09.01.85 ROLLING STONE
The following interview with Gerri Hirshey appeared in the September 1985 issue of Rolling Stone magazine...
Sting feels the burn - Gordon Sumner exercises his prerogatives in music, film and fame...
On a lovely April morning, weeks before the completion of his not-the-Police album, the summer premieres of his two feature films, the world tour with his new band and the birth of his fourth child - Sting, a young man with everything to live for dove ten fathoms in the benign Caribbean and ran out of air.
He was alone when he began sucking vainly on the scuba mouthpiece; a broken gauge mistakenly showed five minutes of air left. What to do? Swimming to the surface from that depth would crush his airless lungs; death would be certain and painful. So he did not swim up, but sideways, parallel to the ocean floor - swam like hell - until he caught his instructor by the tip of her flipper. Using her tank and the buddy system of breathing, they made it up safely. As the sun warmed them, she assured her pupil that any other course action would have killed him, no doubt about it.
"I learned I'm not one to panic," he told me in Barbados, the afternoon after the incident. "So actually, it was quite useful."
Every little thing he does is reasoned anything he says can put you on. Watch him as he sits bare-chested, talking almost off-handedly about cheating Mr. Death. His pale-green eyes are downcast, his hair lank, but even at rest, the lean, hard body practices reflexive self improvement. A dangled leg tenses, up, down, toes pointed, the way a ballet teacher trained them. Flex, relax. Flex and hold.
The voice is calm, but the verbs are active as he describes his current career trajectory: Risk. Provoke. Learn. Stretch. Feel the burn. What Police management describes as a band hiatus has been Sting's superdrive - in movies ('The Bride' with Jennifer Beals, 'Plenty' with Meryl Streep), on record ('The Dream of the Blue Turtles') and on the road with his new band (a barnstorming tour, from Tokyo to Cedar Rapids).
Gordon Sumner was twenty-seven when he assumed the name of a quick and painful wound. Sting is nearly thirty-four now, and he is in a hurry. He travels light, and lights only briefly; dresses more for comfort than effect. Meet up with him over three months and three countries, and you'll see the same oversize, hand-knit sweater, the favourite baggy pants in need of a cleaning, the scuffed brown sandals, the plaid linen jacket he wears in the 'Set Them Free' video. The clothes are expensive but durable. By his own design, his celebrity is strictly wash-and-wear. In New York, he'll hang it on a hook and browse incognito in a Columbus Avenue bookstore, then slip on an aura that draws paparazzi heat at a downtown club. He doesn't need sunglasses; whether he is recognised or not seems a function of his will alone. His very accessibility is deceptive; interviews are useful for him but futile, he says, for the seeker of True Sting.
"In the fact that people are fairly confused about what I am, I'm very satisfied," he will tell you. "As soon as they're sure what you are - good, bad or indifferent - you're finished. So I just keep dodging the issue. For me, the confusion is great. It's freedom."
Liberation is also a function of finance and marketing. The Police have sold more than 40 million records; the title cut of their last album, 'Synchronicity', had teens singing aloud a little-known principle of Jungian psychology. Sting wrote all but two of the songs. Having scattered literary and mythological references throughout his lyrics like chum bait, the former teacher in Sting delights in letters from fans wanting to know about "this guy Nabokov".
He's so unusual: the Thinking Fan's Rock Star, a brainy colossus with one frontal lobe tuned to mass culture, the other to lofty introspection. He can quote Camus, but he can also sing the entire second verse of the Flintstones' theme song. Eight years into it, he has more money and less hair, has dropped the gold earring and picked up serious acting credits. Now as The New York Times announced, Sting is a rock star who "transcends the form".
Transcendence may be lovely, but for Sting it is not enough. He aspires to kick Top Forty format in its fat, complacent ass. With musicians averaging ten years younger and many skin shades darker than himself with "message" lyrics and sounds that incorporate reggae, swing, Prokofiev, R&B and Kurt Weillish cabaret - and, just to be safe, two solid hit singles - his ambition with 'Blue Turtles' is characteristically immodest: "What I'm going to do is challenge the autonomy of the current rigid form." He pauses. "Of course, I want it to sell like hot cakes."
America loves a pilgrim who issues press releases on his progress. It's even better when there's live footage. Walking the fine line between documentary and narcissism, Sting has decided to film his current personal and career transits for major theatrical release. Francis Coppola rang him up about it; Martin Scorsese was interested. Michael Apted, who directed Coal Miner's Daughter, was chosen, largely for his outstanding documentary work for the BBC.
Apted and his crew shot for ten days in Paris, before and during the new band's first tour concerts. Sting is calling it 'Bring On the Night', after a Police song he wrote, and hopes to release is this fall. The film is intended as the obverse of the Band's 'The Last Waltz' or the Beatles' 'Let It Be'. Instead of recording the last days of a band, it will be about beginnings. Three hundred fifty thousand feet of film - about a third more than is shot for the average Hollywood feature - are now being edited. Unfortunately, there were no cameras rolling in Barbados, where the band gelled and the record was made. Some of those scenes were cinematically re-created in Paris. Others appear here: preproduction notes on the current, public Sting.
Barbados, early April, blond, chubby and naked except for a pair of red inflatable water wings, fourteen-month-old Mickey Sumner crawls from the shallow end of the pool and does a drunken little dance toward her father. Daddy is wearing a pair of yellow Ralph Lauren bathing trunks, and Daddy is working, talking into a small black machine. Blond from a bottle and brown from the sun, Sting squints out over the cane fields of Bayley's Plantation, now the home of Eddy Grant's Blue Wave recording studio. From the terraced pool area, you can see the Atlantic Ocean. In the field below, a man drives a bony cow along a rutted path through the cane. The baby giggles. Sting frowns. "It's a cold world," he says.
No, he is not bitching about the temperature of the pool. The world is f***ed up. "It's getting very late," he has decided, "for be-bop-a-lu-la songs." Which is why he has retreated to paradise here to record the album he has been thinking about for more than a year, bringing with him a clutch of songs about materialism, the Cold War, nuclear war, nuclear waste, the plight of British coal miners, heroin addiction and the slaughter of innocents in World War I, as well as a few leavening cantos on Love, possession and abandonment. He feels it is the best work he has done.
He didn't want to play jazz but he wanted the jazzman's flexibility. The resulting line-up - Branford Marsalis on saxophones and Kenny Kirkland on keyboards, who both play with Branford's brother, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis; Darryl Jones, bassist for Miles Davis; and Omar Hakim, drummer with Weather Report - just happened to be black I wasn't intending to be the massa in the white hat, you know. We just found the best musicians we could get." Singers Dollette McDonald and Janice Pendarvis had toured with the Police, as well as with Talking Heads; they are also black. Working with a band like this, says Sting, was well...
"...very useful. It's very interesting because of their age. They're at a stage in their culture where they've become middle class. They're no longer the sort of ethnic supermen they were; they're a major part of American society. But they're in a situation, and they're still very much connected to an instinctive root. Where I come from, there are no black people. I suppose I'm strange to them, too. It's that kind of spark that's making this project work - strangeness."
Now he catches his dripping baby, tickles her. Three children - Joe, 9, and Kate, 3, by his former wife, actress Frances Tomelty; Mickey, by actress Trudie Styler - are here with the two nannies needed for split households. Trudie is home in London, too pregnant to fly. When she does deliver, it will be Sting's third child in four years.
"What can I tell you?" he says, laughing. "I'm hot. I never wanted to be a father, never planned a child. A lot of the time, it wasn't terribly logical or wise." Nearly nine years ago, Joe's birth sent Sting into a depression because of his inability to support his family; Kate was born after he'd separated from his wife and was not far from becoming a father with one of his former wife's former friends.
"Look, life has been very weird in the past eight years. I went from being a schoolteacher in a mining town to becoming one of the most famous people. The ups and downs have been exaggerated. I tried drugs, I tried screwing every woman who came in the room - all that stuff - and none of it seemed to work. I think coming to terms with my dark side was useful. Those years of crisis made me accept that I'm not an angel. I've often manufactured crisis to feel alive or creative. There's nothing worse than everything going well."
He squints past the sunbathing nannies, the sleek, lotion-greased babies. "The children are the best thing I've been involved in," he says, noting that they now figure in a good deal of his writing. "I'm grateful to my children for giving me that sense of future history. I actually care what the world's going to be like in twenty years, for them."
Despite such attachment, he wants his children to grow up independent of him and his position. Sting the scrooge, screamed an English tabloid when he stated his intent not to settle millions on his son Joe. "I'd like him to say, 'Well, f*** your money, I don't need it'. That's the kind of son I'd like."
Joe is already fiercely independent, but extremely shy. When he overcomes some of that timidity to exhibit his sketchbook, he turns to a wonderful portrait of his father, body stiff and blockish, a shock of yellow hair shooting from his skull like flames. He flips through more drawings: underwater landscapes with monsters lurking beneath unsuspecting boats. "Joe draws a lot of gloomy, violent things," says Sting. "That's the way he gets it out, I guess. It's all very melancholic."
Earlier in the day, Sting had declared himself quite touched when his son walked into the studio, slipped on a pair of headphones and began singing along with him. Sting put his arm around him, eyes closed, so he missed what drove the control-room crowd into hysterics. Midway through the chorus, Joe drew his delicate, angelic face into a devastating impression of Pop as pop star, playing boldly to the audience behind the smoked glass. "He did that? My Joe?" The old dad seems genuinely stung when apprised of the boy's performance. "I can handle the bloody critics," he declares, with a weak smile. "But lampooned by my own son?"
"Hello, we've cut a hit here." Sting is smiling as he strides into the kitchen. He has been in the studio, alone, long before anyone else was stirring this morning. Despite a full plantation house of kids, nannies, musicians and technicians, Sting manages to carve himself reasonable blocks of solitude. He will disappear from the dinner table, fade into corners during group conversations grab some car keys and slip out alone, past midnight, dressed all in white. This morning he has been polishing what could be called the sequel to 'Every Breath You Take' the deceptively uptempo 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. Like 'Every Breath', the song is about sexual and psychological possession; again, the singer is the lone stalker, captor or escapee - never the possessed. It's a dark, double-edged song, performed with the appropriate hormonal swagger.
"I've been through periods of wanting to be possessed, by my parents, my girlfriends," he had explained after playing a rough mix. "I don't want to be owned anymore." Self possession is something else. Sting says he admits few beyond the velvet ropes of the Celebrity Acquaintance Lounge. He has just a handful of close friends, "all freaks in the nicest possible way," people like himself who live in that "rarefied, strange world" of isolated obsession. The common factor is uncommon lives.
His best friend is a nuclear engineer; another, an explorer who has booked Mt. Everest for 1994 and invited Sting along; a third is a clairvoyant who "introduced me to that other world," Kenny Schaffer, an electronics genius who invented the cordless guitar and now pulls Soviet TV from satellite arcs over Manhatttan, took Sting up to his sky lab to watch a Russian symphony perform 'Porgy and Bess'. Philippe Petit, who wire-walked between the towers of the World Trade Center, fetched Sting up 107 stories to the site of his famous crime, then taught him to walk a tightrope strung across his apartment. Petit is the bravest man Sting knows, combining raw courage with the most intelligent application of risk.
"Philippe studied those buildings for ten years, wind currents, wire tension..." And, unlike his friend, Monsieur Le Sting, who embarked on his solo project with full support of record company and media access, Petit worked without a net. "Oh, he had an accomplice," Sting says. "But once he stepped out there, it was the purest distillation of apartness, total mastery of one's fate. I envy him that."
Suggest that Sting himself is a control freak, and he will glower; call him disciplined, as many have, and he says he'll fight that unromantic description "to my coffin." He will accede, though, to being called a loner and agrees that isolation is a dominant theme in his writing.
Like so many rock heroes - confessed former nerds, greasers or chess-club geeks - young Gordon was, in his words, "siphoned off" from his peers at an early age. While most of his Newcastle mates toiled in technical schools, this milkman's son was commuting out of his working-class neighbourhood and bringing home French lessons. Trading up, as he did when high test scores landed him in a Catholic boys' school, made him aware of another world. Somewhere in those corridors, he encountered his own ambition.
"I decided I wanted to be middle class. So I worked bloody hard, and I was very academically successful. I was a very good athlete. Then I went on to university, and the bubble started to burst."
He found he could conjugate Latin verbs, but he couldn't get a job. Those he found - construction work, clerking for the Inland Revenue, teaching - eventually landed him on the dole. The years of desperation, the worry about supporting a wife and child, have left him a subdued millionaire.
"It's weird. I'm still a bit cautious with money in a way that I don't really need to be. I just don't spend very much. This whole set-up - he gestures toward the state-of-the-art studio, the sweeping grounds - "is costing me a fortune. But this is my work."
He checks his watch and heads for the studio, where Janice and Dollette are waiting, curious to hear a phrase Sting says he wants to drop into 'Set Them Free'. It came to him during one of his solitary rambles and won't leave him be. He raises his head and sings it: "You can't love what you can't keep." "Go ahead, Sting," says Dollette, laughing. "That's fierce."
He sings it again, and the women pick it up, adding some body English in the form of finger wagging. As they head down to the booth he curls up in a chair at the control board, singing to himself. "You can't love whatchu... can't keep, can't love - YEAH. Punch it out, ladies," he directs over the intercom. He swivels around, smiles and sets the tape rolling. His own voice crashes from the speakers: If you want to hold on to your possessions, don't even think about me..." Mmmmm," he sighs. "It's mean - but danceable."
The next day, the boss is far less sanguine in the studio. He snaps at a visitor for reading the lyric sheets tacked to the walls "without having heard a melody first." Standing at the mike, working on vocals, he is stopped midchord by a message from the control room. "Hold it, mate. You're a bit flat here." Bare feet slapping the floor, Sting stomps back in, a bit peaked beneath his three-week tan.
"Don't ever f***ing tell me I'm f***ing flat." Though he is wrapped in an oversize sweater Sting rubs his arms against the air-conditioning, sinks into a sofa and drops his head to the carpet. And here Englishman Pete Smith shows his mettle as co-producer, with a gentle, reasoned pep talk - the kind that pulls the sounds and demons out of a shaken star.
"I have never had to do so many retakes," Sting moans. "Never." In fact, the pitch in his headphones is slightly different from that in the control room. Until the gremlin - island power surges - is discovered, the artist is beset by the most dreaded of doubts: loss of control over his instrument. Driven nearly to tears, he admits to wondering if he should scrap it all. A very pricey meter is running on Eddy's plantation, and there are additional pressures of time since Kenny and Branford need to leave for a gig with Wynton Marsalis. For them to do their work, he has to finish his vocals. Tonight.
Into this tinderbox, a discouraging word. Vic Garbarini, former editor of 'Musician' magazine, who helped Sting put the band together, wonders aloud whether the imagery in 'Fortress around Your Heart' a song about Sting's divorce, might be too linear and forced. The larger question hangs: whether the didactic nature of songs like 'Russians' and 'Children's Crusade' might expose Sting's milky flank to the ravening fangs of rock critics. The kitchen-table debate is audible out by the tennis court.
"Bloody scribblers, know nothing about music."
"Po-lem-i-cal? Shit." Branford is pacing. "Ask me is it po-et-ic. Ask about the music."
Sting sits quietly at the end of the table, like a patient hearing his own diagnosis argued by a battery of residents and interns. Would chart health be inhibited by polemics? What's preferable, left brain or right brain, subconscious or self conscious writing? Is it art - or a Rolodex of world problems?
Beneath the hubbub, Sting hums the bass line to Demolition Man. He looks immensely tired, "knackered," as he puts it. Pete Smith, the rational engineer, rakes up a passionate defence of the artist. "It's a bloody pop album. It's not meant to be War and f***ing Peace."
White faces colour; Branford pursues an escaped adversary on the house phone. Finally, the tempest is spent and everyone humps back to the studio. Sting sits alone at the table, picking at the oilcloth. "I do appreciate everyone's concern. I'm touched, actually. But I'm not really worried." The record, of course, will sell because it is his. Radio stations will have to play at least the singles - not coincidentally, the ones about sexual, rather than nuclear, warfare. As for the rest...
"I admit it I'm being bloody didactic. I haven't listened to your Peter Gabriel or Harold Johnsons" - Howard Jones, he is corrected - "or whomever you were all discussing at this table, because for the last two years I've been listening to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. They were didactic as hell. They wrote ugly songs, but they made you think. Come on now - listen to the radio today - whose lyrics do you think about?"
Inexplicably, a Duran Duran songbook is lying nearby. Sting laughs, mincing around it on his way to the electric teakettle. Branford and Kenny slide past on their way upstairs to bed. "Anyone for coffee? Anyone want to stay awake as I lay myself over the vocal? No? f*** you all," He smiles, looking once again the benevolent but over-worked dad. "Kiss, kiss, my darlings. Sleep well."
The next morning, the vocals are complete and another perfect Bajan day yields to a starlit night. Dinner has been called, but having just woken from a nap, Sting isn't hungry. He suggests another poolside chat, arranging himself horizontally on the terrace furniture. He wears a denim jacket and sweat pants against the night breeze, hair wet and spiked out like the Sting of yore. Bats whirl overhead. Perfect for a ghost story.
"My house in London is haunted," he says. Ever since I moved in there, other people have said things happen. Like, they're lying in bed and people start to talk to them, or things going missing. I was very sceptical until one night after Mickey was born. She was disturbed, and I went to see her. Her room is full of mobiles, and the mobiles were going f***ing berserk, whirling. I thought there must be a window open, it's windy, right? The windows were dead shut. And this baby wide awake, big eyes open. About two days later, I woke up and looked into the corner of my bedroom, and clear as day, there was a woman and child standing in the corner. I thought it was Trudie and the baby. And I heard Trudie say, 'Sting, what's in the corner?' I just went f***ing cold. Icy cold."
Since then, he has warmed to the idea. A spiritualist confirmed the presence of a woman and small child in the house and offered to send the spirits packing. Sting and Trudie decided to let them be. The aura is quite positive, he insists. Just now there is a strange line of light circling the full moon. The pool filter gurgles; children shriek in the distance by the main house. Amid such relaxation, it is probably useful to introduce a nettlesome subject. And so - the : Police?
"Ah, you must be hungry now. Shall we join the others?" Miming a mock escape he settles back, choosing words like a fussy housewife poking melons. "It's such a relief here not to have to fight battles over one's role. The Police were formed as a tripartite democracy with an equal say, and the roles weren't exactly defined. I was the only singer, which I suppose gave me an edge. But a lot of the fights weren't about anything but roles. Who we are. Not wanting to be a backing group for me, and rightfully so. I love Stewart and Andy very dearly, which is why the whole thing got very tense. It's useful for us to have this open-ended space where there's no commitment and no promise. There's just - the Police as an idea is still there - Look!
He points out a shooting star, a flashy bit of cosmic punctuation. A feral cat hisses in the bougainvillea, and Sting laughs. "Dinner?" he says. "I'm suddenly ravenous."
Paris, seven days in May. Linger in the lobby of the Royal Monceau, and you can catch the likes of Joan Collins, trailing a choking fog of Scoundrel and cigarette smoke; Marisa Berenson, dripping diamonds; and clutches of jogging-suited Senior Happy Wanderers, here to beat the franc into submission with the almighty dollar. Turkish arms dealers sip tea with hookers who cost nearly as much as the Uzi's and fragmentation grenades said to be on discreet sale during the Paris Air Show, which is about to begin. Police manager Miles Copeland cruises through, head down mind on some deal or another, until he's informed of the latest news. Trudie is in labour.
"God. Oh, God. Wouldn't you just know?" He dashes off, just as Michael Apted's film crew begins setting up at the foot of a grand marble staircase to catch the expectant dad on his way to work. It is 7:30 in the evening; show time is at 9:00. Trudie has been having contractions since 3:00. She will not miss the show, she says, even if she has to have the kid in the dressing room. A second film crew has already been arranged for the delivery - wherever it might occur. Sting, who missed the births of all his other children, has vowed to see this one, if it means walking off the stage midnote. Down the stairs he comes, cool - not one to panic - past the cameras, into the waiting car. "Pray for us," says Apted, who has sweated through his T-shirt.
Camera dollies squat over the velvet seats in the elegant, sloped aisles of the Theatre Mogador. There is no line outside, no pandemonium. There are even some empty seats. Trudie Styler, who has been pregnant for more than half of her time with Sting, sits in the darkened theatre utterly composed, her midwife and Charlotte Rampling in attendance. She is, friends say, the best thing to happen to Sting since his hair and his records went platinum - friendly, strong, possessed of the independence and sense of humour so handy for cohabiting with a global heart-throb.
As the curtain rises, the band swings into Shadows in the Rain, a dense, charged version nearly unrecognisable from the minimalist Police original. On the album, and on-stage, Shadows is probably the freest use of this band's talents, Omar pounding a rhythm that seems to lift him off his drum seat, Kenny sending down keyboard cascades from his perch high on the stair-step set. With crashing cymbals and lightning licks from Branford's horn, it sounds like a wild spring storm.
Sting is everywhere, whirling with Darryl, jousting with Branford, pant legs flapping, a red poppy and a rhinestone serpent pinned to the chest of his natty black tux. His face is already wet; his voice loud and rough. I should heed my doctor's warning...? The music comes easily, and by the time the band has been through the album cuts, through a galvanising reggae-infused medley of One World and Love Is the Seventh Wave, grafting old Police songs to the more spacious Blue Turtles sound, the audience is churning; a rocket version of Demolition Man hauls the last holdouts to their feet. From the stage, hand-held cameras pan happy faces, waving arms, flicked Bics held high for one encore, then a second.
Afterward, in an upstairs dressing room, another camera crew leaves as the band towels down. "What's that ?" An A&M executive points worriedly at a tremor passing beneath the gray dress stretched over Trudie's belly. "That," she says, smiling, "is a concern." She is in no particular hurry to leave, as she is not overly fond of hospitals. For nearly an hour she and Sting circulate, arm in arm, through the theatre lobby that has been cleared for a cast-and-crew party. As the last fusillade of champagne corks detonates, they leave for the hospital.
"Do I look livid ?" The following afternoon at rehearsal, Sting walks over, toting a fussy Mickey. He is looking uncharacteristically harried, eyes bloodshot, chin glistening with Mickey's drooly kisses. "Knackered," I say, knowing the situation. Trudie is in pain, far from giving birth, thanks to an obstetrician who left orders not to be disturbed before eight a.m. Instead, she was given morphine, which stopped labour and made inducement unwise for twenty-four hours. "Should I sue that bloody doctor?" Sting muses. "Nah, perhaps murder. At least a sampling of similar drawn-out pain... I feel so f***ing helpless."
Even rock stars get the obstetric blues. Yet despite her discomfort, Trudie checked herself out of the hospital and spent the day finding another, more enlightened institution. With any luck, the little Sumner would arrive sometime after dawn.
Shortly after noon the next day, Apted and his crew are on hand when the doctor gives Sting a pair of scissors, motions to the umbilical cord and says, "Cut." He does. As the nurse reaches for his newborn son, Jake, Sting turns to his director. "Okay," he says. "We can rehearse at two."
By show time - the last night for filming - Sting is relenting about refusing to play Russians, which he has yet to perform live without orchestral backup. But he will not sit for his formal cinematic portrait. Though all the other band members have submitted to on-camera interviews by Apted - a skilled and penetrating questioner - Sting has stubbornly resisted. "Now I have an excuse," he says, "since I've been up for fifty hours straight."
Sitting in a back seat of the band van, wrapped in oversize trousers and jacket, Sting looks small, but hardly diminished. He is describing the birth of his son as we navigate the congested Boulevard Haussmann. "I was blubbering. I was prepared to be blasé. But Trudie gave this ghastly scream and out he came. His head was so odd-shaped, and he had this big bruise on his nose. His face - I was holding him, and his face changed from second to second. He became my dad, then my brother, then Joe, then Trudie. And I said to her, 'How was it?' And she gave me this look. She said, 'The best. You can't imagine.'
Once inside the Theatre, Sting tucked into his tux, we stand talking in the wings, until I see the filmmaker's trump card hanging amid the lights over centre stage. It is a two-foot-square replica of a fortress, with an aluminium foil heart inside, a reference to Fortress Around Your Heart and an inside joke to the Barbados vets who, along with the boss, watched a videotape of 'This Is Spinal Tap' twenty-two times. One fave scene: a midget replica of Stonehenge drops from the ceiling at the climax of Spinal Tap's big number the result of the band's colossal miscue to a set designer. Eager to keep the surprise, Sting's assistant, Danny Quatrochi, draws him out of eye range with a technical question.
Sting does not play 'Russians' after all, but the show goes well, yielding more useable concert footage. In the wings and behind the cameras, everyone is poised for the Big Reaction Shot. Finally, Sting swings into 'Fortress' and on the second chorus, the cardboard castle begins to move. Down it comes, before a baffled French audience, landing a yard from the headliner's foot, and incredibly there is...no reaction. Not an eye blink. Briefly, Sting leaves the stage, returns with a mumbled, inaudible remark about Stonehenge and looks dourly to the side as the scorned little joke is hoisted away.
Backstage, shirtless, towelling off for a drive to the hospital, Sting does not seem to find the whole thing funny. Or even useful. In fact, he seems somewhat angry - not the kind of guy you'd want to throw a surprise party for. "Of course I saw it," he says. "But what you must understand is that it's not sleight of hand out there. It's not rote. I have to concentrate. No matter who anybody thinks I am..." He stops, sliding into the damp tuxedo shirt. "... I still have to go out there and play the f***ing notes."
© Rolling Stone