“You can turn the clock to zero honey
I’ll sell the stock, we’ll spend all the money
We’re starting up a brand new day”
Sting’s career was in the doldrums. After stunning the populace with the double album “…Nothing Like the Sun,” with not only the classics “Be Still My Beating Heart,” “Englishman in New York” and “We’ll Be Together,” there was his slow twist on Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” as good as Clapton and the Dominos’ in its own unique way, and the piece-de-resistance, the ethereal “They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo),” Sting released a dud, 1991’s “Soul Cages.”
Word was Sting was arrogant, people were pissed he broke up the Police, but with “Dream of the Blue Turtles” with “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” and the aforementioned “…Nothing Like the Sun,” Sting changed people’s perceptions, he truly stood on his own, one of the few performers to equal the success of their previous act after going solo. Turns out there was more in Sting than white boy reggae, three-piece rock, he was testing limits, stretching the paradigm, he had his own hard-earned cred.
But “Soul Cages”… It did contain the ditty “All This Time,” but this jaunty number was a trifle compared to the gravitas Sting had evidenced previously. So few were eager for what came thereafter, they were not waiting with bated breath for Sting’s next album. Furthermore, MTV, which broke hits, was the world’s radio station, yes, radio program directors followed in the television outlet’s wake, had shifted emphasis, not only were there half hour non-music shows, the paradigm was expensive videos, of grunge and hip-hop acts, where was the space for Sting? IT DIDN’T EXIST!
But Sting switched gears, from bombast to subtlety, he was less in your face and unlike so many of his contemporaries in the rearview mirror he didn’t lose his sense of melody and changes, maybe they’d eluded him on “Soul Cages” but on “Ten Summoner’s Tales” they were back in full force, as demonstrated by the initial single, “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.”
“Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world You could say I lost my faith in the people on TV You would say I lost my belief in our politicians They all seem like game show hosts to me”
Today too much music is fantasy, but the most successful tracks are always a reflection of the human condition. Those of us who’d grown up in the sixties were scratching our heads in this new world. Those late night infomercial people, how did they get on TV? In this pre-internet era the box was just an avenue to get rich. As for politicians…this is when the right started to filibuster the plans of the left. Government was seen as evil. The United States resembled nothing but a game show, just as phony, meanwhile, instead of boasting that he had the answers, Sting claimed to be lost just like the rest of us, albeit still with hope…in everyday people, one on one instead of one to many.
“I could be lost inside their lies without a trace But every time I close my eyes I see your face”
A bridge? The magic of the Beatles’ compositions. Furthermore, once again there was that turning in, the rejection of the exterior for the interior, he didn’t fit into the game, he was playing his own personal game.
And despite all this pessimism the track ultimately contained a nugget of optimism, that was its essence, he still had faith in…you.
But there was more. If you listened to the album you discovered a track buried in the middle of the first side that was dreamy, completely un-Police-like, an ethereal piece that contained the essence of those tracks that penetrate our bodies and minds and change our moods, make us feel not so lonely as we bond with their composer/singers, “Fields of Gold.” It ultimately became a hit single, but my point is if you listened to “Ten Summoner’s Tales” when it was released, when expectations were low, when few were paying attention, you were wowed. The album also contained “It’s Probably Me,” “Shape of My Heart,” “Seven Days” and “She’s Too Good for Me,” it was a triumph, which was embraced commercially and artistically, kudos.
And then there was a victory lap, a greatest hits album…which contained two new songs as good as the rest of the “hits” and a remix that redefined a cut from “Soul Cages.”
It takes chutzpah to put a slow, dreamy song as the opener, a new number on a greatest hits LP, but Sting pulled it off, “When We Dance” contains a magical chorus that closes you on first listening:
“When we dance, angels will run and hide their wings”
And the final cut on the LP, the other completely new track, was just the opposite, it was upbeat, jaunty, you could envision Sting and compatriots performing “This Cowboy Song” on stage, its rhythm was undeniable, you fell right into the groove.
“I’ve been the lowest of the low on the planet I’ve been a sinner all my days”
Once again, Sting was admitting his faults, telling us his truth, illustrating he’s truly just one of us, but his cowboy song will ultimately link him to his love and us, the LP ends on a note of optimism. But in between….
There’s a remix of “Why Should I Cry for You” which transforms a so-so cut into something transcendent, the hook is evident and the coda puts it over the top.
And then came “Mercury Falling.”
It’s now 1996. The people Sting came up with, made it with, were already done, oldies acts at best. But somehow Mr. Sumner had carved out his own path. This is what the greats do, become singular, they’re not competing with anybody else, they’re just doing what they do.
But you’ve got to deliver.
“Mercury Falling” was a dud. If you go your own way, you’ve got to fire on all cylinders, deserve your attention, but somehow Sting lost his way, he seemed to get caught up in the penumbra of fame as opposed to concentrating on what it stems from, the art, the music. There were no hits off “Mercury Falling,” none, in an ever more concentrated business where the hit was everything. If you were a dedicated fan you could find things to like, but the album was ignored by everybody else.
And then came the internet. Napster. What was once known was suddenly no longer relevant. It was the fall of 1999. Seemingly everybody had a subscription to AOL, that’s where the action was, online. As for music? Pop divas and rappers with over the top videos. There was no place for Sting, but down on his recording career luck, he delivered, with “Brand New Day.”
That was the title of both the album and the single. But at the time, all the press, the hoopla, was about “Desert Rose,” which followed “Brand New Day” on the singles chart. You see Sting tied up with Jaguar and the track was a hit and there were hosannas all around, there was a new way to break a record, to have a hit. But Sting never had another, NEVER EVER!
Was it just the way the cookie crumbled, did Sting never deliver the choice cut again, was he now too out of time, possibly all, but isn’t it interesting that after selling out, tying up with the corporation, the public moved on. You see the corporations have all the money. You can take it, but don’t think you won’t be tainted. You’ll have momentary success, but then what?
Sting put out “Sacred Love,” with no hits. Then he put out a classical album, “Songs from the Labyrinth,” and ultimately went on a Police reunion tour, which people were excited about, but Sting was not. By the time of its conclusion, it was evident from his statements that it was purely a dash for cash, and he wasn’t passionate about these old songs, and the end result was a sour taste in the audience’s mouth.
Then a Christmas album of unknown songs that nobody was awaiting and nobody wanted, never mind the negative imprimatur of such a thing amongst the cognoscenti, now you’re just in it for the money, kind of like Rod Stewart making albums from the Great American Songbook…this was the guy who was hanging out with Shanghai Lil on the Peking Ferry???
Then symphonic renditions of his hits. Make me puke. Is there any reason for such an LP?
Then the failed Broadway effort, that couldn’t even be resuscitated by Sting’s appearance on stage, remember “The Last Ship”? If so, you’re one of the very few.
And now Sting was truly floundering. He put out an LP employing the old formula, “57th & 9th,” a hearkening back to what once was, done quickly, like the Police, but the publicity eclipsed the songs.
And then the lowest of the low. “My Songs.” Yes, a rerecording of his old songs. Why? It’s not like he was doing it for licensing purposes, the record came out on A&M.
Sting has lost touch with his audience, he’s floundering, he’s not sure who he is, who he wants to be anymore. How can a man with such talent, who was big on doing it his way, become so lost doing it other people’s way?
Sting’s got a few choices. He can try and write a hit. But the style of music he writes is locked out of hit radio, which is all hip-hop and pop. Then again, maybe he could get action on Hot AC, it’s worked well for Michael Buble.
Or he could go deeper into his own desires, he must have enough money, bond his hard core to him, of which there were never that many, Sting became a singles artist and the hard core is more about the albums, and with his uneven output, the truth is people are still more passionate about the Police.
Then again, it’s nearly impossible for anybody who’s been to the mountaintop to return there. They just don’t have the same desire.
But what Sting truly needs is…
A brand new day.
“How many of you people out there
Been hurt in some kind of love affair
And how many times do you swear that you’ll never love again”
The focus is on youth, puppy love to marriage. But what happens after that? Too often divorce. And divorce wounds you, not everybody can pick themselves up off the mat and get back into the game. Once you reach your fifties many single people are licking their wounds saying they’ll never love again, they just don’t want to risk the pain, they’re happy alone, or so they say.
“How many lonely sleepless nights
How many lies, how many fights
And why would you want to put yourself through all that again”
“Brand New Day” is the antithesis of a Spotify single, it doesn’t grab you by the throat immediately, rather there’s a thirty second intro akin to daybreak, fog lifting, your old buddy coming back to town to commiserate, but also inspire.
“‘Love is pain,’ I hear you say
Love has a cruel and bitter way
Of paying you back for all the faith you ever had in your brain”
Faith. A running theme in Sting’s work. And the truth is you can’t go forward without it, you have to have faith that this time things are going to work out. But you’re afraid of losing, and it keeps you from playing.
“How could it be that what you need the most Can leave you feeling just like a ghost You never want to feel so sad and lost again”
This is a revelation in an era of winners. No one admits loss these days, at least not publicly, you’re supposed to go off the grid and nurse your wounds alone.
The truth is being single during the pandemic tests your limits, people are getting depressed, committing suicide, turns out no man is an island, as much as you consider yourself a rock the truth is you can’t make it alone, we’re all part of a society, that’s one thing we’ve learned in the past year, we might not all agree but even argument makes us feel alive.
And then the verse switches.
“One day you could be looking
Through an old book in rainy weather
You see a picture of her smiling at you
When you were still together”
That’s the internet. That’s Facebook. That’s why it’s a boomer platform, unlike the young ‘uns, who never lose touch with anybody, boomers are eager to find out what happened to everybody, how they look, what they did and…is there still a spark there?
That was a big story for a while, people leaving their spouses for old flames. But that almost never works out, the past is a fantasy, the pain evaporates and only the good moments are remembered and when you get back together it usually takes a very brief period of time until you realize why you broke up in the first place.
“You could be walking down the street
And who should you chance to meet
But that same old smile you’ve been thinking of all day”
Boomers stay home. They’ve made and lost friends, never mind loves. They’re licking their wounds inside, they’re loath to try new things, have new experiences, but the truth is once you walk out the front door you’ve got no idea what will happen, interaction pays unforeseen dividends, but can you jump the hurdle, cross the border and get back into the game?
And this first verse is one of the longest in a hit song. Sting has a story to tell, directly to the listener, his compatriots, he’s not preaching, he’s not self-congratulating, he’s being intimate, inviting, it’s hard not to listen.
“You can turn the clock to zero, honey
I’ll sell the stock, we’ll spend all the money We’re starting up a brand new day”
You’re never too old to begin again. It’s your choice. And don’t be a hoarder, spend, unless you don’t have it, unfortunately too many boomers never thought the future would come, they never prepared for it.
“Turn the clock all the way back
I wonder if she’ll take me back
I’m thinking in a brand new way”
If you can’t participate, if you can’t join in, get therapy, you need to change your way of thinking, you’re never too old to gain insight.
“Turn the clock to zero sister
You’ll never know how much I missed her
Starting up a brand new day”
You miss the excitement, the thrill of being alive, which you get from listening to this song, time to act on its premise and look for that excitement in your own personal life, there’s nothing better than a natural high, there’s nothing better than a great conversation, feeling alive.
“Turn the clock to zero, boss
The river’s wide we’ll swim across
Started up a brand new day”
That’s what we’re hungrily waiting for, not so much January 1st but January 20th.
I can’t wait to get the vaccine, to start living my life normally again, but just like he cocked up containing the virus last spring, Trump and his minions are hobbling the distribution of the vaccine, once again they’re laying responsibility on the states, but in this case if the vaccine sits on the shelf it expires, and on today’s schedule it will take seven years to reach herd immunity:
“America’s Vaccine Rollout Is Already a Disaster”: https://nym.ag/2KPUPUQ
Trump’s going to leave office and fade away. We’ve seen this movie a million times before, anybody still listening to Sarah Palin? And in four years he’ll be so old. And sure, the right has brainwashed the public into thinking the left is the enemy, and Trump has channeled people’s frustration, but it’s less about him than this American life, which has gone off the rails for the last forty years, read this for explanation: https://bit.ly/2WWAO1o
I’m ready to live again.
I did my duty and stayed home, I didn’t want to risk getting infected and dying, I don’t like gambling, especially with my life.
But there’s so much I haven’t done. But now I’ve got hope. Please, let me get the shot. I ain’t no anti-vaxxer, I’ll risk a potential temporary side effect, better than risking my life. For years this country has been run on fear. To the point we’re all depressed, blaming each other, yelling at each other, progress is anathema, in my lifetime hope has gone from ever present into the dumper, talk about depression. But now I can see a little light, and hopefully you can too. This is not a right or left issue, this is a health issue. This isn’t about winning or losing, this about living or dying. And I’ll choose life. At least for myself. I’ll let you choose for yourself, then again explain again how you won’t wear a mask but someone you don’t know can’t have an abortion? I’m sick of musicians shooting each other. I’m sick of scapegoating. I’m sick of everything being about the money. I just can’t wait, I’m looking forward to A BRAND NEW DAY!