TYPE: Singles (The Police)
RELEASE DATE: 01 September 1980
RELEASE COUNTRY: UNITED KINGDOM
Sumner's Tales: Sting talks...
"I wanted to write a song about sexuality in the classroom. I'd done teaching practice at secondary schools and been through the business of having 15-year-old girls fancying me - and me really fancying them! How I kept my hands off them I don't know... Then there was my love for Lolita which I think is a brilliant novel. But I was looking for for the key for eighteen months and suddenly there it was. That opened the gates and out it came: the teacher, the open page, the virgin, the rape in the car, getting the sack, Nabakov, all that."
L'Historia Bandido, '81
"One of the best things about it (the guitar synthesiser) is that you can change from straight guitar right into guitar synthesiser in the middle of a song. Like 'Don't Stand So Close', the verse and chorus are played with just straight guitar, then the synthesiser comes in just by turning a rotary switch from one to ten. So when it comes to the solo part, I just whip it around and then I'm into the solo with the guitar synthesiser."
Andy Summers: Musician, 12/81
"I was a teacher but I never had a relationship with any of my pupils, I wouldn't want to. You have to remember we were blond bombshells at the time and most of our fans were young girls so I started role playing a bit. Let's exploit that. And it really worked. You know that single sold a million copies in Britain. A million. Imagine that now"
On the '86 remix...
"The poor guy who produced it, he was appalled by the venom that was apparent between us by then. We hadn't seen each other for a long time. It was impossible. So I fucked off. It wasn't very nice. But still, I liked what we did with this song. It seemed much more poignant than the original."
'Message In A Box' Liner Notes, '93
On the '86 remix...
"Well, my horse did a forward somersault and I was forced to dismount. I was entirely venomless, sedated as I was by painkillers, Bit I managed (accidentally, I swear) to fatally insult Sting. We exchanged long, mutually abusive letters and took turns in the studio recording over each other's parts. Finally, after wasting several weeks, Miles said, 'Look children, you will both have to share the same room to mix this track.' I had no problem with this and was there for the mix at 10 o'clock sharp. We proceeded to mix, while waiting all day for word of our esteemed leader. I was just getting hrumphy and beginning to make speeches when Sting showed up with a rose, a hug and a 12-inch switchblade."
Stewart Copeland: 'Message In A Box' Liner Notes, '93
On the '86 remix...
"What can you say That whole thing was absolutely tortuous. The track is all right, but the original's much better. This version took three weeks to record. I did my guitar part on the first night and the rest of the time it was Sting and Stewart arguing about whether the Fairlight or the Synclavier was better. The attempt to record a new album was doomed from the outset. The night before we went into the studio Stewart broke his collarbone falling off a horse and that meant we lost our last chance of recovering some rapport just by jamming together. Anyway, it was clear Sting had no real intention of writing any new songs for the Police. It was an empty exercise."
Andy Summers: 'Message In A Box' Liner Notes, '93
"It was based on a guitar figure which I think I stole from a song called 'Rock'n'Roll Woman'. This idea of a teacher, a Humbert Humbert character, appealed to me because I'd been a teacher before the Police. Also, to be frank, it was right in our market - a lot of teenage girls were buying our records. So the idea was, let's write a Lolita story. It became a deodorant advert, much to my chagrin. I came back from a tour once, turned on the telly and there it was in a commercial in which a girl in a swimsuit raised her arm and everybody fainted. I put an injunction on it, and then the advertising company and the deodorant people sued me for what they had lost. So it cost me a lot of money, but I got it stopped. Re-recording it in 1986 was my idea. But I like this version (the '86 remix), it's more melancholy and reflective than the original. I still hold that we broke up at the right time. The legend of the Police is intact. Bands are very difficult for people who are strong-willed and egocentric."
The Independent, 9/93
"After Sting had put the vocals on 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' we looked for something to lift the middle of the song. I came up with a guitar synthesiser. It was the first time we'd used it. I felt it worked really well."
Andy Summers: L'Historia Bandido, '81
On the '86 remix...
"Basically, we spent a couple of weeks re-recording that one track and that was pretty much it. We'd never played it that way before: the idea was to modernise it. Sting and Stewart had put down a rhythm track, since they were in London together before I got back. We did a lot of different things to get into it that first night in the studio. We changed the key slightly, and Sting put in one or two different chord changes. Then I improvised a whole new guitar part that Sting sings against. My part came together very quickly: three takes and I had it. The chorus guitar part especially seemed to work very well, so that became the basis for putting everything else down when we re-did the drums, re-did the synths, re-did the vocals. Obviously the overdubbing, especially the layered vocals and all, took a lot more time and work. And then I overdubbed an electric sitar part, for instance. But it's mostly just one guitar all the way through. That's keyboard synth on there this time: the original track four or five years ago was the first time I'd ever used my Roland guitar synth, for that break in the middle."
Andy Summers: Guitar Player, 4/87
On accusations of writing the worst rhyme in a song, i.e. Nabakov with cough...
"Okay, I can defend that. Sometimes rhymes can be so bad they can shock you into listening to them. Most good, full rhymes are just Hallmark card stuff. Moon, June, erm, Balloon. But I've used that terrible, terrible rhyme technique a few times. Technically, it's called a feminine rhyme - where it's so appalling it's almost humorous. You don't normally get those type of rhymes in pop music and I'm glad! There were a lot of people saying, 'What a pretentious wanker, he's mentioned Nabokov in a pop song', but by the same token a lot of people wrote and said, 'What's a Nabokov'"
"Andy's weirdest ideas made his best songs!"
'Message In A Box' Liner Notes, 1993
"I wrote it as a take on 'Stranger In A Strange Land', the Robert Heinlein science fiction novel. It was about eating your friends, or 'grocking' them as the book put it. 'I likes to eat my friends / I makes no bones about it.' Very quirky. A touch of Long John Silver on Acid."
Andy Summers: 'Message In A Box' Liner Notes, 1993
Originally released on 1980's 'Zenyatta Mondatta' album, 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' was, deservedly, a UK #1 single, spending 10 weeks on the chart. The single was less successful in the States where it peaked at the #10 spot. The song received a makeover during 1986's unsuccessful 'reunion' attempt, when it was made much bleaker. The 1986 release also saw the appearance of a Live version on the 12" single together with a 'Dance Mix'. The latter two being tracks mistakenly omitted from the the 1983 'Message In A Box - The Complete Recordings' compilation. The song saw Sting take court action in the early '80s to stop a deodorant company from using the song in one of their advertisements.
Review from New Musical Express
"Sting knows the scenario, eh? All those nubile Lolitas in 3B just itching to get Mr Sumner hot and bothered while he's marking their geography papers. Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone! Aside from the perils of classroom footsy The Police are still manipulating their formula. And why not? It works. Helluva subject matter isn't it? Vladimir's syndrome. Underneath it they're lovable, dependable, safe. Sting is the best looking man in the world and The Police are better than the Beatles. I just wish he'd try a different voice for a change, that the band would attempt a different beat. The subliminal dance goes on and on and on."
Review from Record Mirror
"I hesitate to put it at the top because that will only inflate their already bloated image further. A Police single that isn't a re-release is quite a novelty, but the song itself isn't: pretty lightweight, actually, especially the chorus and customarily repetitive. A number one, anyway."
Review from Sounds
"A single taken from the forthcoming album 'Zenyatta Mondatta' and the weakest yet. A shallow composition that sounds like 'So Lonely' played at 33rpm. Does this herald the demise of the Police institution? Probably not, Sting's got an attractive face and body, and they'll keep them going for a while yet."
Review from Melody Maker
"Could do better? Seeing as this has already gone silver on advance orders alone, there's not a lot I or anyone else for that matter, can say, except that it's a (moan) classic Police formula record. Scratching guitar, Sting's sex appeal and inimitable mysterious build up to that archetypal Police sinaglong-with-Sting chorus. The first of the next six pack is ready and waiting, and although nowhere near 'Moon' or 'Bed's Too Big', Sting knows what he's doing, He thinks..."