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.
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.