23 May 19
The Scottish Sun
HE came from the back streets of Wallsend near Newcastle to stride the world stage. Today, Sting sits proudly at rock’s top table and his songs with The Police as well as his solo recordings have soundtracked our lives for decades.
So it only seems natural for him to take a pause and reflect on his most cherished compositions. This is how the 67-year-old icon describes his latest album, My Songs: “This is my life in songs. Some of them reconstructed, some of them refitted, some of them reframed, but all of them with a contemporary focus.”
Sting reveals the inspiration behind the songs on his new album
Today, in his own words, SFTW presents the notes he’s written to accompany the album of fresh takes on old favourites.
BRAND NEW DAY: Written in 1999 well in advance of the millennium and was my personal attempt to allay irrational, existential fears based on arbitrary dates or the alignment of planets, or on the baseless Y2K threat. This is my version of whistling as you walk through the graveyard I suppose, but then what could be more optimistic than Stevie Wonder’s harmonica as an accompaniment to the apocalypse?
DESERT ROSE: I’d spent the summer in Paris listening to and becoming fascinated with the Räi music popular in the clubs frequented by the expatriate Algerian community. I got to know some of the amazing musicians and singers there, some of whom performed on the record. Lyrically it was inspired by Sufi poetry, which often equates devotional and religious longing with the erotic.
IF YOU LOVE SOMEBODY SET THEM FREE: Written in early 1985, in a house I moved into in Hampstead in North London that I swear was haunted. It had formerly been a pub in the 18th century, known then as The Three Ducks. I’ve no idea what went on there over the centuries, but there was a strange atmosphere, not necessarily frightening but definitely uneasy and disturbing. I moved across the park to Highgate soon after that . . . there were fewer ghosts.
The 62-year-old rocker is showing no signs of slowing down
Sting first made a name for himself as The Police frontman
Sting performed as part of The Police alongside Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers
EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE: I brought the song into Utopia Studios in North London late one night in 1982. I’d already written the lyrics while staying at GoldenEye, Chris Blackwell’s house outside of Ocho Rios in Jamaica that had formerly belonged to James Bond’s creator Ian Fleming. It still manages to be both sinister and oddly comforting, which might explain its continuing prevalence as one of the most played songs on the radio.
DEMOLITION MAN: I wrote this during the summer of 1980, living in Peter O’Toole’s house in Connemara, Ireland. Peter liked the lyrics, especially, “I’m a three-line whip, I’m the sort of thing they ban,” a three-line whip being a British parliamentary term for an emergency vote. I never imagined my A-level in the British Constitution would eventually bear fruit in a rock and roll lyric. I sent the demo to Grace Jones, who’d asked me for a song, and she released it successfully as a single in 1981. The Police then recorded it for Ghost In The Machine.
CAN’T STAND LOSING YOU: Written in my basement flat in Bayswater in 1978, is a nasty little revenge fantasy inspired by nothing in particular, apart from the deliberately bratty chords. As in Every Breath You Take and Demolition Man, there is something cathartic, even therapeutic, in role-playing these less-than-savoury characters . . . or maybe they’re actually parts of my own subconscious that would otherwise remain hidden.
FIELDS OF GOLD: Written in Lake House in the summer of 1992. The house is surrounded by barley fields, and that year a beautiful crop circle appeared one morning. Whoever or whatever accomplished this astounding overnight feat was quite evidently a mathematical genius, whereas some of the more shambolic examples I’ve seen are clearly the work of drunks after one too many ales in the local pub.
The musician has amassed a fortune of £180m from touring and selling albums over the years
SO LONELY: Originally written for my band Last Exit in Newcastle in 1975 and transposed easily into a Police song on the 1978 album Outlandos d’Amour. It’s odd to be singing about loneliness in this ebullient manner, but maybe that’s therapeutic?
SHAPE OF MY HEART: Written in 1992 in Lake House. Dominic [Miller] brought this lovely descending minor cadence into the studio, and we spent the morning moulding it into song form. I then took the recording on a long walk, asking the music to tell me a story. A few hours later I returned with the lyrics, explaining to Dominic that I’d found them under a tree.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE: I wrote the guitar riff on my black Fender Strat in the back of a noisy van heading south on an autobahn between Düsseldorf and Nuremberg sometime in early ’79. I immediately knew that I was on to something with this circular riff. After a few false starts back home in my basement in Bayswater, a story emerged from the rising and falling tide of the music of some kind of Robinson Crusoe character stranded on a desert island and throwing a hopeful bottle out to sea.
FRAGILE: Lyrics were written during the recording of The Dream Of The Blue Turtles on Barbados in 1985, but I didn’t have a suitable musical setting until 1987 when I was living in the Soho neighbourhood of New York City, just messing around with some descending sixth chords.
Sting has been married to wife Trudie since 1992
Sting’s new album My Songs is out on May 24
My songs is the rocker’s 14th studio album
WALKING ON THE MOON: Written in the dead of night in a nondescript hotel room in Munich in 1979. I woke from a fitful sleep with this insistent bass riff in my head that wouldn’t allow me to return to sleep. Eventually, it would become Walking On The Moon, inspired by Neil Armstrong’s lunar exploration, but the original lyrics were probably more prosaic — “walking ’round the room,” perhaps.
ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK: Written in my apartment on West Broadway in New York City’s Soho in 1987. I spirited myself away there to write, rarely venturing out except to get food. I’d leave Yo-Yo Ma’s recording of the Bach cello suites playing quietly on a loop while I slept, and I always managed to wake up refreshed with some notion buzzing in my head.
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IF I EVER LOSE MY FAITH IN YOU: Written in Lake House in 1992, with a growing cynicism about the ability of our political class to tackle what I regarded even then as a menacing existential crisis in the wanton destruction of our delicate biosphere. Incidentally and ironically, the album Ten Summoner’s Tales from which the song came was the first successful purchase on the internet on August 11, 1994.
ROXANNE: It’s fitting that this version is a live recording from Paris’s Olympia. The song began its life there in 1977. We were staying in a seedy fleapit of a hotel behind the Gare du Nord, where I conflated the object of Cyrano de Bergerac’s romantic love with the working girls in the street below. The cadence in the bass began to tell me a story that would change my life for ever.
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