The Police were old hands at the chart-topping game by the time they released their fifth album. They named the new one after a philosophical concept by the psychiatrist Carl Jung. Synchronicity, released on 17 June 1983, became their fourth UK No. 1 LP in a row when it went straight to the top of the chart dated eight days later. Little did their millions of fans know it would be their final studio album.
Included on the album is the bands iconic song, Every Breath You Take.
Although often thought of as a love song, the lyrics are the words of a possessive lover who is watching “every breath you take; every move you make”.
Sting later said he was disconcerted by how many people think it is a positive song. He insists it is about the obsession with a lost lover, and the jealousy that follows.
The demo was recorded in an eight-track suite in London’s Utopia studios and featured Sting singing over a Hammond organ.
A few months later, he presented it to his bandmates in Montserrat. While recording, Andy Summers came up with a guitar part inspired by Béla Bartók, that would later become the famous riff, and played it in one take. He was asked to put guitar onto a simple backing track, with Sting offering no directive beyond “make it your own.”
Summers later said: “This was a difficult one to get, because Sting wrote a very good song, but there was no guitar on it. He had this Hammond organ thing that sounded like Billy Preston.
“It certainly didn’t sound like the Police, with that big, rolling synthesiser part. We spent about six weeks recording just the snare drums and the bass. It was a simple, classic chord sequence, but we couldn’t agree how to do it.”
Tensions were already running high within the Police, particularly between Sting and Copeland. Producer Hugh Padgham claimed that by the time of the recording sessions, Sting and Copeland “hated each other”, with various fights occurring in the studio.
The tensions almost led to the recording sessions being cancelled until a meeting involving the band and the group’s manager, Miles Copeland (Stewart’s brother), resulted in an agreement to continue.
Copeland said: “In my humble opinion, this is Sting’s best song with the worst arrangement. I think Sting could have had any other group do this song and it would have been better than our version — except for Andy’s brilliant guitar part. “Basically, there’s an utter lack of groove. It’s a totally wasted opportunity for our band. Even though we made gazillions off of it, and it’s the biggest hit we ever had.”
The song is considered to be both The Police’s and Sting’s signature song, and in 2010 was estimated to bring in between a quarter and a third of Sting’s music publishing income.
In the US, it was the best-selling single of 1983 and fifth-best-selling single of the decade.
The song ranked number 84 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In 2015, the song was voted by the British public as the nation’s favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV. It topped both the UK and US charts, and was number one for nine weeks in the latter.
Learn more about the songs producer, Hugh Padgham, here!
Watch the video below to learn more about The Police and their hit song Every Breath You Take!