AUDIO: The Police’s “Roxanne (DJ Platurn Edit)”

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of The Police, and have been for a long time. I was lucky to have seen them during the Synchronicity tour in Honolulu at the Aloha Stadium in February 1984 at what would be their last American show before they split up. The group would return later on but I was able to see them at their most successful period and as they were falling apart from one another.

While “Message In A Bottle” was the first Police song I heard and enjoyed, the power of “Roxanne” was strong and it not only became one of the band’s staples in live shows, but Eddie Murphy used it for a joke during one of the scenes in his first film, 48 Hours.

While they had released a few other singles before “Roxanne”, it was the song that caught the attention of many people, including American audiences. 37 years after its release, DJ Platurn handles the song with a new edit, ready for you to check out, with or without a red light on.

DUST IT OFF: The Police’s “Synchronicity”…30 Years Later

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By the time The Police had released their fifth album, they were already known for their semi-exotic or confusing album titles: Outlandos d’Amour, Regatta De Blanc, and Zenyatta Mondatta. Okay, maybe the first two were not confusing if you knew French, but as a kid I asked what was Zenyatta Mondatta, and what kind of song title is “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”? I had first became aware of The Police when they played in Honolulu in the late 1970’s when they played at the University of Hawai’i. They were the new wave of bands from England, and their concert was highlighted on a show that aired on KGMB-9 called The Hawaiian Moving Company. Eventually, I would hear songs like “Roxanne” and “Message In A Bottle”, but not as heavy as we do these days because The Police were still considered a college band. However, that would change with the release of Zenyatta Mondatta when songs like “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” was released, and that would become the first Police record bought for me. Around that time, I would see the video for “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” on Casey Kasem’s syndicated TV show, America’s Top 10, and that was most likely the first time (or one of the first times) I had seen the band. Local radio stations in Honolulu started to put other songs into rotation such as “Driven To Tears”, “Canary In A Coalmine”, “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around”, and “Man In A Suitcase”, so it felt like a big deal. More music from a specific artist meant, at least to me, that they were on the rise in terms of status. Zenyataa Mondatta would become my first Police album, on cassette no less, and it was great, I played it all the time at home.

I don’t think I was aware that The Police had a new album in late 1981 until the following year, when MTV made itself known on our cable system. Ghost In The Machine was released on October 2, 1981, but the band’s presence on MTV was always there. The videos for “Spirit In The Material World”, “Invisible Sun”, “Demolition Man”, and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” were on rotation with all of the MTV heavies, and it was through that rotation that lead to me getting that album from my parents, this one on vinyl. I always wondered about what exactly the ghost was in whatever machine they were talking about. In 1981/1982, the cover graphics resembled a calculator, but could a calculator be a machine that has a ghost? Or were they speaking of a much bigger machine? Little did we know.

Due to heavy exposure on MTV, one was never far away from a Police song. What most people didn’t know was that by the end of 1982, the group were back in the studio to record a new album, and no one could have ever expected what would happen next.

As an avid fan of Rolling Stone, I became aware of the new album through the news blurbs that were in the magazine. I remember that it helped to create a buzz that this would be a unique album, one that Police fans had never heard before, but that’s usually how the publicity machine begins: stir people up and start up a frenzy of sorts. The first time I became aware of the album to come was a short film A&M Records put together promoting it. I remember watching this, liking the scroll of the title, and everything being in black & white. It was essentially an album sampler. There were various objects in a room, as the camera panned around the room before it approached the images that would become the background for the new album, except it didn’t stop there. Various photos and alternate shots of each member of the band were shown, and it panned from right to left, showing Sting. It then moved on to drummer Stewart Copeland, his images going from left to right. Next was guitarist Andy Summers, scrolling from right to left, as his photos moved around. At the 2:38 mark, there was a glimpse of the band’s first proper video made for the album, with a song called “Every Breathe You Take”. At the 3:28 mark, we have a look at the book that was an influence behind the new album before we see a Chinese woman who is a part of Summers’ photos, shot from the back. This film builds up to this point that happens at the 3:40 mark: the introduction of the three slashes of paint: red, blue, and yellow. When that moment happened as the song in the background blasted with its vocal chant, I got excited and anticipated this great thing to come.

I remember walking into Tower Records that used to be on Ke’eaumoku Street, either on Friday or on the weekend. I was about to wrap up my year in the 7th grade, so school was still important and I didn’t have the luxury of being able to hang around Tower whenever I wanted. Synchronicity was the album I wanted to have, so I went directly to section P and saw the album cover. But wait, I also saw different versions of the cover. Hell, I saw a heap of Synchronicity covers that were different from one another. I would later discover that the band and A&M made 36 different variations of the cover, where the arrangement of photos of each member of the band were either moved around or different. Maybe one of the color strips were rearranged as well.

However, I went directly to what I called the black and yellow cover, as it didn’t have the soon-to-be well known colors. It was a darker variation, and I wondered why that cover was different from the one with colors. I put it down, and went into the cassette section, where my dad was. He asked me what I wanted, and I decided to not pick up one of the 36 different covers, but went for the cassette. I also picked up the latest issue of the Tower magazine, Pulse, and was able to see that “Every Breath You Take” was one of the top selling singles of the moment. Synchronicity was on sale, most likely around $5.99 or so, so I gave it to my dad and it was purchased for me. When I ripped open the cellophane, I had noticed something different. In the cassettes that were bought for me, the artist name and song titles were printed on the tape shell. This, however, looked like someone had bought a Sharpie pen and written on it. I remember him asking “did someone scribble on that?” I didn’t know, but it looked cool. I was able to pop the tape in as he drove us home, and I listened to “Synchronicity I”, “Walking In Your Footsteps” and “O My God” for the first time. “Walking In Your Footsteps” seemed weird but exotic, but so did the other two songs. It was not The Police I had expected to hear, but it was new and it was good. I looked forward to getting home and listening to it in the privacy of my room.

The first thing I wanted to know was: what does Synchronicity mean? Even though the song was very descriptive, my dictionary didn’t have it listed. I would learn that it has to do with two different things happening at the same time, and while they may not be related to one another, one can find a way for both to be happening for a reason. I really didn’t wrap that around my head as a pre-teen, I simply wanted the new music although as I’ve become older and started to think about coincidences and events, the word would always pop up. One must thank Carl Jung for coming up with the theory of synchronicity and how it affects us in some fashion. With that known, one has to wonder how that concept is used on the album. While not a true concept album, Synchronicity is an album with a running theme, that being the title.

  • The themes are discovered immediately in the opening song, “Synchronicity I”, which is in a 6/4 time signature. It covers some of the topics that are brought up in the album, that being incidences of coincidence:
    With one breath, with one flow
    You will know: Synchronicity

    A sleep trance, a dream dance
    A shared romance: Synchronicity

    A connecting principle
    Linked to the invisible
    Almost imperceptible
    Something inexpressible
    Science insusceptible
    Logic so inflexible
    Causally connectible
    Yet nothing is invincible

    The song slowly builds in mood, it sounds a bit soulful and jazz but also distant. Foreign? Worldly? The song’s last verse is the climax of the story, and is the key towards what lurks inside of the album. It maybe heady, but one can be satisfied in knowing with the first step forward:
    It’s so deep, it’s so wide
    You’re inside

    Effect without a cause
    Sub-atomic laws, scientific pause

  • “Walking In Your Footsteps” may sound like a slight variation of Toto’s “Africa”, with its slight musical nods to the forests and oceans, but it tells a story that isn’t so happy and loving. It goes back 50,000,000 years ago when some of the first creatures walked the planet. Sting sings about what the character of the song sees, but when he says the song’s title, it implies that if we as humans do not watch our steps, we will one day become extinct. The final verse of the song was printed on the album’s lyric sheet, but not heard in the final album mix. The only way one could hear it was if they went to see the band live, and it is there where Sting reveals the moral of the story:
    Fifty million years ago
    They walked upon the planet so
    They live in a museum
    It’s the only place you’ll see ’em

    By continuing to say that we are walking in the footsteps of the dinosaur, perhaps our evolution will lead to our inevitable end. The song comes to a close with Sting getting biblical by saying “they say the meek shall inherit the earth.” One may be lead to ask “what or who are the meek, and if we as humans are in a slow demise, who is running us? Or who are we allowing to run us?”

  • “O My God” is a man speaking out to his spiritual maker, asking for someone to fill the void in his life. He is, of course, talking to himself, hoping that his inner dialogue will lead to answers that we, as humans, will ask ourselves for life:
    Everyone I know is lonely
    and God’s so far away,
    And my heart belongs to no one
    So now sometimes I pray
    Please take the space between us
    And fill it up some way
    Take the space between us
    and fill it up some way

    My favorite part of the song is when Sting revisits the second verse from “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”. Again, a completely different song from a completely different album, but by bringing it into this song he is able to make it fit and appropriate for the theme, a synchronicity:
    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

  • “Mother” is Andy Summers’ contribution to the album, a track that some fans and critics have called the weirdest song on Synchronicity. To me, it seems Summers decided to bring the lyrical mentality of their non-LP B-sides onto the album. It may be disturbing that Summers compares his tentative romantic interests to his mother. It is never revealed whether he needs motherly love or is warped by his upbringing, but the vocal torment he has through his screams means that that connection, even though unconnected, will continue to punish him.
  • “Miss Gradenko” is a Stewart Copeland composition that touches on a possible romance at a place where events should not happen. Is it political, is it social, or a mixture of both? By the end of the song, clothes have been removed and a seduction is in process, with no one knowing a thing but the two involved.

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  • “Synchronicity II” may sound nothing like “Synchronicity I” that opens the album, and maybe that’s the point. The song, released as the album’s third single, touches on a man going through his day, from the point he wakes up to going through his work day, and eventually returning back home. He is completely stressed, which is expressed as “the pain upstairs that makes his eyeballs ache” and while he doesn’t have to go home, he knows that’s where he has to go. At the end of each verse, it may seem that the Scottish Loch ness monster has absolutely nothing to do with the work day being described, but he is comparing his daily activities to that of the monster that is unknown, but always seems to return to the surface. End of Side 1.

    I was in college (and) “Synchronicity II” was one of the last 45 RPM records I ever bought, and I had to forgo food to do it. (The song) was dramatic, different from everything else and used instruments in ways I rarely heard. Remember the ping-pong steps guitar riff? Almost like listening to rubber bands being plucked but – as a transition? Very effective.” -Donna (@konanut)

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  • “Every Breath You Take” was released as the album’s first single on May 20, 1983. What people seemed to enjoy about this mid-tempo song was that it came off as a love song, something to pass along to a loved one, but by the last verse, the voice sounds like an obsessed stalker. The bridge itself is quite beautiful, as it describes someone who has departed or is no longer there:
    Since you’ve gone I’ve 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

    It is that point in the song where the direction of things makes a unique turn, and it’s not a nice one. The song would become The Police’s biggest hit and according to Wikipedia, Sting’s biggest money-maker, providing him at least $2000 a day from radio airplay and streaming. Not bad for a song where the primary theme is “I may not be with you, but I may be around the corner looking at or for you. Trust me.”

    What I thought was cool was that The Police would present the video in different shades, coordinating with the blue, red, and yellow paint strips on the cover. A version would be with a red tint, another would be in yellow. There was also a version of the video where the colors would change throughout, and these were shown in the year of the album. Eventually, MTV and VH-1 would keep the standard black & white version in rotation.

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  • “King Of Pain” was the follow-up single to “Every Breath You Take”, and the only single out of the album’s four where a music video was not made. Sting compares himself to various things, beings, or people who are caught in some type of trauma, from a skeleton chocking on a crust of bread to a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web. Even though he has nothing to do with those items, he can relate to that trauma and stress, and has done so throughout his life. It is a bit amazing that someone like Weird Al Yankovic can turn that around to create a parody like “King Of Suede”.

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  • If lines like “just like that old man in that book by Nabokov” didn’t lead people to a library or encyclopedia for a definition, then the next song would. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” is the album’s fourth single, a song that has to do with making a choice between two evils, which is clear in the song’s second line, “caught between the Scylla and Charybdis”, referring to Greek sea monsters, which also goes back a few songs with discussion about the Loch Ness monster. When the song leads to Sting singing “then you’ll find your servant is your master”, it has him realizing that the two evils will always be joined, no matter how bad it is, and perhaps we ourselves are one of the evils in the equation. Or perhaps the fight between the two evils are nothing more than our own.

  • The album closes with the beautiful “Tea In The Sahara”, which tells the tale of three people who are seeking the presence of a specific man. The man meets up with them to grant one of their wishes, and that is merely to have tea with him in a desert. While they would like to have more meetings like this, it never happens in the same way again, if at all. Their initial obsession becomes something that ends in tragedy, which in a way describes the circle of life we all experience. The demise of us will happen, but at the same time, someone else may be having their first cup of tea. Even though The Police had become worldly with their touring, they always remained very British in their music and lyrics, and while the music direction on Synchronicity may sound different, they remained a ska and reggae band until the end with “Tea In The Sahara” being a very laid back reggae song that falls into a warm dub.

    While it is known as the final song on the album, it actually isn’t. “Murder By Numbers” was first released as the non-LP B-side to “Every Breath You Take”, and was released as a bonus track on the cassette and CD versions of Synchronicity. The song was co-written by Sting and Summers, and comes in the tradition of Summers’ more sinister songs like “Friends”, which details the story of a man who asks for his friends to come over, only so he can eat them. This one covers the killing of people and how easy the task is, especially when you bring in people to help. As the song’s final verse states, maybe murder is a pleasure:
    But you can reach the top of your profession
    If you become the leader of the land,
    For murder is the sport of the elected,
    And you don’t need to lift a finger of your hand

    “Someone To Talk To”, the B-side to “King Of Pain”, is a Summers track, and his sinister side is much calmer, as he realizes some of his flaws, knows he fucked up in the relationship he had, and simply asks for something sensible, a bit of calm in his life.

    “Once Upon A Daydream” was released as the B-side to “Synchronicity II”, and while it begins as a calm tale of romance and possible marriage, it turns into quite the opposite with the second verse:
    Once her daddy found out
    He threw her to the floor
    He killed her unborn baby
    And kicked me from the door
    Once upon a nightmare
    I bought myself a gun
    I blew her daddy’s brains out
    Now hell has just begun

    The third verse has the man regretting the task, stating that what started out as someone who wanted to sweet his woman away turned into someone wasting his life and dreams away. The song ends with him clearly stating this was nothing more than a daydream, and one that has the listener wondering if he prefers it that way, or if he would like for similar dreams to return,.

    Synchronicity is my favorite Police album, although it very much has battles with Zenyatta Mondatta and Ghost In The Machine, ahtough for my all-time favorite Police song, that honor will always be “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”. I loved Synchronicity not only for its music, but the fact that it was released with 36 different covers.

    I remember the album not only for what was contained within, but for the effect its music had on me and some of the events that were happening in my life. My dad had wanted to join a small music group for bar gigs, as a means to make some extra money. He had auditioned at the restaurant and chose to sing Hall & Oates’ “One On One”. He was asked to join, and I clearly remember going to the leader of the band for a jam session. The song my dad chose was “Every Breath You Take”. It was the hit song, so it would make sense that he would chose a song of-the-moment. Three weeks after the release of Synchronicity, my dad died. I remember holding the cassette in my hand, thinking of the music and more importantly, how it was the last album my dad bought for me. During that week, I heard the bridge in “Every Breath You Take” a bit differently:
    Since you’ve gone I’ve 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

    I had interpreted those words as one that dealt with how I was feeling at the time. The man that I had learned a lot from, and hoped to learn from in my soon-to-come teen eyars, was no longer there. I had learned from TV shows that I was supposed to become “the man of the house” but it’s different when you’re actually confronted with it. At the age of 12, I was not ready for that.

    I bought all four singles from Synchronicity just so I could enjoy all of the B-sides, including the live version of “Tea In The Sahara” that was on “Wrapped Around Your Finger”. When I bought the 4th and final single from the album, I knew that we were only a few months away from moving from Honolulu. My parents had plans on moving to Canada for a complete change of pace, a different way of living. When my dad died, my mom decided to continue with the move but to be closer to her sister, who lived in Washington State. I had always wanted to finish school in Honolulu, for I had all of my friends and liked many girls, a few of who were friends with me, at least in an 8th grade capacity. Who knows, maybe I would fall in love, or fall in and out of love of number of times, maybe go to prom, get my first car, start a family… all the possibilities, and to be able to experience this with those friends would have been great. But I did not. My mom also wanted to move us because she felt things in Honolulu were going for the worse, and also did not want to see our education go to waste. My sister and I both went to public school, but as with some teens in Hawai’i, perhaps going down a bad side would have lead to drugs or violence. I was (and still am) a nerd, I wasn’t about to touch any shit, I loved school and had plans on taking it to a college level. We eventually moved right before the summer of 1984, and that was that. By then, Prince’s “When Doves Cry” was dominating the airwaves and MTV. Synchronicity was now last year’s album, but one that would always be one that I marked as the time in my life where some changes were made, or where I had to make a mad rush to change to embrace what would come, whatever it would be.

    Before this move happened, I did get a chance to see The Police perform live at the Aloha Stadium on February 25, 1984. Bryan Adams and Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble opened up, with Stevie Ray Vaughn pointing at me, Jimi Hendrix style, during his solo in “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. There was also a man who juggled for The Jacksons. It was an incredible show, and when they showed how many people attended on the stadium’s score board (somewhere close to 33,000), the crowd went nuts. I had been aware of how the band was on the Sunchronicity tour through the concert that was shown on Showtime, but it’s another thing to experience in person. I left the Aloha Stadium barefoot because I had went there in slippers and broke them having fun in there. It would be my last concert as a Honolulu resident.
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    Yet with all that happened in my life 30 years ago, I can still listen to an album that sounds incredible, even though it had taken years for me to fully understand what was being said. Things happen for a reason, things may happen without us ever knowing it, but perhaps those things are happening with some sense of union. What is that missing link that we continue to search for in our lives? Maybe we’ll never know unless we truly look into ourselves to see the full picture. Or find a way to connect things for the sake of figuring out this puzzle called life.

    A star fall
    A phone call
    It joins all

  • THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: The Police “Ghost In The Machine (JB Deluxe Edition)”

    My good friend Herc of the Herc’s Hideaway blog has been doing some good things with his posts, many of which feature his own Spotify lists, so I decided to borrow his idea and try it out for myself.

    Last weekend, I started thinking about a few of my favorite Police songs, one thing lead to another and I started compiling my MP3’s and creating my versions of my favorite albums. The Police were and are one of my favorite bands, and I was lucky enough to see them in February 1984 at the Aloha Stadium on their Synchronicity tour. I always go back and forth on what I feel is my favorite album by The Police, a battle that I enjoy going through because in truth, I don’t have to battle, When I do end up listening to them in different combinations, I sometimes listen to it from a different perspective while other times I discover once again while I love it in the first place.

    I decided to create my own Deluxe Edition of their fourth album, 1981’s Ghost In The Machine, which received a huge boost in promotion due to the newly-created MTV. The band’s first two albums was more college radio-friendly, and the songs from those albums we now know and love (a few of which are classic rock radio staples) didn’t get much attention until the release of their third album, 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta. Radio did take kindly to “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and “Don’t Stand So Close TO Me” as they were the album’s two singles, but back then, radio was much more open to playing album tracks, or at least I had radio stations in Honolulu that played each song on the album as if it was Led Zeppelin’s (untitled 4th album) because I certainly remember hearing “Bombs Away”, “Man In A Suitcase”, “Voices In My Head”, “Driven To Tears”, and “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around” as if they were hits.

    Before MTV, the only place I saw Police videos was on Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10. as both “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” went as high as #10 on the Billboard Singles chart. With Ghost In The Machine the group had made a documentary film with musician Jools Holland which featured the group talking about their recording sessions in Montserrat and in between, you would see staged “performances” of the band playing a few of the songs. Instead of the band going out of their way to offer live versions, it would be lip-synched videos but this was cool, since groups who were doing videos at the time were doing the same thing.

    As a kid, I thought this was the coolest looking video, as you could see the band performing the song. I’d even make a dumb dance out of the way Sting moves, because I was a dumb ass 11 year old thinking that that type of music should be danced in that fashion. Back then, ska was considered “white man reggae”, and their album Regatta de Blanc even said so, so people initially thought ska was some white man creation. It would be awhile before people realized that ska came before reggae and both were rooted from the same island. Nonetheless, for years when I would hear this song, I would always the accent of the bass and drums completely different, and wondered why the group would switch the page when they started singing “we are spirits in the material world”. It wasn’t until long after the fact that I had heard the first verse of this song on the wrong accent, and that it was the same ska rhythm from the first note. Even now, when I remember to count the rhythm from the first bass note instead of the drums, I catch myself falling back into the song’s proper rhythm.

    I liked this song the first time I heard it, but did not realize until a few days ago why I may enjoy it. I love the mood and feel of the song, and when I understood the lyrics and could relate to them from personal experiences, I felt them even more. More on that in a bit.

    The video was very cool, as it wasn’t just the band in the recording studio, but had them playing around in the production area, where they were playing with the soundboard to the point where they’re dancing around and on it. But the best part is when they’re outside of the recording studio, playing the song with the local people of Montserrat where drummer Stewart Copeland gets a chance to have local musicians play the steel drums while family and friends dance around. The whole section is silly and goofy, but the part that somehow meant a lot to me was the section of the video where Sting sings a simple “we oh oh/we oh oh” part. Sting is shown hamming it up to the camera with the light blaring brightly, as Copeland is dancing around and guitarist Andy Summers is hanging on to anyone willing to share a dance. But during the “we oh oh” chant, Sting is circling the camera as you see everyone dancing or simply being there to witness the creation of a film. In the background is a man behind him, sitting down by a tree, with shorts and slippers.

    It’s insignificant, but what I saw was a man just relaxing, loving his surroundings, nodding his head and rocking out to the music with a huge smile on his face. It always looked cool, but as I got older, I realized that for me, that’s what the song means to me. That’s what music means to me: just hanging out with friends, chillin’ out, rocking out to yourself without a care in the world. I fele that guy by the tree represented me, not unlike the kid on the stairwell in that Sesame Street performance of Stevie Wonder doing “Superstition” (cue to the 4:09 mark).

    On my bucket list: I want to be able to go to that tree or area in Montserrat, sit down and rock out to some music, and have someone click that photo for me. Freedom.

    As I was listening to “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, I had an epiphany. I realized the steel drum section reminded me a lot of a song that was a personal favorite of my dad’s, Loggins & Messina’s “Vahevala”. It’s a song that I loved enough to where I’d call it my own, and one where I realized my dad had been a fan of ska, reggae, and Caribbean music long before I felt I introduced it to him in 1982. My dad had been giving me hints and lessons all along, and I always identify this song as one where perhaps if my dad was looking for a sense of his own freedom, he would find a way to “sail away” because “you better be back on board by the break of day”. I always knew the steel drums of “Every Little Thing…” was there, but it was like “oh, it has a similar vibe”.

    If I put on “Vahevala”, I am locked to the song from beginning to end, anticipating the influence of Indian classical music and John Coltrane in the saxophone duo solo, and just waiting for it to come to its inevitable conclusion. Beautiful.
    “Invisible Sun” was a song that told about the hazards of war, but in Honolulu I wondered what could be an “invisible sun” for it was always there. It would be awhile before I understood the song’s true meaning. While not on the album version, I always liked the video for its extended ending, where the song continues and Sting sings “all I want is to go somewhere… far away from the cold night air…” Then, like now, the invisible sun gives us hope when the whole day’s done.

    “Demolition Man” was the “angry” song, and this sounded nothing like what I knew The Police for. I was not aware they had punk rock roots or that Copeland was known as Klark Kent, but this just sounded angry, and in the process, cool. I loved the feedback in the song, and thought it was great when Sting spazzed out to the point where he ends up breaking his microphone stand. The fast-paced editing would eventually become known as an “MTV-style edit” or “MTV edit”, where it wouldn’t concentrate on one thing or scene for any given length of time, it would just have multiple shots and jump cuts that were often be random, but would make for good visuals. MTV didn’t create it, but there was a time when it seemed almost every video on MTV had a section dedicated to that type of quick edits that would lead to headaches for some people, an eyefuck for everyone else. The song and video was just perceived as sinister looking and sounding.

    Of course, one can’t talk about “Demolition Man” without speaking about Grace Jones, who actually released the song first before The Police did. The song was released on her album Nightclubbing, seven months before The Police released Ghost In The Machine so there is a generation that may know the song as hers and not theirs. The song would gain a following when her performance from her One Man Show concert film was shown on MTV and USA Network’s Night Flight. Jones had always been the outlandish one but someone who people always had respect for due to her individuality and style. She proclaimed she was the demolition man, but again, as the sample goes, she was a a woman who some had mistaken as a man, and here she was in a French club. A man singing “I Need A Man” to a bunch of men. She fucked with people’s perceptions and did it incredibly well, so as the demolition man (and as you can see, multiple versions of her manly self), she was ready to do damage.

    While not released as a single in the U.S., it was cool to see “One World (Not Three)” get a video. While “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and “Spirits In The Material World” may not have been obviously ska or reggae influenced for some, “One World (Not Three)” was. It was the band’s way of saying that we all lived in one world, and that we shouldn’t have to complicate things by creating a fictitious “third world” for people who may not live the way we do.

    I also loved the intro to “Secret Journey” and for awhile could not figure out how that sound was created until I saw The Police In Montserrat film, where Summers would show how he came up with the sound (click to 3:42 mark). I would realize that that sound had showed up in “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” in the part of the song where you’d hear a voice saying “help me, help me”. The idea of someone going into a secret journey seemed interesting, someone who purposely traveled without anyone knowing where he was or his intent. For years, I used to think the lyric said “when you’ve made your secret journey, you will be an old man” (it’s actually “you will be a holy man”), but both are fitting and make sense.

    The album would have three officially singles, with “Shambelle”, “Flexible Strategies”, and “Low Life” as their non-LP B-sides. A few were recorded during the sessions while others may have been done the year before, but they’re placed in the playlist below because they are attached to the A-sides that helped give them life. “How Stupid Mr. Bates”, “I Burn For You” and “A Kind Of Loving” were both released in 1982 on the Brimstone & Treacle soundtrack, which also contained a number of Sting originals, slowly paving the way for the solo artist he would become three years later. Together, the addition of six songs help to show what the band were about and going through in 1981, and perhaps may show possible links towards the material they would end up developing for Synchronicity. In fact, “I Burn For You” would sound perfect between “King Of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger”.

    Some might think B-sides were a bit of filler or a waste of time, the kind of material that wasn’t placed on the album deliberately. However, Summers was quoted in the Message In A Box liner notes as saying “I always thought the B-sides were the place when we had the chance to loosen up. Some of our best material came up when we jammed – in soundchecks, for example, B-sides can be less conventional, more hardcore.” In fact, listen to “Flexible Strategies”. Copeland called the song nothing more than a request to create a B-side, so they went into the studio, banged this out for 10 minutes and boom, B-side. Copeland called it “a disgrace”, even though its very funky vibe could have easily been enhanced a few years later if Prince and his Madhouse project decided to make it into its own incredible jam. Many artists would love to have a disgrace as cool as this.

    Enjoy the album as you know it and listen to the six additional tracks in this digital Deluxe Edition of Ghost In The Machine that, for now, does not exist in the world, material or otherwise.


    (Mahalo nui to Herc of Herc’s Hideaway for the snatching of the format.)

    VIDEO/OPINION: Kanye West’s “Runaway: The Movie”

  • As reported a few days ago, Kanye West revealed the cover art for his new album, now having an additional word in the title: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In Twitter, West stated that the cover was banned, at least in the U.S. The buzz had begun. A day later, West said that the banned cover would be one of five different covers. In my editorial piece, I felt that perhaps it was nothing more than a promotional tactic, the idea that a cover can be banned in 2010 is out but not entirely out of the question. Even before the news of this being one of five covers, I felt that perhaps he would just reveal a new image each week, and maybe the week before the release date, we’d see the final version.
  • This isn’t the first album cover that has been banned or changed in some fashion, nor is it the first album to be released with multiple covers. Jane’s Addiction‘s third album, Ritual de lo Habitual, featured a portrait put together by vocalist Perry Farrell that pictured him with his wife and lady friend. While it was illustrated nudity, some felt it was too naughty, so Farrell released the album in a “freedom of speech”-type cover. It was released this way on vinyl, cassette, and CD.
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    The Rolling Stones are known for the Andy Warhol-designed cover for 1971’s Sticky Fingers, but in Spain, their record label didn’t want people to see Joe Dallesandro‘s, um, “impression”, so an alternate cover was made. Arguably, a photo of fingers in what may be cranberry sauce almost comes off as blood, and maybe more sinister.
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    Led Zeppelin released six different covers for what would end up being their last album, In Through The Out Door.
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    The Police released not two, three, or six, but 36 different covers for their 1983 album, Synchronicity. A Tribe Called Quest released three variations for their album Midnight Marauders, The Roots played with alternate covers not once, but twice, for Things Fall Apart (five different covers), and The Tipping Point (promotionally, each member of the group had their own cover made up for them, although in stores and online, two covers were made and released.)

  • Playing with album cover art may be an oddity in 2010, especially as there is a belief that the album format is dead, but artists like West are letting fans realize that it’s not, it is still very much about the full-length experience. This leads us to West’s new thing to experience, that of his 33 minute “film”, Runaway. In my day, we called it a long-form video but since music videos are no longer on MTV and VH-1, people only remember videos by what they see on YouTube. People are comparing Runaway, directed by Hype Williams, to the works of Michael Jackson, since he was known for being extravagant with his videos, but take a look at it. It is nothing more than a very good, artistic, abstract “highlight reel”, on cassingles and CD singles they would call this the equivalent of a “snippet tape”, where all you would hear are excerpts. This video serves as a sampler of what’s to come on his album. I wouldn’t compare this to MJ as I would to artists who created long form videos that served as a sampler for their albums, including Tin Machine:


    and The Roots.

    So what about the West video?

  • For one, it is obviously a big budget music video, or for the sake of not arguing, a film. It’s a “mini-film” that represents the music that is on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and if you’re watching to hear the music, it shows that he is still being very intricate and deliberate with what he’s saying and how he’s saying it. You can complain about his methods of promotion, of his music or self, but he’s putting an incredible amount into his music and that pays off in the end. As for the imagery, it is not typical of an average music video, although you might see it in a lot of videos from Mexico or Spain, or something more arty in the indie rock world. I will go as far as to say the video reminds me of some of the more left-of-center films of the 70’s, such as Ken Russell‘s The Devils, Pier Paolio Pasolini‘s Salò (The 120 Days of Sodom), and Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s The Holy Mountain. All of these films play with spirituality and human nature, and while West’s video is not religious in tone, you do have the visuals of a bird that may be a fallen angel, which of course leads to the questions “who is the fallen angel?” and “who exactly does the fallen angel represent?”

    Fans on blogs and boards have touched on West’s use of mythology, bringing up something Brian “B+” Cross stated in a reply to me on Twitter: “what is he really saying retelling the Phoenix myth? Neoclassical navalgazzery?” In comic books, one of the more celebrated stories in the Marvel Universe and X-Men legacy involves Jean Gray, known earlier on as Phoenix or Dark Phoenix. There was a storyline where Gray commits suicide, something you never experienced in a comic book, especially not in the 1980’s. Now, I haven’t been into The X-Men since the 80’s, but I definitely remember the image on The Uncanny X-Men #136, citing the death of “the child of light and darkness”.
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic.

    Now go back to the album cover. Is West suggesting that he is “the child of light and darkness”, the dark beast and the woman of light complexion, of good and evil, two opposite forces uniting as one?

    I think that will be a recurring theme for him in the next two years, the idea of renewal and resurrection of himself and hip-hop, if he is exploring the idea that hip-hop is dead. Is that what West is doing, and if so, is he doing it well? Maybe the unique imagery is fooling us into thinking this is good, or as B+ stated, “Runaway was like anorexic Cocteau”, in reference to filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

  • Compared to most hip-hop music videos, even the more independent works, this is fairly avant-garde and it may move someone to question West and whether or not he’s evil, demonic, or a disciple of Lord Satana. In a recent tweet, West said he calls his works “commercial art” and mentions it almost as if it was an epiphany. He is a commercial artist creating art, that’s what an artist is, but in a time when the public is unsure of what they’re seeing and hearing, that art is either unknown or brushed off as being too high-brow, especially by a black artist, as if great works of art by black people or anyone “of color” does not (or cannot) exist.
  • It’s not exactly a color thing, but it will be brought up because that is what’s being presented in the artwork for the cover and the imagery in the video. You see an ugly beast on the cover, that’s one issue. You see a ballerina on another cover, what makes one more beautiful and accepted over the other? Is it the colors and shades used, or are we in control of the unseen and unknown beast, as portrayed on the cover? Do we put blame on the beast when it is evil and sinister, and do we only praise what’s beautiful when it has an established and accepted look? Watch the video, it’s very elegant, and when was the last time you said that for a hip-hop video? It’s not hip-hop, and yet the nature of hip-hop suggests that it is. Hip-hop, at its best, has always been about a sponge that sucks up anything and everything, and spits it out in a new way. Writer/journalist Todd “Stereo” Williams watched the video, and posted on Twitter that “(The Pharcyde) did the ‘white servants’ thing in the “Runnin” video 15 years ago, because Runaway features scenes that look like it could have been pulled from that video. In a recent Twitter search about the “white servants” in the video, a lot of people are taken aback by it, but it was done before to great effect.

    While it may not be 1995, it’s 2010, and a younger generation who have no idea of the references and suggestions might thing it’s revolutionary, but they’re not. The execution is great, but what I’m more fascinated with is more or less the telling of the story, whatever the story may be.

  • If anything, Runaway: The Movie and his latest music is making people discuss and decipher the art. Everyone knows what it’s like to go into the club, talk in the club, get high in the club, and drink up and sigh in the club, maybe get a little nub while piling up on the grub. Now, he’s giving you maybe not something different, but “something else”. That “something else” has existed for years in other places, but now it’s being presented to a new audience, a new generation, in a nicely dusted fashion. It’s the telling of the story that will determine its fate, and we’re only in the intro of the telling of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Maybe the end credits to this story will roll on December 20, 2012, the day before the much hyped end of the world, and maybe that beast on his album cover will “dominate and smile over us for all eternity (or its last 24 hours). Either that, or he’ll laugh at it all and start on his next album, to be released on the end of the world’s first anniversary in 2013.

    (Mahalo nui to B+ of Mochilla for the feedback and last minute addition to this article, and Donald Ely for reminding me of the crotch ID error. I wrote this article late in the evening, I’ll blame that.)

  • FROM THE BOX: Honolulu prostitutes bow down to The Police (February 1984)

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    Walk the streets for money/
    you don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right

    It would end up being The Police‘s last North American concert before doing a few shows in Australia, and then calling it a day. I’m prouud to say that I was one of the 33,000+ people at the Aloha Stadium that night which featured Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Bryan Adams, and a juggler who opened up for The Jacksons as opening acts.

    The Police’s arrival was big news, as it always was with any mainland or international band. 1983 was very much the band’s year with Synchronicity, which ended up with four hit singles. It was also the first time the band had returned to Hawai’i since they were a young and new ska band on the college circuit (they played at the University Of Hawai’i, footage of which was captured and shown on the KGMB-9 television show, Hawaiian Moving Company.) When they first arrived, there was no such thing as MTV. In February, they were the darlings of the music cable network.

    The Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser were the two daily newspapers and they would feature a number of articles before and after the show. This one is from after the show, and I believe was taken from the Star-Bulletin. It’s a story that could’ve happened anywhere, but it shows that if you are a lady of the night, you have to have priorities: money or concert.

    You can read an enlarged version of the clipping by clicking the image above.