The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Music

"every Breath You Take" by the Police

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"Every Breath You Take"
Single by The Police
from the album Synchronicity
B-side "Murder by Numbers"
Released 20 May 1983
Format Vinyl record (7")
Recorded December 1982
Genre New Wave, pop rock
Length 4:14
Label A&M - AM 117
Writer(s) Sting
Producer The Police, Hugh Padgham
Certification Gold (RIAA,[1] BPI)
The Police singles chronology
"Secret Journey"
"Every Breath You Take"
"Wrapped Around Your Finger"
Audio sample

file info · help

"Every Breath You Take" is a song by The Police on the band's 1983 album Synchronicity, written by Sting and Andy Summers (but officially credited to Sting only). The single was one of the biggest hits of 1983, topping the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for eight weeks and the UK Singles Chart for four weeks. It also topped the Billboard Top Tracks chart for nine weeks. Sting won "Song of the Year" and The Police won "Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal" at the Grammy Awards of 1984 for "Every Breath You Take". The song ranked No. 84 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and No. 25 on Billboard's Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs.[2] This song is considered to be The Police's signature song, and in 2010 was estimated to generate between a quarter and a third of Sting's music publishing income.[3]


Origins and songwriting

The lyrics are the words of a character of dubious nature, who is watching "every breath you take; every move you make".
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.
Sting later said he was disconcerted by how many people think the song is more positive than it is. He insists it's about the obsession with a lost lover, the jealousy and surveillance that follows. "One couple told me 'Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!' I thought, 'Well, good luck.'"[5] When asked why he appears angry in the music video Sting told BBC Radio 2, "I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle, little love song."[6]
According to the Back to Mono box-set book, "Every Breath You Take" is influenced by a Gene Pitney song titled "Every Breath I Take". The song's structure is a variation on the Classical rondo form with its AABACABA structure, a form rarely found in modern popular music.
The demo of the song was recorded in an eight track suite in North London's Utopia studios and featured Sting singing over a Hammond organ.[7] While recording, Summers came up with a guitar part inspired by Béla Bartók that would later become a trademark lick, and played it straight through in one take. He was asked to put guitar onto a simple backing track of bass, drums, and a single vocal, with Sting offering no directive beyond "make it your own."[8]
The recording process was fraught with difficulties as personal tensions between the band members, particularly Sting and Stewart Copeland, came to the fore.[7] Producer Hugh Padgham claimed that by the time of the recording sessions, Sting and Copeland "hated each other", with verbal and physical fights in the studio common.[7] The tensions almost led to the recording sessions being cancelled until a meeting involving the band and the group's manager, Miles Copeland, resulted in an agreement to continue.[7] The drum track was largely created through separate overdubs of each percussive instrument, with the main backbeat created by simultaneously playing a snare and a gong drum.[7] Keyboard parts were added from Roland guitar synthesisers, a Prophet-5 and an Oberheim synthesiser.[7] The single-note piano in the middle eight was recommended by Padgham, inspired by similar work that he had done with the group XTC.[7]

Music video

The song had a music video (directed by duo Godley & Creme) that was praised for its black-and-white cinematography. Both MTV (1999) and VH1 (2002) named it as one of the best music videos ever, placing it 16th and 33rd in their respective top 100 lists. Daniel Pearl won the first MTV cinematography award for his work on the video.[9]

Track listing

7": A&M / AM 117
  1. "Every Breath You Take" – 4:13
  2. "Murder By Numbers" – 4:31
2x7": A&M / AM 117
  1. "Every Breath You Take" – 4:13
  2. "Murder By Numbers" – 4:31
  1. "Man In A Suitcase" (live) – 2:18
  2. "Truth Hits Everybody '83" -3:34
  • rare 2x7" single


Charts and sales

Peak positions

Chart (1983) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[10] 8
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[11] 8
Canada (RPM)[12] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[13] 3
Germany (Media Control AG)[14] 8
Ireland (IRMA)[15] 1
Italy (FIMI)[16] 3
New Zealand (RIANZ)[17] 6
Norway (VG-lista)[18] 2
South Africa (Springbok Radio Top 20)[19] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[20] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[21] 6
UK Singles Chart[22] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[23] 1
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[23] 5
US Billboard Dance/Disco Top 80[23] 26
US Billboard Top Tracks[23] 10


Country Date Certifications
(sales thresholds)
United Kingdom 1983 Silver[24]
United States 1983 Gold[25]


In 1999, "Every Breath You Take" was listed as one of the Top 100 Songs of the Century by BMI.[26][27] In 2003, VH1 ranked the song the #2 greatest Break-up song of all time. And also as of 2003, Sting was still taking in an average of $2000 per day in royalties for the then 20-year-old song "Every Breath You Take."[28]
In October 2007, Sting was awarded a Million-Air certificate for 9 million airplays of "Every Breath You Take" at the prestigious BMI Awards show in London, England, with only Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" a close second at 8 million air plays.[29]

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