“Every Breath You Take” was a career single for The Police, who were already one of the hottest rock bands around at the time of the song’s release in summer ’83. “Breath” was the #1 single of 1983, which was not a shabby year for pop records. It topped the pop charts for eight years, The Police’s only number one hit. It also won the Grammy for Song of the Year. Big, big, big record.
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I was hip to The Police at a young age, thanks to my new wave-loving neighbor Andrew Coleman. By the time “Every Breath You Take” and Synchronicity were released, I believe Andrew was in college and thus out of the picture. So I discovered “Every Breath You Take” more or less on my own (American Top 40 helped). That red A&M single quickly gained a place on my growing stack of 45s, which was pretty impressive for a 7-year old’s collection.
Sting has often expressed frustration about “Every Breath You Take”‘s lyrics being misinterpreted. I’m not sure how folks can listen to the words-and Sting’s pained howl-and feel like “oh, hey, here’s my wedding song.” If someone was to dedicate “Every Breath You Take” to me? I have three words for you, Jack: re. straining. order.
The instrumental side of The Police is often overlooked in favor of Sting’s lyricism, but special props have to be given here to Andy Summers’ guitar part. I’d imagine there’s some effects happening here (I’m not a guitar player, y’all), but Summers’ vibey axe cuts quite the striking figure in this song.
Can you imagine being a Grammy voter in 1984 having to choose between “Every Breath You Take” and “Beat It” for Record of the Year? The other three nominees-“Flashdance…What A Feeling”, “Maniac” and “All Night Long (All Night)”-weren’t slouches either. Yikes.