Performer: The Police
Original Release: Synchronicity
Definitive Version: Live!, 1995
It’s impossible to not think of the video when I hear this song, and to a certain extent, I’ll always see Sting hopping in slow motion amongst the candles.
The first time I encountered the video, it was for one of those K-tel type hits albums, and King of Pain was played over a snippet of Sting surrounded by candles, so that’s what I thought the video was for. One day I was having dinner at Mike’s place with his family, and Steve was there. I mentioned this video and Steve said he’d seen the video. King of Pain, right? No, he said and just pointed at his finger. Oh, Wrapped Around Your Finger. Huh.
I don’t know why, but I never could figure out how they did the video until I read the secret, which, of course, was about as obvious as it proved elusive to me at the time: They sped the song up a few clicks and filmed all of the guys miming to the faster version. Then when they slowed the audio track to the correct speed, it made everyone appear to be playing the song in perfect time but slow motion.
Speaking of things that proved obvious yet elusive, Beth and I had a tumultuous relationship. And once the tumult spilled over to Mike’s house. I’m not 100 percent sure of the details, but I’m 99 percent certain that this particular incident took place over the mid-semester break in October 1983, before this song hit as a single but after the album had been played to death in Beth’s basement.
At this point, Beth and I had been dating almost a year and a half, and I seemed to be no closer to the gates of paradise than I had been a year earlier. We went out one night, and started talking about that issue, and the talk turned into a pretty good fight in my car. She kept saying she just wasn’t ready, and at one point, I got so mad, I got out of the car and started to walk away.
Now think of this: It was my car. Where the Hell was I going to go? I had no idea, but it seemed like just the right dramatic move to accentuate my desire for her and frustration or somesuch thing. Now think of this: Beth was 16 at the time.
Yes, we had been dating for more than a year, but … 16, really? Beth was an old 16 when it comes to maturity—she was far more mature than I was—but it wasn’t as though she was making me wait unfairly. She was just a freakin’ kid.
At the time, of course, I couldn’t see that. I just saw the time that we had been dating and that I loved her and that I wanted her … bad. I was starting to think that this was turning into a waste of my time.
Beth then got out of the car and started walking in the other direction home, trumping my dramatic gesture with one of her own. Well, I wasn’t going to let her walk home—I wasn’t THAT immature—so I got back in my car, told her to get in and drove her home.
I thought that we were on the verge of breaking up if not broken up already, and I was pretty righteously upset, so I took refuge where I thought I could—at Mike’s. He and Steve were there playing a virtual golf game on Mike’s dad’s PC. It was the coolest thing I ever saw, like pong, only more complex. It put the Atari Scott and I had to shame.
I asked if I could join in, and they said sure. Finally at about 3 in the morning, Steve split, and I asked Mike if I could crash in his room. I didn’t want to go home. No problem.
At about 8 in the morning, however, Mike’s Mom came into the room and woke us up, saying “Will’s girlfriend is here.” Oh, great. She tracked me down here? What’s she doing here?
Undoubtedly looking scruffy, I went downstairs, and there was Beth standing at the back door porch, looking upset—and beautiful. She asked if we could talk, so I invited her in—to my friend’s home—and ushered her downstairs to the basement, so we could have a little privacy.
Beth started by apologizing for the night before, again saying that she loved me, but she was scared and wasn’t sure she was ready, etc., etc. Well, I didn’t need to hear it. One night’s sleep was enough to know that I didn’t want her to be gone just yet, so I immediately accepted her apology and apologized myself for my behavior.
The whole conversation took no more than 10 minutes before I was shooing her out of the house, so I could get home and clean myself up. Then I would call her so we could get together later that day.
I found out later from Mike that when Beth and I went downstairs, Mike’s mom asked him, “are they going to fight down in our basement?” No, far from it, fortunately. In fact, although nothing more eventful happened that break, when I came home for Thanksgiving a month later, as I recounted, Beth let me go below her beltline for the first time—a crucial and irreversible turning point.
How much of that was due to partaking of Mike’s basement to patch things up that fateful morning isn’t known, but I’m betting it had a little something to do with it. It turns out at that point in our relationship, Beth and I were at the precipice and very much wrapped around each other’s finger. Maybe we just needed a little push to take the final step.