oh sting, where is thy death?

June 2, 2008

The Police are coming to Salt Lake City this summer, which should be a joyous occasion for me, since I LOVE The Police, but whenever I’m reminded of The Police, I’m reminded of Sting. And not in a good way.

It’s like that movie, We Are Marshall, where the whole football team dies in a plane crash, and the star quarterback’s father doesn’t want the school to play football anymore, since it just reminds him of the tragedy.

Like that.

I’m telling you, The Police were a great band that made great music.

Sting is a preening, crooning peacock who writes lyrics that Jewel wouldn’t use.

A few years ago, my friend Bob wrote a post about musical retorts in music lyrics that got a few of us remembering The Police fondly, and got us to ranting about Sting.

Sean pointed out, in the spirit of musical retorts, a bit of the magic in the lyrics from The Police:

“And when their eloquence escapes me Their logic ties me up and rapes me De do do do, de da da da Is all I want to say to you– I guess that’s sort of the post-punk, reggae/ska-inspired, new wave, pop-rock way of saying “neener, neener” or “I know you are but what am I?” But a retort from their first album is still my favorite: We freeze like statues on the pages of history Living was never like this when we took all those G.C.E.’s Oh you opened the door for us And then you turned to dust You don’t understand us So don’t reprimand us We’re taking the future We don’t need no teacher.”

Compare that to, um, Sting without the influence of Copeland and Summers:

“Let my soul be my pilot”

Uh huh. Or,

“Love is a big fat river in flood”

Or, from his autobiography, about a flower: “I am led to an understanding that not only must such tiny, beautiful and delicate living things be charged with love, but also the inanimate stones that surround them, everything giving and receiving, reflecting and absorbing, resisting and yielding.”

Seriously? We have to have this conversation?

Here’s what I said about Sting to Sean:

“This is one of the tragic stories of punk ska, nay, rock and roll, nay, good music everywhere. How has Sting gone from a guy who could write angry, pertinent lyics like this and crank them out, songs like Fallout, Invisible Sun, and De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da, and gone and turned himself into a vague version of Jose Feliciano? Sure, it’s a Jose Feliciano singing about Pinochet and legal aliens, but it’s still crooning, right? I want my Sting back.”

Sean relates the following (longish) anecdote as an explanation for Sting’s demise:

“It’s one of the saddest chapters in the history of rock and roll is what it is, Dug. My best friend in high school and college was this crazy, wild kid who could look and act like a Boy Scout in front of parents and teachers, but who could turn it loose like he was Lucifer’s kid brother when the situations were right. We had this perfect, Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer thing goin’ (but throw in girls, cars, booze, occasional misdemeanors, minor acts of hooliganism, etc.), and then one summer I went to Europe, and when I came back he had become a born-again Christian. It was like our shared past — especially all the debauchery and R/PG13-rated youthful fun that came with it — was wiped from the history books. I couldn’t even reminisce about any of it with him. I felt like someone tied a sack of rocks to my soul and tossed it into a deep, dark Scottish lake.

That’s what happened to Sting, man. He became a born-again jazz musician. Just like I shouldn’t have gone to Europe that summer, Stewart and Andy should never have agreed to that Synchronicity album. The signs were all there. And what’s even more sad, to me, is that Synchronicity was released the same year I went to Europe. Coincidence? I think not. In some tragic parallelism, my friend probably first bumped into that Campus Youth Ministry guy about the same time Sting bumped into Marsalis. Where was Sean? Where were Stewart and Andy? Indeed. I feel like spiking my hair and bleaching it blond right now…. an overwhelming sense of ennui bordering on regatta de blanc… There’s a hole in my life that’s driven me to tears, and although I feel like an omega man of sorts, what with the voices inside my head chirping like a canary in a coal mine, I have to keep on believing that when the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around. The truth hits everybody, eh? I apologize if I’ve revealed too much information. Masoko tanga to you and yours.”

I’m telling you, Sting needs The Police like David Byrne needed The Talking Heads. Like the flowers need the rain. There are very few examples of great artists from great bands who are better on their own. Sting is not one of those.

Stephen Metcalf, of Slate.com says: “When the Police broke up, he returned to his heartfelt origins, that of a dork who wants to play his own (albeit debased) version of American jazz; and that of a twerpie overachiever who, embarrassed by his humble lineage, never stops trying out for the lit magazine.”

Is it too late? I mean, he’s a billionaire now, worshipped by middle-aged housewives the world over. He’s a scented, wickless candle.

Definitely too late.

14 Responses to “oh sting, where is thy death?”

  1. Grizzly Adam Says:

    “Like the flowers need the rain.”

    And don’t forget the inanimate stones that surround them.

    My personal favorite is the very odd song he sings about a guy who looks through the scope of a rifle at a man far off on horseback, and then accidentally shoots him.

    He goes to court where the family of the victim are weeping. And the trigger puller says he’s sorry. But he still goes to jail.

  2. Bikemike Says:

    john doe from the group “X” should’ve replaced sting on bass (with the police) aloooooonnng time ago.

  3. Flahute Says:

    @Grizzly … “I Hung My Head” is another song where the cover (by Johnny Cash) is WAY better than the original …

  4. KanyonKris Says:

    Not a huge Police fan, but I dig many of their songs (have a “best of” CD I listen to quite often).

    I like some of the tracks from Synchronicity. “Packed like lemmings into shinny metal boxes”, I can dig it. “Every Breath You Take”, “King Of Pain”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, all good to me.

    As for Sting’s solo work, hmm, ya, mostly forgettable tunes. I like “Fields of Gold”, a nice, soothing song. Nothing else comes to mind.

  5. isela Says:

    “worshipped by middle-aged housewives the world over”

    Not in this corner of the world…but maybe I am not middle-aged yet (or maybe I am over).

  6. Lori Says:

    I saw them last summer at Bonnaroo. They really seemed to be a group again rather than a preening Sting and a couple of other dudes.

    But, on a weird note – I had a friend that was doing some catering for some of the musical acts – one that she got was The Police. So she made this great spread and had it set up on their private jet for the post show chow down. Of course, Sting would not eat it because he is on some weird diet – his food can’t touch plastic, etc. But at the time, she was about 7.5 months pregnant and he could not keep his hands off of her belly!!

  7. KanyonKris Says:

    Oh, and I agree that David Byrne was better with the Talking Heads.

  8. Grizzly Adam Says:

    Yeah Flahute, those lyrics sound perfect for Johnny Cash. I will have to look that one up.

  9. pluto Says:

    Great post, but I think perhaps a little attribution is due re: your bit about the scented candle. See this article from Slate magazine, Feb. ’07:

    “Unyoked from Copeland, Sting was free to become what he is today: one-third spirit in the material world, two-thirds scented candle.”

    http://www.slate.com/id/2160017/

  10. dug Says:

    pluto, i may not have followed MLA style for attribution, but you might have noticed in the paragraph previous to the one you note, i, um, linked to the exact article you point out, quote directly from him, and mention the author by name. my wickless, scented candle remark was meant to evoke metcalf, not plagiarize him. i was adding wickless. my little contribution.

  11. Bikemike Says:

    sting is wickless? dang, that must’ve hurt.

  12. mark Says:

    Sting is indeed wickless. About fifteen years ago, I went to see him in concert at the Canyons. It was fairly cold for a summer evening. He played about an hour then went in, with a comment about being cold. No, he didn’t put on a jacket and come back out. He just pussed out and called it a night.

  13. BotchedExperiment Says:

    In 15 years Sting went from being disaproved of by our mothers to being loved by our grandmothers.

  14. judi Says:

    Love The Police. I saw them when I was 13 in 1983. I met Andy Summers too, and kissed him on the cheek. LOL.


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