EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, 1983
Lead Vocal: Bobby Cohen
“I think it’s a nasty little song, really rather evil. It’s about jealousy and surveillance and ownership”
The Police formed in 1977, just like Dire Straits. And just like Dire Straits, they were led by a former teacher: Sting. The Police more directly adopted the looks and trappings of punk rock, with bleached hair, jump suits, stripped-down sounds, and frenetic performances. However, their musical chops were unmistakable. It's just a fact: if you are a three-piece band, all the musicians have to be top caliber because there is no place to hide.
Their early sound was as distinct from the power chord-filled thrashings of Punk rock as could be. While Sting was the singer and main songwriter, the whole was bigger than the sum of the parts, with each musician contributing to the unique Police sound. You had Stewart Copeland's jazz-influenced drumming, Sting's Paul McCartney-esque bass playing, and guitarist Andy Summer creating space rather than cramming it. A strong reggae influence, as heard on songs like "Roxanne" and "Walking On The Moon," completed the sound. The Police were (correctly, I feel) accused of cultural appropriation for this. They claimed it was a reflection of their admiration for Bob Marley, and responded by naming their second album Reggatta De Blanc!
Great songs combined with charisma led to increasing popularity till by 1983 Rolling Stone magazine suggested that they were "possibly the biggest band in the world." Sting may have taken the charisma thing too far as he later bulked up and turned himself into a middle aged heart throb - but I forgive him this for his talent and early body of work.
"Every Breath You Take" appeared on their last album, Synchronicity (1983). At this stage, The Police were succumbing to the (by now) familiar rock star ego trips and petty squabbles. Apparently the songs on this album were recorded with each musician in a separate room, with individual and separately scheduled times to come in for overdubs! The band tried to get together again in 1986 for an album that never happened, and have since reconvened sporadically for concerts and tours (but no new albums).
Often interpreted as a middle of the road love song, this popular wedding song was actually written after Sting ditched his wife for her best friend. It's quite dark if you listen to the lyrics closely. Little did Sting know that he was actually writing a song about Alexa / Siri!
The song was the top selling single in the US and UK for 1983, the 5th highest selling song of the 1980s and the most played song on radio ever! It's estimated that much of Sting's net worth is due to this one song - yet drummer Stewart Copeland thinks it's one of their worst songs, and guitarist Andy Summers thinks the song would be nothing without his signature guitar hook playing over what is a fairly pedestrian chord sequence (note the similarity to the Ben E King standard "Stand By Me").
We recorded this song a half step higher than the original, which had Bobby clutching his throat and wanting a rest after belting out the high parts. We were resting in our masks when I asked him to come up with a piano solo for the two empty verses that fo1low the bridge. I think he nailed both the vocals and the piano solo!