Today: Did you ever wonder who Roxanne was in that song by the Police, or what really inspired the megahit "Every Breath You Take"? Well, now rock legend Sting explains it all in his new book called "Lyrics by Sting." Good morning to you.
Sting: Good morning to you.
Today: Nice to see you. You always said that you were never going to separate your lyrics from the musical accompaniment. Now, here you do it in this book, and you say in the introduction, "Gee, it reads suspiciously like a book of poems."
Sting: No, it looks like poems.
Today: OK, there's a difference. Well...
Today: ...did you think you were a poet?
Sting: No. I don't think it's poetry. I think they're meant to be sung with music, or said with music. I think poetry is a little more - first of all, most modern poetry doesn't rhyme, the rhythms are more complex. In pop music, everything rhymes and the rhythm's very simple, so.
Today: But it does provide insight, really, into where you were at different moments in your life as an artist, and as a man.
Sting: I think really that's why I put the book out. I wanted - I wanted to say where these songs were written, why they were written, why I was singing about it, in case anybody was interested, 'What on earth is he singing about here?'
Today: So there're about - songs and lyrics, I think, from about 100 songs here, in chronological order. Let's start in 1978 with 'Roxanne', because that's the song that sort of put you guys on the map, when people first heard of Sting and the Police. What inspired that song, and where were you at that point in your life?
Sting: I was in Paris, and we were staying in a very cheap hotel in a very seedy part of town. And there were many ladies of the night around there. And I just thought it was very inspiring to me to imagine a relationship with this woman. She wasn't real, I just imagined her.
Today: And it was a good time in your life, though, too. I mean, a seedy hotel, but you were just starting. It was exciting. You were right on the cusp of real fame.
Sting: Yeah. I was a young man having a great adventure. But...
Today: Cut to 1983. A lot happens in those years, a lot of rocky things. Some trouble with the band, personal problems. 'Every Breath You Take'. Started out it was supposed to be sort of a haunting love song, and turned into something else.
Sting: It's kind of ambiguous, that song. It is kind of dark. But it is - it's also very seductive. I think that's its power.
Today: With songs like particularly 'Roxanne' - I guess this one as well, but 'Roxanne' in particular, you say you play that night after night and you still get something out of it. How is that possible? Because I would think after a while it would just be like white noise.
Sting: Well, it's - I'm going to sing that song tomorrow night, and I have to sing it with the same passion as if I'd written it that afternoon; the same freshness. And I always find something new in it, different.
Today: Cut to 'King of Pain'. Now, your wife, Trudie, was involved in that song also in 1983.
Sting: I'm not the king of pain anymore.
Today: I think she thought you were then.
Sting: I was.
Today: Tell us about the lyrics.
Sting: I've abdicated, I'm not the king of pain anymore. I'm the king of happiness.
Today: But tell us about the lyrics back then.
Sting: I think it was a rough time in my life.
Sting: You know, it coincided with the most successful period of my life, and that was a big lesson for me. You know, happiness is not about success and money and selling records, it's about something deeper. And that was a great lesson to learn.
Today: And 'Fields of Gold', is - that's about home.
Sting: It's about continuity, it's about love lasting forever, hopefully.
Today: It's a happy, happy song, really.
Sting: It's a sad song, too, but it's also - it's about continuity, about things moving on.
Today: And now you are moving on. Twenty years ago - more than 20 since you've been touring with Police.
Today: Twenty-five years ago. How is that going?
Sting: You know, it seems like the interim has disappeared. It feels like we never stopped.
Sting: We're still the same.
Today: But it's got to be different on tour now than it was back then. You're not quite as wild and crazy, right?
Sting: No, it's the same.
Sting: It's the same. I mean, it's fun, and it's enormously successful, and, you know, we're playing tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden, and it's going great. No complaints.
Today: And are you planning to release a DVD of the tour, anything? What's next for Police?
Sting: By the spring we should have a DVD of the show we've got, and we're very proud of the show. And it's fantastic. It looks great, sounds great.
Today: And I understand that you have a home in Malibu, and last week you were going to go home and spend a little time there, but you couldn't, right, because of the fires?
Sting: They diverted me to the hotel, to a refugee camp. There was very great danger we'd run out of champagne at some point. But the house two doors down was burned, and...
Sting: ...you know, a lot of people have lost everything, and I feel terrible for them.
Today: Absolutely. And fortunately for you and your family, yeah.
Sting: It was - it was pretty smoky down there this week.
Today: And then tomorrow, as you said, you're going to be at Madison Square Garden. You know tomorrow's Halloween. We're expecting a costume.
Today: Are you going to be in costume?
Today: Oh, tights. That's it?
Sting: And a codpiece.
Today: All right. I'm not even going to pursue this. But is there an extra ticket?
Sting: OK. Maybe.
Today: Before I let you go, having written these lyrics, and now looking back over them, what have you learned about yourself through the years? If you can make that kind of a broad, sweeping statement.
Sting: I hope I'm maturing.
Sting: That's really my intention, to - just to mature into middle age, old age, whatever, and just be comfortable in my own skin.
Today: Is there one set of lyrics that really most specifically says who you are?
Sting: I like the lyrics to 'Fields of Gold'. They're very simple, but they mean a lot to me. They mean a lot to me.
Today: It's a pleasure to see you.
Sting: Thank you.
Today: Congrats on the book, too, and on the tour.
Sting: Thank you.
Today: And the book is "Lyrics by Sting." Thanks very much.
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