Friday, August 11, 2006

Everyone Stares at Sting

I watched the Stewart Copeland documentary about the Police (it's on Showtime OnDemand right now--I think it's called Everyone Stares). Other than making me very nostalgic, it made me think once again about whether Sting is so Advanced that I can't see it or was always awful and just got lucky to be in a band that made him look good.

If you don't know about the documentary, it is basically a bunch of backstage and offstage footage that Copeland shot on his little camera. The footage spans from nearly the beginning of the band (when they were driving to gigs in cars) to the end (when they were in a jet and counting their piles of money), but one scene convinced me that Sting is indeed Advanced:

It was during the recording of Zenyatta Mondatta, and Sting and Andy Summers are playing guitars together, working on "De do do do, de da da da." I realized after a moment that Sting was actually teaching it to Summers, and it sounded more or less like the final version. Now I always knew that Sting wrote most of the songs, but I always felt that Summers took the original ideas to a place that Sting would not have. If that footage is any indication, it was almost all Sting. Which isn't to say that Summers didn't contribute, it's just that Sting had amazing ideas of his own, not just good ideas to build around. "De do do do..." is not only unbelievably catchy, but it's also brilliantly constructed, and it appears that Sting gets the credit.

Copeland says that as time went on, Sting stopped bringing in half-written songs and started calling all the shots. That was around the time of Ghost in the Machine, which is one of the best albums ever made. And if that was all Sting, I have no choice but to give him the benefit of the doubt. I've been struggling with this for a long time, but what else can I do? The opening of "Demolition Man" alone is almost enough to declare him Advanced. Throw in "It's a big enough umbrella" (which radio DJs love to cut off for some reason), and you've got a pretty convincing case.

But I might change my mind because the music he's made the last twenty years or so has been so Advanced I can't even begin to understand it.

3 comments:

Cool Noise said...

That has to be the first time i've ever read through paragraphs that expressed the opinion that Sting was anything but a div. In fact I even came back to re-read them.

Sting is certainly beyond my comprehension. But then I'm the man who has seriously considered setting up a complimentary blog called "The Retard Theory" where I can just vent my spleen against "big" artists.

Mike Martin said...

Pro - Advanced:
1. He used black back-up singers on Bring on the Night (the album). In fact the entire back-up band was black.
2. He covered Demolition Man. For a movie of the same title.
3. He embraces world music.
4. I believe he plays Roxanne at every single performance - and he did sing it at the 2004 Grammys

Con-Advanced:
1. No leather jacket or dark sunglasses. (or did he wear one in Quadrophenia?)
2. Overt turns in Dune, The Bride, SNL, and so on (although overtness is necessary on the path to Advancement, no?)
3. His name is Overt. If he had changed it after he got famous, then that might be Advanced.

Jason Hartley said...

Great points (especially about Demolition Man and the name-change issue). You can see why Sting tortures me.