Interview: BILLBOARD (1994)

October 01, 1994

The following article by Carrie Borzillo appeared in an October 1994 issue of Billboard magazine...

Hits set mines Sting's gold...

A decade has passed since Sting left the seminal modern rock trio the Police. On November 8, A&M will commemorate the occasion with the release of 'Fields Of Gold, The Best Of Sting', 1984-1994 and an accompanying home video and laserdisc collection.

"They've been saying that now is the time to do a greatest hits," Sting told Billboard during a tour stop in South Africa. "I actually resisted it, because in a way I was thinking, 'Well, is this capitulating? Shouldn't I really just do another album?' Then I thought about it, and thought about the 10-year landmark."

Al Cafaro, president/CEO of A&M says that now "Is a nice time to reassess, then move on. He's one of those artists who will be making relevant music for decades to come. You never know when you first start with an artist how deep the creative well is; this only happens for a few."

The 14-track collection, which carries a suggested retail price of $16.98 for the CD and $10.98 for the cassette, includes two new Hugh Padgham-produced hit songs. All of the previously released tracks have been digitally remastered. The romantic 'When We Dance' will be released as a cassette single Oct 18 and will be serviced to top 40, AC, modern rock, album rock, and album alternative radio October 5. The country-slanted 'This Cowboy Song' will be released as the second single in early 1995.

On November 1, a 'When We Dance' CD-5 will be released commercially, featuring the edit and album cut of the track; a "soulpower" radio mix and a soulpower hip-hop mix of 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and a soulpower mix of 'Demolition Man'. In addition, seven different international versions of 'Fields Of Gold' will be released November 7. With the exception of the Canadian version; each edition varies from the U.S. album to reflect Sting's biggest hits in each market.

The home video collection will encompass clips from all of the songs on 'Fields Of Gold', in addition to videos of Sting's solo versions of the Police's 'Demolition Man' and 'Bring On The Night', and his solo release 'It's Probably Me', which does not appear on the album. Eight of the clips have never been released commercially. The video collection and laserdisc retail for $19:95 and $29.95, respectively.

Three of the 12 previously released songs on the album are featured in alternate versions. 'Fortress Around Your Heart' appears as a new remix by Padgham, and 'Why Should I Cry For You?' appears as the internationally successful single remix. The version of 'We'll Be Together' is the first-ever release of the tracks original take, with Eric Clapton on guitar. The version of the song that appeared on '...Nothing Like The Sun' took a more dance-oriented slant, with Brian Loren on guitar. "The version of 'We'll Be Together' with Brian Loren seemed right at the time, so we shelved the Eric Clapton version," says Sting. "And listening back to it now, I think I like [the Clapton) version much better. For 'Fortress Around Your Heart', people with better ears than I have said that, sonically, it can be better," he adds. "I mean, I don't have those kinds of ears - I only hear what I want to hear."

The only obvious omissions are the Bryan Adams/Rod Stewart/Sting collaboration 'All For Love', which is Sting's only song to top the hot 100 Singles chart, and 'Love Is The Seventh Wave' which peaked at No.17 in 1985. Sting says he chose the songs on the set based on more than their chart performance. For instance, he says he chose the non-charting song 'Fragile' because it is a mainstay of his live show, and the track 'They Dance Alone' for its political importance. "These were songs that weren't huge hits, but were very successful in the longer term, and became almost standards in my repertoire," says Sting. "I didn't want to do an album just of the hits. I wanted it to reflect more than that, to reflect my whole 10 years."

Mark Mazzetti, VP of A&R at A&M, who served as the A&R director on the project, concurs. "There was so much to choose from - we certainly could've drawn live tracks, but that may be more appropriate for a future boxed set of Sting down the road '...All For Love' can also be dealt with in the future."

Although 'Love Is The Seventh Wave' isn't on the U.S. and Canadian version of the album; it ended up on all seven international editions. As part of the selection process, Mazzetti asked for input from people on the streets and brought the feedback back to Sting. A&M is taking an "understated and low-key" marketing approach with this project, according to product manager Brad Pollak. "We're covering the bases," Pollak says. "The songs are enticement enough to want to buy this. And ardent Sting fans will want to compare the sonic differences between the originals and the remastered stuff and the alternate versions."

The project will be supported by a 30-second television spot, which will run the first 10 days. On the radio front, album rock will be serviced with a five-track sampler dubbed 'Nuggets From Fields Of Gold, The Best Of Sting' in October, in addition to 'When We Dance'. Nuggets features 'Fortress Around Your Heart', the edit and album cut of 'When We Dance', 'We'll Be Together', and 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You'. Dance clubs and top 40/rhythm radio stations will be serviced with a promotional 12-inch featuring soulpower, soulpower house, hip-hop, and soulpower deep-dub mixes of 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', the edit of 'When We Dance', and a soulpower mix of 'Demolition Man'.

The Howard Greenhalgh-directed video for 'When We Dance' will be serviced to video outlets October 17. Sting says he worked on 'When We Dance' over an extensive period of time. "I had the melody around for a whole year before I thought of what to do with it... Then it just fell in place. It wasn't one of those songs written in five minutes."

'This Cowboy Song', on the other hand, was written a week before the recording sessions began. "The guitar riff is kind of Country & Western-ish, sort of hillbilly-ish, and on the last record, I wrote a song called 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice', which had a cowboy theme to it, so this carries on that idea of writing songs about outlaws " says Sting. "It's a strange song, because it has a kind of an urban beat to it mixed with a Midwestern guitar. I like those kinds of hybrids."

Radio programmers and retailers are anticipating the album's arrival. "I can't wait to hear the new tracks," says Lew Garrett, VP of purchasing at the 406 store, North Canton, Ohio-based Camelot chain. "I would guess it would be a fairly strong album. It's being released at a time when a gang load of other new releases are coming out, but I'm sure we'll do well with it."

Al Wilson, senior VP of purchasing at the 150-store Strawberries chain in Milford, Mass, agrees. "It offers new tracks, plus people are always interested in different versions. I'm sure it will do good," he says. Mary Franco, MD at top 40/adult WMXV New York, is one of the few programmers to have heard 'When We Dance'. "It's great. We'll certainly be playing it," she says. "It's typical Sting, but what I like about him is that his stuff is not the typical, everyday songs you get. I think our listeners are going to love this; it's very romantic."

As for a new album by Sting, he says he hasn't even begun writing, but would like to put one out by the end of 1995. "The only problem now is that I'm faced with a blank page as far as the next album goes," he says. "You know, I've just given two songs away."

© Billboard magazine


Sep 1, 1994

For 15 years his sophisticated pop music has been pleasing fans, while his finely chiselled features and piercing blue eyes have melted women at 40 paces. He claims to be a marathon sexual athlete and he spent R625,000 on his wife's wedding dress. When he's not strumming his guitar on stage - often shirtless, with a cheeky, boyish grin and a wiggle of the bum - he's in South America saving rainforests, acting in movies, doing yoga or reading Jung. So with the world hanging on every breath he takes, is Sting a pretentious egomaniac or a genius with a conscience? Perhaps he's both...

May 2, 1994

"So I'm standing here in a strange hat and a strange, flowing gown in front of what looks very much like an audience, and I'm about to do something that I don't do very often, which is to make speeches in public. And I'm asking myself how I managed to end up here? This was never in any plan I'd outlined for myself. Nevertheless, I'm here and you're all expecting something coherent, and perhaps meaningful, to come out of my mouth. I'll try, but there are no guarantees. And I have to say I'm a little bit nervous. You might think this is strange for a man who makes his living playing in stadiums, but I often stand in the middle of a stadium full of people and ask myself the same question, "how the hell did I end up here?" The simple answer is I'm a musician. And for some reason I've never had any other ambition but to be a musician. So by way of explanation, I'll start at the beginning..."