Sunday, January 8, 2012

No. 879 – Every Breath You Take

Performer: Sting
Songwriter: Sting
Original Release: Synchronicity
Year: 1983
Definitive Version: Live Aid, 1985. Just Sting on guitar, Branford Marsalis on tenor sax and Phil Collins singing backup harmony.

Like a lot of people, I loved Synchronicity, but this song drove me nuts, because it was on the radio all the time. The spare, delicate version from Live Aid made this song for me.

And it was easy for it to insinuate itself after all that time hating the song, because it couldn’t help but conjure images of the basement at Beth’s house, where we would sneak off for alone time. This typically didn’t involve anything beyond heavy makeout sessions, because her parents were usually upstairs and although I was a young, healthy, heterosexual male, I didn’t have a death wish.

It was an awesome basement—her father’s domain. At the other end of the stairs in the main room was a sweet wet bar complete with stools and black vinyl padding on the side and edge. He had his trophy-glass display shelves behind the bar, and the refrigerator was well-stocked with his beverage of choice—Grain Belt, which was one of the more obscure beers to have in Columbus. Beth and I never raided the fridge, because back then neither of us drank.

The bar was in perfect harmony with the rest of that room, which had the finest in vinyl wood paneling, flat orange carpet and brown naugahyde sofa. Beth’s father was a big train guy. He had a big stack of train books by the sofa, and in the laundry room, he perpetually worked on the train layout that he never did finish. He built his own buildings and added minute details down to including nipples on the prostitutes upstairs in the saloon that he kept out of sight but Beth showed me one day.

If we didn’t have Synchronicity on 90 percent of the time during the time that we dated, it must have been Christmas time or we had the radio on instead, so this song went from being hated to tolerated to eventually liked. It was a fairly natural progression, given the circumstances.

And when it was time for me to go home, a shoe would come clunking down the steps. That was Beth’s father’s time bell: It was a 10-minute warning to look less disheveled and get upstairs before the second shoe—and the hammer—came down. Every move we made, he was watching us, all right.

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