Sunday, September 8, 2013

Song Spot: Every Breath You Take

You know how you hear a song for years, even hum along with it, but never really listen to the lyrics? The other day I was driving to work and Sting’s Every Breath You Take came on. For some reason, this time I listened more carefully to the lyrics and came to the realisation that it is actually quite a nasty and creepy stalker song.

There have been other stalker songs that mask the dark lyrics with catchy tunes:

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes
1963, Bobby Vee

You say that you're at home when you phone me
And how much you really care
Though you keep telling me that you're lonely
I'll know if someone is there

'cause the night has a thousand eyes
And a thousand eyes can't help but see if you are true to me
So remember when you tell those little white lies
That the night has a thousand eyes

One Way or Another
1978, Blondie

One way or another I'm gonna find ya
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha
One way or another I'm gonna win ya
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha
One way or another I'm gonna see ya
I'm gonna meetcha meetcha meetcha meetcha
One day, maybe next week
I'm gonna meetcha, I'm gonna meetcha, I'll meetcha
I will drive past your house
And if the lights are all down
I'll see who's around

I'll walk down the mall
Stand over by the wall
Where I can see it all
Find out who ya call
Lead you to the supermarket checkout
Some specials and rat food, get lost in the crowd

(Written by Blondie, the song was inspired by one of her boyfriends who stalked her after their breakup. According to Blondie: "I was actually stalked by a nutjob, so it came out of a not-so-friendly personal event. I tried to inject a little levity into it to make it more lighthearted. It was a survival mechanism." The 2013 version by boy band One Direction comes over as even more creepy.)

Which brings us to Every Breath You Take:


Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I'll be watching you

O can't you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you

Since you've gone I been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but it's you I can't replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby please

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you

Video clip:


Written by Sting, it was one of the biggest hits of 1983 and 1984 Grammy winner for Song of the Year.


It was a track on the Synchronicity album. The band broke up after releasing that album.


Recording the song with Police band members was so tense and acrimonious that they ended up having verbal and physical fights in the studio. 


Sting had to fight to get the song onto their next album, yet it is today regarded as the Police’s signature song.


· As at 2003, Sting was still receiving $2,000 per day in royalties.


The middle of the song was finished last. They didn't know what to do with it until Sting sat at a piano and started hitting the same key over and over. That became the basis for the missing section.


The lyrics are the words of a sinister, controlling character, who is watching "every breath you take; every move you make".

Sting wrote the song after separating from his wife, Frances Tomelty, but it has never been revealed whether the inspiration was actual stalking, and whether it was his stalking of her or vice versa.


Sting quotes:

“I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn't realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”

"I think it's a nasty little song, really rather evil. It's about jealousy and surveillance and ownership." 

"I think the ambiguity is intrinsic in the song however you treat it because the words are so sadistic. On one level, it's a nice long song with the classic relative minor chords, and underneath there's this distasteful character talking about watching every move. I enjoy that ambiguity. I watched Andy Gibb singing it with some girl on TV a couple of weeks ago, very loving, and totally misinterpreting it. I could still hear the words, which aren't about love at all. I pissed myself laughing."

"I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it's quite the opposite."

"One couple told me 'Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!' I thought, 'Well, good luck.'"

Future Bytes: 

Michael Stipe of REM has stated that he was inspired to write Losing My Religion by listening to Every Breath You Take.

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