance with me in the shadows.

Comment #1 has been removed
Comment #2 has been removed
January 9, 2012  12:29 PM ET

Brilliant blog. Absolutely brilliant. And a great analysis of their song themes. You could make money doing this...

I always forget how much older Andy Summers is than Sting and Stewart:
Stewart Copeland (born July 16, 1952)
Sting (born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner on October 2, 1951)
Andy Summers (born December 31, 1942)
Henry Padovani (born 13 October 13, 1952)- he only lasted eight months and I think one or two recorded songs, which is why he is almost never mentioned... didn't have the chops to keep up with Andy.

I didn't get exposed to a whole album by The Police until Synchronicity, though I'd heard a couple of their songs on the radio. It wasn't until high school until I really started delving into them because I fell completely and totally in love with Sting (musically. His looks didn't hurt, but it was really his music that did it.) And I was hooked... their work was absolutely groundbreaking and the musicianship by all three of them is remarkable; they (along with Earth, Wind, and Fire) are among the top five bands of all time. The indicator for me is this: can you put on a song you've heard hundreds of times before and still come away with something new every time? And I do with both of the above.

And as a footnote: our similarities are downright eerie... :)

January 9, 2012  01:13 PM ET
QUOTE(#3):

Brilliant blog. Absolutely brilliant. And a great analysis of their song themes. You could make money doing this...I always forget how much older Andy Summers is than Sting and Stewart:Stewart Copeland (born July 16, 1952)Sting (born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner on October 2, 1951)Andy Summers (born December 31, 1942)Henry Padovani (born 13 October 13, 1952)- he only lasted eight months and I think one or two recorded songs, which is why he is almost never mentioned... didn't have the chops to keep up with Andy.I didn't get exposed to a whole album by The Police until Synchronicity, though I'd heard a couple of their songs on the radio. It wasn't until high school until I really started delving into them because I fell completely and totally in love with Sting (musically. His looks didn't hurt, but it was really his music that did it.) And I was hooked... their work was absolutely groundbreaking and the musicianship by all three of them is remarkable; they (along with Earth, Wind, and Fire) are among the top five bands of all time. The indicator for me is this: can you put on a song you've heard hundreds of times before and still come away with something new every time? And I do with both of the above.And as a footnote: our similarities are downright eerie... :)

Thanks FLOAT, WAMU, & B-i-G!


I've been meaning to do this for a while. I probably could have written a blog on each of the three themes.

Thanks for reading!

January 9, 2012  01:40 PM ET

One of my favorite Police songs - and the 2nd concert I'd ever been to.



Great read, great memories.

January 9, 2012  01:46 PM ET

I got to see them on tour in Europe in 86 or 87, stationed there with the Army. Can't remember exact dates but it was in Mannheim Germany.

January 9, 2012  01:54 PM ET
QUOTE(#5):

One of my favorite Police songs - and the 2nd concert I'd ever been to.Great read, great memories.

Thanks Lihi! Nice addition to the blog. KoP is a fantastic song.

I never saw them in concert. :(

January 9, 2012  01:57 PM ET
QUOTE(#6):

I got to see them on tour in Europe in 86 or 87, stationed there with the Army. Can't remember exact dates but it was in Mannheim Germany.

How was it? That was probably 1986 since they broke up that year.

January 9, 2012  02:00 PM ET
QUOTE(#7):

Thanks Lihi! Nice addition to the blog. KoP is a fantastic song.I never saw them in concert. :(

The Police is one of my favorite bands. I've always had a deep appreciation for their harmonies because they weren't traditional. Kind of Stevie Wonderesque - you can try to duplicate it but it will never be the exact harmony. Sharps and flats... just beautiful.

I am sorry you never got to see them live. They put on a great show.

Comment #10 has been removed
January 9, 2012  04:26 PM ET

Excellent work, Grue! I appreciate the work you put in to writing this.

Some Police trivia, for those who enjoy such things:
* Before making it in a band, Sting was a high school English teacher. Don't Stand So close To Me is semi-autobiographical.

* Back in the 1970s, rugby shirts were considered fashion-forward. Gordon Sumner used to wear a yellow and black striped one, and looked like a bee. Someone called him Sting, and it stuck.

* I had a chance to see the Police during their Regatta de Blanc tour, when they were still under the radar, with just the quirky Roxanne on the radio. They were playing at a dive bar for something like a $5 cover.

But I was hot for this girl at the time, and she was into disco. So I put on my leisure suit, kidded myself that I looked pretty smooth, and took her to the local disco instead. I hated the crowd, the Saturday Night Fever-esque dance floor, and the fruity drinks made in a blender. She turned out to be built of unobtanium and I think she spent most of the night dancing with some other guy. Monday morning at school, my friends told me about the amazing concert I'd missed and I beat myself up over wasting time on a girl who wasn't my type anyway.

After reading the blog, I'm seeing the irony of missing out hearing the Police and living one of their songs instead.

January 9, 2012  04:27 PM ET
QUOTE(#10):

New Wave gibberish of the times

Au contraire. There was some excellent music that came out of the New Wave era. I shall blog and show you the light, my friend.

January 9, 2012  04:38 PM ET
QUOTE(#11):

After reading the blog, I'm seeing the irony of missing out hearing the Police and living one of their songs instead.

Awesome story!

Comment #14 has been removed
January 9, 2012  07:27 PM ET

I can't say I'm a fan, but it was cool venturing into the relatively unknown for me. I liked Don't Stand so Close to me, and the others, I didn't hate, but they didn't really make me want to put them on my Ipod.

The read was great.

Comment #16 has been removed
January 9, 2012  08:25 PM ET

Well done sir.

As an old anachronistic hippie, I liked almost all their music. Not sure what it says about me, but I can relate to most of it in one way or another...

January 9, 2012  08:27 PM ET
QUOTE(#11):

Excellent work, Grue! I appreciate the work you put in to writing this.Some Police trivia, for those who enjoy such things:* Before making it in a band, Sting was a high school English teacher. Don't Stand So close To Me is semi-autobiographical.* Back in the 1970s, rugby shirts were considered fashion-forward. Gordon Sumner used to wear a yellow and black striped one, and looked like a bee. Someone called him Sting, and it stuck.* I had a chance to see the Police during their Regatta de Blanc tour, when they were still under the radar, with just the quirky Roxanne on the radio. They were playing at a dive bar for something like a $5 cover. But I was hot for this girl at the time, and she was into disco. So I put on my leisure suit, kidded myself that I looked pretty smooth, and took her to the local disco instead. I hated the crowd, the Saturday Night Fever-esque dance floor, and the fruity drinks made in a blender. She turned out to be built of unobtanium and I think she spent most of the night dancing with some other guy. Monday morning at school, my friends told me about the amazing concert I'd missed and I beat myself up over wasting time on a girl who wasn't my type anyway. After reading the blog, I'm seeing the irony of missing out hearing the Police and living one of their songs instead.

Yes, regrettably I was going to disco bars then too, but it was only to chase tail. Back then kinda like shooting fish in a barrel! But fun at the time!

Comment #19 has been removed
 
January 10, 2012  10:11 AM ET

Thanks to Stormy, UH, UBP, and Tnerb for reading and commenting. I'm glad you guys enjoyed the blog.

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