Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me

I heard this song quite a bit when covid started. I heard it yesterday and didn’t want to scream…it’s a song I like again.  it was the lead single from their third album Zenyatta released in 1980.

The Police recorded this in Holland over a period of months. The song started as a Hammond organ-based soul track then evolved through various complex arrangements, until it was eventually reduced to it’s simplest elements.

The band made a video for this song in 1980 that MTV put in rotation when they launched the following year. This is another video I remember being played heavily on MTV.

The song peaked at #1 in the UK, #2 in Canada, and #10 in the Billboard 100 in 1980. The band re-recorded the song in 1986 as Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86’ and it peaked at #46 in the Billboard 100, #24 in the UK, and #27 in Canada.

This won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Group.

From Songfacts

This song is about a teacher who lusts after one of his students. Sting was a teacher before joining The Police, and was no doubt the subject of young girl fantasy, but he insists the lyric is not based on personal experience. Putting the speculation to rest, he explained on the DVD for his 2001 All This Time album that he made up the story. 

The line, “Just like the old man in the book by Nabokov,” refers to the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which is about an older man who pursues underage girls. Sting based this song on the book. Sting mispronounces the author’s name – the “bo” should be stressed. Also, in the novel Lolita, Humbert is not quite an old man. 

In the UK, this sold 900,000 copies and was the best-selling single of 1980.

The Police reunited in 1986 to record updated versions of some of their old songs. The reunion brought out old hostilities, and this was the only song they completed. The new version was released as a single titled “Don’t Stand So Close To Me ’86,” and included on their greatest hits album Every Breath You Take – The Singles.

In 1985, Sting worked with Dire Straits on “Money For Nothing,” which has a chorus that sounds very similar to this (compare the lines “Don’t stand so close to me” with “I want my MTV”). Sting did not want a songwriting credit, but his record company thought he should get one so they could receive royalties.

 In the video, the guys are larking about a school in graduation gowns, with Sting going through a few costume changes and taking his shirt off at one point. They’re clearly having fun and messing around with each other – it’s a good snapshot of how they could get on in their early years.

They also made a video for the 1986 version of the song, this one directed by Godley & Creme. No shenanigans in that one, just the band looking somber amid many dated special effects.

The race horse Zenyatta is named after the album Zenyatta Mondatta. The horse is owned by Jerry Moss, who signed The Police to his label A&M Records.

This is an example of Sting’s “work backward” method. “I pluck a title from the air, just free-associating, and then try to figure out a story that it could apply to,” he wrote in Lyrics By Sting. Fascinated by the dangerous obsession at the center of Nabokov’s novel, he “transposed this idea to a relationship between a teacher and his pupil. Wanting by this time to identify whatever my sources were, I conspired to get the author’s name into the song with one of the loosest rhymes in the history of pop. Well, I thought it was hilarious, but I caught some flak.”

This was used in The Simpsons episode “On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister” and in the Glee episode “Ballad” (2009).

On The Office, Kevin is the singer and drummer in a Police tribute band called Scrantonicity (a play on the album title Synchronicity). In the season 2 finale, “Casino Night,” Jim and Pam watch a video of Scrantonicity performing “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.”

This was featured in the first-season Friends episode “The One Where Underdog Gets Away,” where the character Joey appears on a poster for venereal disease treatment. The song plays when they show the posters all over New York City. 

When Stewart Copeland put together the 2006 documentary Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, he created new versions of some of the songs using the original masters and outtakes. “The version of ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ comes from both studio recordings because we re-recorded it – strangely, no one can remember why – but we re-recorded it in a different key and I jammed both of those versions together, which was a hell of a puzzle to figure out the transition keys,” he told Songfacts. “I used Sting’s overdubs because he did some amazing overdub work with the new version of ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me,’ which I used on the original backing track.”

In the video, Sting is wearing a T-shirt for the band The Beat (known in America as The English Beat) in some scenes. The Beat was an opening act for some shows on the Ghost in the Machine tour.

Don’t Stand So Close To Me

Young teacher, the subject
Of schoolgirl fantasy
She wants him so badly
Knows what she wants to be

Inside her there’s longing
This girl’s an open page
Book marking, she’s so close now
This girl is half his age

Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me
Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me

Her friends are so jealous
You know how bad girls get
Sometimes it’s not so easy
To be the teacher’s pet

Temptation, frustration
So bad it makes him cry
Wet bus stop, she’s waiting
His car is warm and dry

Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me
Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me

Loose talk in the classroom
To hurt they try and try
Strong words in the staffroom
The accusations fly

It’s no use, he sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the old man in
That book by Nabakov

Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me
Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me

Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me
Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me
Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me
Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me
Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me
Don’t stand, don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

41 thoughts on “Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me”

  1. I have been picking away at getting the Police on vinyl. Used though as I find there albums have some stellar stuff and some iffy stuff at times. lol
    I think I only need the debut and then its done which when your band has only 5 records its an easy discography to start and finish. lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hell it’s hard for me to remember the first three album’s names…I think Sting got just a tad bit pretentious…I know they connect to French words…that is it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Where have I been this year? I didn’t notice this song being used in regard to the virus. But of course it would be. I always liked the song. The classroom video has aged well, imo. The 1986 video, not so much. Ick.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I mean, if my teacher looked like 1980’s Sting, I’d probably have a schoolgirl crush too! x-D Haha Thank goodness I’m not on social media ~ this song was not ruined for me at all, and I hadn’t heard it in quite some time, so thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. For a short while, I worked as a substitute teacher and this song is about the tension that springs up from the desire of something that just can’t happen. The female student feels that love is in the air, because her male teacher has shown her some attention. She is probably a smart student, one that pays attention in class, does her assignments and raises her hand to participate in class discussions, but it is very likely that she is not the only girl at the school that fancies him. I drove past many students that were getting soaked in the rain, because I knew that it would be inappropriate to stop and offer them a ride.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My mom was a teacher, and with a mundane geography degree, many pushed me towards teaching as a career. I even applied to teacher’s college once – didn’t get in, which perhaps was good. (Ontario had varyingly huge surpluses and shortages of teachers. I think I applied when they had too many.) Little kids are cute but I don’t have the patience with them you’d need (“4 plus 4 is NOT 6! What’s wrong with you! Look at your fingers. Take four …” would be Grade 1 teacher me), nor for snarky, unco-operative teens and by the senior year or community college, I think I would have had a hard time resisting some of those girls if they took to me. Not a career for everyone, that’s for sure.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I thought about it also…summer breaks and other things but yea…not for little kids. I would go beserk…like you with the counting.

        I had some cool teachers but most of them would NOT fly in this age. Throwing things at your head if they see you talking when they were…one teacher had a turntable with the White Album which was cool…but yea…I would want to be me…and that would not fly.

        LOL Whats wrong with you? Yep that would probably be me. Oh yea the girls….I saw some from our high school….those male teachers sitting the cheerleaders up front…they ate it up also.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. a great song… and the fitting “anthem” of 2020. I wonder what Sting thinks of it’s renewal of popularity in context of the pandemic? Anyway, it’s one I like quite a bit more than “Every Breath You take” but perhaps if it was reversed and “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” was the most played song ever on N.American radio, I’d be tired of it instead.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oddly enough I’m more fed up of hearing this one than Every Breath You take. It was huge in the UK, and that 1986 version took out all the nostalgic fondness I had for a song I loved at the time, and still havent recovered. In 1980 I was in my final year at a largely teacher training College, and Sting was the pin-up of the day, and The Police the hot new band around. I didn’t go in for teaching, but most of my friends did. I only did the course cos I was led to believe I could get on a student exchange course in Waukesha Wisconsin for a few months – which they promptly withdrew once I’d signed up! My fellow-The Police-fan best mate got to go. SO jealous….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea you are never going to like this one…just because of the history with it.

      The 86 version was terrible to me…way too much 80s production for my liking.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I listened to The Police quite a bit back in Germany and then continued with Sting solo. I still dig most of their songs to this day, including this one.

    If I recall it correctly, my Police journey started with Synchronicity. From there, I worked my way backwards. Today, I feel their first two albums were the best when they sounded more raw than on Synchronicity.

    I actually got to see The Police during their 2007/2008 reunion tour. It was really fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I got to see their later tour…them and the Cars I wish I could have seen.
      I wish you… I like their earlier albums more than Synchronicity. I started to notice them around the time of Do Do Do Da da da…this album.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Really just as well it’s not based on experience as, from what I recall from his autobiography and other sources, he taught young kids – eight yrs old, etc.

    I love the song, always have done. Great pacing and beat.

    I also hadn’t noticed this with ref to covid. Makes sense!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When covid first happened I heard it quite a bit…but I do like the song…but I don’t like the 86 version…I don’t what possessed them to do that 6 years after they released it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I also hadn’t thought of this song in relation to social distancing for covid. Sting was (and still is!) a fine figger of a man. If I would have had a high school teacher like that, watch out. I don’t see how they can resist, but the burden is on the teacher to do the right thing. I think this applies the same for female teachers whose students get crushes on them. I got a lot of enjoyment out of The Police and a lot more when Sting went solo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had some female teachers that we had crushes on…they were careful not to even joke that way…now the men teachers on the other hand…some of them we would joke about having cheerleaders all assigned in the front row.
      That is why if you are going to play…be a collge professor… at least everyone are adult.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Awesome piece! I’m a major music nerd but there’s still plenty of stuff I didn’t know here. Although I think the section about “Money For Nothing” might be ever so slightly off-kilter. My impression was that Knopfler wrote the “I Want My MTV bit” to the tune of this track on purpose. Then asked Sting to sing on it, gave him co-writer credit, et cetera so that he was in on the joke. Although I could be wrong about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love this song, and when I bought the CD of their greatest hits album “Every Breath You Take – The Singles” I was terribly disappointed that it included the 1986 remake of this song, rather than the original. The question is: why did they bother, when the original was so good?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yeah, I remember the Police being on MTV heavily as well! Maybe I should make a post talking about MTV… that could be fun. I just posted some updates as well if you wanna check that out. Stay safe, my friend! And happy new year.

    Like

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