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

Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

This was originally an acoustic ballad Sting wrote while The Police were known as Strontium 90 and included bassist Mike Howlett. You can hear the first recording of this song at the bottom of the post above the version that we all know.

I liked these earlier Police songs. Ghost in the Machine also included Spirits in the Material World and Invisible Sun.

The song was on the album Ghost In The Machine and was released in 1981. The album peaked at #2 in the Billboard Album Charts, #1 in the UK, #1 in Canada, and #5 in New Zealand.

The song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the UK, #1 in Canada, and #7 in New Zealand in 1981.

Sting: “When I moved to London in 1975, I was struggling to make a living. I auditioned at the Zanzibar in Covent Garden. I sang ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ and the guy said: ‘We need commercial hit songs. We don’t need this kind of stuff.'”

Stewart Copeland: “We tried it fast, we tried it slow, we tried it reggae, we tried it punk, we tried it as a bossa nova,” “We tried every which way, but nothing. To the extent that we did it different from the demo was the extent to which it didn’t sound like a hit anymore. So, eventually, in a morning grump, I show up at the studios and I say, ‘Guys, I tell you what, just play me your f–king demo, lead me through the changes and see if that works.’ So, they put up the demo, and Sting is standing over me pointing out where the verse, the chorus, and all the different pieces are. I kind of knew that by now anyway because of all the different versions we had done, and then I just cranked out one take of OK, play the f–king demo and I’ll play along and see if that works, and it kinda did.”

 

From Songfacts

Sting used a lyric from this, “Do I have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days since we first met? It’s a big enough umbrella but it’s always me that ends up getting wet,” on some other songs he wrote, including The Police’s “O My God” from Synchronicity and “Seven Days” from his solo album Ten Summoner’s Tales

True to their punk roots, The Police have some colorful and dysfunctional characters in their early songs. While this song seems very endearing, the guy clearly has some issues, as he pursues a girl who does not return his affections. He might be crossing over into stalker territory as he resolves to call her up “a thousand times a day.”

The video, directed by Derek Burbidge, shows the band in Montserrat, an island in the Caribbean where they recorded the album. Many of the shots are in George Martin’s AIR Studios, where they did their recording, but we also see people of the island with the members of the band. The Police were deeply influenced by the music of the Caribbean (reggae music).

The Police had been making videos since 1978, but Ghost in the Machine was their first album released after MTV launched. It was good timing for the band – they quickly became video stars and one of the biggest acts in America. 

This was the first demo Sting ever played for his bandmates. Good thing it’s not a timely tune: They didn’t record it until their fourth album, Ghost in the Machine.

In 1982 this won the Best Pop Song at the annual Ivor Novello Awards.

Sting worked up a new demo of this song in early 1981 with the French Canadian keyboard player Jean Roussel, which they recorded at Roussel’s studio near Montreal. When The Police’s record company heard it, they pegged it as a hit and had the band record it, even flying in Roussel to play on it. But getting the magic that was on the demo proved difficult, and for days they struggled with it. Finally, drummer Stewart Copeland had Sting put the demo on and count him through the changes as he played to it. Sting conducted him through it, and they finally got the drum take. The rest of it Sting, Summers and Roussel were able to complete. According to Copeland, he was seething with anger when he did his take, which gave him the energy he needed to make it work.

The intro to this song was used by German R&B singer Sebastian Hamer for “Immer Noch.” His song’s meaning is just about the opposite of the original. >>

In the book MTV Ruled the World – The Early Years of Music Video, Police drummer Stewart Copeland talks about the fallout from playing with all those buttons during this video: “‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ we shot in Montserrat, and it’s strange how that was regarded as, ‘The Who destroying equipment of our time,’ because we were trashing that Trident desk. And that desk, by the way, ended up at Studio One in A&M, here in Los Angeles, and I’ve been to five or six different studios around the world that claim that the Neve sitting in their room is the one that we trashed. And I don’t know which one is which. One Neve is the same as the other, if you ask me. And we weren’t aware of trashing it at all. We were in the habit – because we were all very fit – of climbing over it, because it was very long. And if you were over there and you wanted to get over here to hit a fader or something, we’d just climb over it. Certainly, we were not cognizant of any abuse of the console. But we were just dancing around.”

This song was included on Ghost in the Machine to try and “leaven the rather sober tone of the rest of the record,” Sting wrote in Lyrics By Sting. “It was written in 1976, the year I moved to London. I had no money, no prospects, nowhere to live. All I had was Stewart Copeland’s phone number and some vague idea of forming a band. It was the year of the Sex Pistols, punk rock, aggressive loud music, violent lyrics, and ‘Anarchy In The UK.’ And I wrote this song, which tells you how in touch with the times I was.”

This was used in The Office (US) episode “Phyllis’ Wedding” in 2007. It also appears on the soundtrack of the Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer and the 2005 film Bewitched. >>

A rather obvious hit, this was the first single from the Ghost in the Machine everywhere except the UK, where “Invisible Sun,” a song dealing with the political climate in Belfast, was issued first.

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Though I’ve tried before to tell her
Of the feelings I have for her in my heart
Every time that I come near her I just lose my nerve
As I’ve done from the start

Every little thing she does is magic
Everything she do just turns me on
Even though my life before was tragic
Now I know my love for her goes on

Do I have to tell the story
Of a thousand rainy days since we first met
It’s a big enough umbrella
But it’s always me that ends up getting wet.

Every little thing she does is magic
Everything she do just turns me on
Even though my life before was tragic
Now I know my love for her goes on

I resolved to call her up a thousand times a day.
And ask her if she’ll marry me in some old fashioned way.
But my silent fears have gripped me long before I reach the phone
Long before my time has tripped me must I always be alone

Every little thing she does is magic
Everything she do just turns me on
Even though my life before was tragic
Now I know my love for her goes on

Every little thing she does is magic
Everything she do just turns me on
Even though my life before was tragic
Now I know my love for her goes on

Oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah
Every little thing, every little thing, every little thing, every little thing
Every little, every little, ever little, every little thing she does
Every little thing she does
Every little thing she does
Every little thing she does

Beo, beo, beo, beo, beo, beo, beo, beo
Beo, beo, beo, beo, beo, beo, beo, beo

Every little thing
Every little thing
Every little thing
She do is
Magic, magic, magic
Magic, magic, magic

Hey oh yo oh
Beo

Ah
Thousand rainy days since we first met
It’s a big enough umbrella, but it’s always me that ends getting wet

Police – Message In A Bottle

It’s one of those songs that I would have bet charted higher in the US than it did. In America, “Message In A Bottle” was just a minor hit, peaking at  #74 in the Billboard 100 in 1979. It wasn’t until their third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, released in 1980, that the group got much attention in the US.

The song peaked at #1 in the UK, #2 in Canada, and #11 in New Zealand.

Sting: “I used to sing Gregorian chants and plainsong as an altar boy. A lot of my melodies might reflect that love and my early exposure to that stark, melodic narrative. ‘Message In A Bottle’ reflects that, too.”

“I think the lyrics are subtle and well crafted enough to hit people on a different level from something you just sing along to. It’s quite a cleverly put together metaphor. It develops and has an artistic shape to it.”

 

From Songfacts

This song is about a guy stranded on a remote island. One day he finds a bottle, puts a message in it and throws it out to sea in hopes that someone will find it and come save him. He’s thrilled to wake up one morning and find a whole bunch (a hundred billion, by his count) of bottles on the shore, proving there are many other castaways just like him. The lyrics can be seen as a metaphor for being lonely and realizing there are lots of people just like you. >>

Guitarist Andy Summers said it was the best track he ever played on.

Until they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this was the last song The Police played together; after breaking up in 1986, they performed it at Sting’s wedding to Trudie Styler in 1992. Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers were all a little drunk and didn’t play it very well, but the guests loved it. In 2003, The Police got together again for the induction ceremonies, where they played this along with “Roxanne” and “Every Breath You Take.”

This was the first single from the second Police album, Reggatta De Blanc (which means “White Reggae” in Police-speak). In the UK, their first album, Outlandos d’Amour, was released a year earlier but was still being discovered. “Roxanne” and “Can’t Stand Losing You” had charted, but the band was still bubbling under. “Message In A Bottle” was when they exploded in Britain; the song went to #1 on September 29, 1979 and stayed for three weeks. Their next single, “Walking On The Moon,” also went to the top. At this point, “So Lonely,” a track from their first album that flopped when it was issued as a single, was re-released, reaching #6 in March 1980.

Sting wrote in Lyrics By Sting: “I was pleased that I’d managed a narrative song with a beginning, a middle, and some kind of philosophical resolution in the final verse. If I’d been a more sophisticated songwriter, I would have probably illuminated this change of mood by modulating the third verse into a different key. But it worked anyway.”

This song is “Hey Jude”-like in its outro, with the phrase “sending out an SOS” repeated over and over for over a minute as it slowly fades. We counted 25 repetitions of the phrase.

Drummer Stewart Copeland overdubbed some cymbals and snare on top of this section, which he later came to regret. “I just overdid it,” he told Songfacts. “Where was Andy [Summers] when we needed him? Because usually it was Andy who was the limiter of our indulgence. He must have stepped out of the studio.”

The first person to hear the guitar riff for this song was not a person at all, but Sting’s dog. “I used to play it over and over again to my dog in our basement flat in Bayswater,” Sting wrote in Lyrics By Sting, “and he would stare at me with that look of hopeless resignation dogs can have when they’re waiting for their walk in the park. Was it that hopeless look that provoked the idea of the island castaway and his bottle? I don’t know, but the song sounded like a hit the first time we played it. The dog finally got his walk, and this song was our first number-one in the UK.”

This was the first-ever UK #1 for the A&M label, which Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss founded in 1962.

This might be the most famous song where a singer sends out an SOS distress signal, but it’s certainly not the only one. The Clash did it in “London Calling,” and many groups have done it metaphorically to signify love gone wrong.

Sting performed this at an Amnesty International benefit in 1981 that was used in a film released the following year called The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball.

This was one of the most popular live songs for the band, played at just about every concert after it was released, often as the set opener. Sting continued to perform it as a solo artist, including at his set at Live Aid in 1985.

After MTV launched in 1981, The Police made some high-concept, big-budget videos that were huge on the network. Prior to that, their videos were more restrained. The “Message in a Bottle” video combines concert footage with shots of the band performing it in some kind of backstage area. It was directed by Derek Burbidge.

Sting performed this with No Doubt at halftime of the 2003 Super Bowl between the Bucs and Raiders. No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani came out and sang with him about midway through. Stefani inducted Police into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later that year.

It may surprise you to learn that the song was influenced by the church music that Sting used to sing as a child. He explained in Isle of Noises by Daniel Rachel: isode “Fallen Angel”; in Doctors, in the 2011 episode “Message in a Bottle”; and in The Office (US), in the 2007 episode “Phyllis’ Wedding.”

The Police boxed set is called Message In A Box as a reference to this song.

The industrial metal band Machinehead covered this on their 1999 album The Burning Red >>

There is a 1999 film by the same name starring Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, and Paul Newman that is not directly connected to this song. >>

In 2003, this song got the post-punk treatment when American Hi-Fi covered it for the film Rugrats Go Wild.

Message In A Bottle

Just a cast away an island lost at sea-o
Another lonely day, no one here but me-o
More loneliness than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair-o

I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle yeah
Message in a bottle yeah

A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life but love can break your heart

I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle yeah
Message in a bottle yeah
Oh message in a bottle yeah
Message in a bottle yeah

Walked out this morning I don’t believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone in being alone
A hundred billion castaways looking for a home

I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I’ll send an S.O.S. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle yeah
Message in a bottle yeah
Message in a bottle whoa
Message in a bottle yeah

Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
I’m sending out an S.O.S.
I’m sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.
Sending out an S.O.S.

Police – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

What does it mean? I don’t think it means a thing but it’s a catchy song. Sting called it, “An articulate song about being inarticulate.”Sting wrote this when he became interested in songs with nonsense lyrics, like “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Tutti Frutti,” and “Da Doo Ron Ron.” He wanted to find out why they work and write one of his own. He claimed it was his son who came up with the title.

The song peaked at #10 in the Billboard 100 and #5 in the UK in 1981.

From Songfacts

This song is about the way politicians, entertainers, and other people use words to manipulate others. 

Sting claims that people who dismiss this song have not bothered to listen to the lyrics. He said in a 1981 interview with the NME: “Certainly what we’re producing is not elitist High Art: But; equally; I think entertainment’s an art. I think my songs are fairly literate – they’re not rubbish. ‘De Do Do Do’, for example, was grossly misunderstood: the lyrics are about banality, about the abuse of words. Almost everyone who reviewed it said, Oh, this is baby talk. They were just listening to the chorus alone, obviously. But they’re the same people who would probably never get through the first paragraph of Finnegan’s Wake, because that’s ‘baby talk’, too.”

The Police remixed this in 1986 when they reunited to create new versions of their old songs. The sessions were a disaster, and the remix of this was never released. The only song they did rerelease was a new version of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.” Sting wanted to remix this in 1986 to put more emphasis on the lyrics. He felt it was often misinterpreted.

This was used on the pilot of the TV medical drama St. Elsewhere, starring Ed Begley Jr. and Howie Mandel, in 1982. It was also featured in the 1980 coming-of-age comedy movie The Last American Virgin, starring Lawrence Monoson.

The music video, directed by Derek Burbidge, shows Sting and Andy Summers bundled up and playing on a snowy Canadian hillside while Stewart Copeland films them with a Super-8 camera. Copeland’s camera really was rolling; the footage can be seen in his 2006 documentary Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out.

De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

Don’t think me unkind
Words are hard to find
They’re only cheques I’ve left unsigned
From the banks of chaos in my mind

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
De do do do de da da da
Their innocence will pull me through
De do do do de da da da
Is all I want to say to you
De do do do de da da da
They’re meaningless and all that’s true

Poets priests and politicians
Have words to thank for their positions
Words that scream for your submission
And no-one’s jamming their transmission

‘Cause when their eloquence escapes you
Their logic ties you up and rapes you

De do do do de da da da
Is all I want to say to you
De do do do de da da da
Their innocence will pull me through
De do do do de da da da
Is all I want to say to you
De do do do de da da da
They’re meaningless and all that’s true

De do do do de da da da
Is all I want to say to you
De do do do de da da da
Their innocence will pull me through
De do do do de da da da
Is all I want to say to you
De do do do de da da da
They’re meaningless and all that’s true