Tuesday, July 26, 1983

Asia released its sophomore album

First posted 4/19/2008; updated 9/20/2020.

Alpha

Asia


Buy Here:


Released: July 26, 1983


Peak: 6 US, 5 UK, 10 CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.06 UK, 1.06 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic rock


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Don’t Cry (7/30/83, #10 US, #33 UK, #1 AR)
  2. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (10/15/83, #34 US, #25 AR)
  3. Never in a Million Years
  4. My Own Time (I’ll Do What I Want)
  5. The Heat Goes On (8/20/83, #5 AR)
  6. Eye to Eye
  7. The Last to Know
  8. True Colors (8/20/83, #20 AR)
  9. Midnight Sun
  10. Open Your Eyes
  11. Daylight * (7/30/83, #24 AR)

* bonus track/B-side of “Don’t Cry”


The Players:

  • Geoff Downes (keyboards)
  • Steve Howe (guitar)
  • Carl Palmer (drums)
  • John Wetton (vocals/ bass)


Total Running Time: 42:16

Rating:

3.208 out of 5.00 (average of 14 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

Alpha is sorely disappointing, especially coming on the heels of a promising debut.” TD It was “a platinum-selling Top Ten hit,” TD but a “disappointment to some fans” WK compared to 1982’s Asia, which had sold 10 million copies worldwide and spent nine weeks atop the U.S. Billboard charts.

“Where Asia managed to make old sounds fresh, Alpha fails miserably. Nothing on Alpha packs the sheer sonic force of the band’s debut,” TD although lead single Don’t Cry did give the band their second top 10 U.S. pop hit. “Instead, much of the record is lightweight both lyrically and musically, leaning heavier on keyboard-laden ballads like The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, which managed to scrape into the Top 40, and My Own Time (I’ll Do What I Want). The only real meat on the record comes during the last cut, Open Your Eyes (and only at the end of the song).” TD

Alpha was the product of Geoff Downes’ and John Wetton’s song-writing. Steve Howe was mostly left out of the writing process, causing tensions within the band. Recorded in Morin Heights, Canada, Alpha is Asia’s…last album with Steve Howe as full-time guitarist until 2008’s Phoenix.” WK In the 25-year interim, Howe would go on to form the one-album-only supergroup GTR with former Genesis’ guitarist Steve Hackett, which released one self-titled album in 1986. Howe also frequently worked with former band Yes and occasionally turned in a guest spot on an Asia album.

Howe wasn’t the only one who jumped ship. Wetton bailed “before the year was out” (Demalon), replaced briefly by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer vocalist Greg Lake on tour. Wetton, however, would return by 1985’s Astra.

The “rumored creative differences, the album’s lukewarm reception, and flagging ticket sales for the ensuing tour” TD effectively ended the band’s momentum. The Asia brand name would soldier on with numerous personnel changes; it would be 25 years before the original four would record together again on 2008’s Phoenix.

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Related DMDB Link(s):

Saturday, July 23, 1983

The Police’s Synchronicity hit #1 for 1st of 17 weeks

First posted 3/22/2008; updated 11/24/2020.

Synchronicity

The Police


Released: June 17, 1983


Peak: 117 US, 12 UK, 124 CN, 13 AU


Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, 0.3 UK, 16.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: new wave/classic rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Synchronicity I [3:26]
  2. Walking in Your Footsteps [3:36]
  3. O My God [4:02]
  4. Mother (Sting/ Summers) [3:05]
  5. Miss Gradenko (Copeland/ Sting) [2:00]
  6. Synchronicity II [5:02] (7/16/83, 16 US, 9 AR, 17 UK, 21 CN)
  7. Every Breath You Take [4:14] (5/28/83, 1 US, 5 AC, 1, 1 AR, 1 UK, 1 CN, 2 AU, sales: 1 million, airplay: 8 million)
  8. King of Pain [4:58] (7/9/83, 3 US, 1 AR, 33 AC, 17 UK, 1 CN, 44 AU)
  9. Wrapped Around Your Finger [5:13] (7/9/83, 8 US, 9 AR, 13 AC, 7 UK, 10 CN, 26 AU, airplay: 1 million)
  10. Tea in the Sahara [4:11]
  11. Murder by Numbers (Sting/ Summers) [4:34]

Songs written by Sting unless noted otherwise.


Total Running Time: 44:11


The Players:

  • Sting (vocals, bass, keyboards, etc.)
  • Andy Summers (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, vocals on “Mother”)
  • Stewart Copeland (drums, percussion, backing vocals)

Rating:

4.201 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)


Quotable: -- “The most compelling work of The Police’s career and one of the signature albums of the ‘80s.” – Clarke Speicher, The Review


Awards:

About the Album:

Album #5 for The Police “would be their most commercially successful and lead to a sold-out tour of enormodomes.” GP “Few other albums from 1983 merged tasteful pop, sophistication, and expert songwriting as well as Synchronicity did.” GP “It is a brilliant pop record, but it's something more, as well.” AMSynchronicity is “an elegant and mature work” MH “that creates and sustains a mood in the sensitive listener, a feeling that remains after the last note has died away.” AM

Synchronicity was “the final evolution of their sound” AM as the band “settle nicely into a balance of pop, punk and new wave.” BR “Ambitious and sophisticated,” MH “the album blended unusual ingredients for an arena rock band: odd time signatures, spare arrangements, [and] reggae grooves.” MH ”The songs are constructed from delicate arpeggios and eerie washes of guitar, sinuous keyboard lines, solid, repetitive bass figures, and the signature Stewart Copeland drum sound, all topped by Sting's voice moving through a wide range of pitch and sentiment.” AM This makes the album “hard to categorize and interesting to listen to.” BR “Each cut…is not simply a song but a miniature, discrete soundtrack.” SH

The album was loosely built around Carl Jung’s synchronicity concept which suggested an interconnectedness amongst seemingly non-related occurrences. The concept “manifests lyrically in some of the most evocative imagery Sting has ever created.” AM “Paranoia, cynicism and excruciating loneliness run rampant” SH in the lyrics. “Synchronicity…is about things ending – the world in peril, the failure of personal relationships and marriage, the death of God.” SH

”The singles…while pure gems by themselves, are an integral part of the album's musical and lyrical texture.” AM “The album works best if taken as a cohesive whole.” CS

“Synchronicity I”

The only songs to expressly reference this idea are Synchronicity I and ‘Synchronicity II.’ The former, with its “clanging chaos,” SH opens the album. It is “a jangling collage of metallic guitar, percussion and voices that artfully conjures the clamor of the world.” SH “The energy, catchiness and band tightness…simply can't be beat.” GS

“Synchronicity II”

Its companion, “the somewhat more complex” GS “cacophonic rocker Synchronicity IIGP “give[s] this record the edge.” CD It is a “brutal slice of industrial-suburban life, intercut with images of the Loch Ness monster rising from the slime like an avenging demon.” SH “Since Sting was not taking himself as seriously in 1983…the random lyrical shift works.” BR

The two songs “rank among the best rockers the Police ever did, even if they're widely different from the earlier stuff – the punkish aesthetics has been swept away, replaced by a ‘clean-cut’ New Wave punch and numerous artsy overtones, with atmospheric synthesizers and Andy's guitar assuming a totally otherworldly role” GS with “some inventive chord changes.” BR

“Walking in Your Footsteps”

The “clever reggae tune” DW Walking in Your Footsteps has the feel of “a children's tune sung in a third-world accent and brightly illustrated with African percussion and flute, contemplates nothing less than humanity's nuclear suicide.” SH This “otherwise creative [song] is marred by silly lyrics.” BR “‘Hey Mr. Dinosaur, you really couldn’t ask for more/You were god's favorite creature but you didn't have a future,’ Sting calls out before adding, ‘[We're] walking in your footsteps.’” SH Despite its detractors, the song features a “catchy vocal melody [and] Copeland is really going nuts with that electronic percussion set.” GS

“O My God”

“In O My God, Sting drops his third-world mannerisms to voice a desperate, anguished plea for help to a distant deity: ‘Take the space between us, and fill it up, fill it up, fill it up!’ This ‘space’ is evoked in an eerie, sprinting dub-rock style, with Sting addressing not only God but also a woman and the people of the world, begging for what he clearly feels is an impossible reconciliation.” SH “The critics are right when they pinpoint the song as one of the weakest links on the album, mainly because it shows signs of self-plagiarism (hmm, haven’t we already met that bassline before? ‘Demolition Man’? ‘Driven To Tears’?), but…[it’s also] one of the most deeply felt cuts on the album, and while it lacks an immediate hook, it’s…disgustingly sincere.” GS

“Mother”

While that song is the weakest of Sting’s contributions to the album, it isn’t the weakest song. “The mood of cosmic anxiety is interrupted by two songs written by other members of the band.” SH Guitarist Andy Summers “gets the bad luck to contribute” GS “the almost unlistenable MotherGP which “inverts John Lennon's romantic maternal attachment into a grim dadaist joke.” SH With its “gloomy repetitive melody [and] Andy’s paranoid screamings,” GS it is “the worst clunker in the band’s catalog.” GS “The rhythm track itself isn't that bad, and there's no serious problem with the lyrics…but Andy simply cannot wail in a paranoid manner… A well-placed scream can be goofy and funny, or it can be scary and creepy, but this is just ridiculous and bleeding on the ears.” GS

“Miss Grandenko”

Meanwhile, drummer Stewart Copeland contributes Miss Gradenko, which doesn’t evoke the fingers-on-a-chalkboard feeling of ‘Mother’, but “is just average.” BR It is “a novelty about secretarial paranoia in the Kremlin, is memorable mainly for Summers' modal twanging between the verses.” SH

“Every Breath You Take”

While that trifecta of songs makes for the album’s weakest point, it is followed by a grand slam. After “Synchronicity II,” the album moves into its four top-20 singles. The biggest was “the haunting Every Breath You Take,” GP not only the biggest single of 1983, but one of the biggest songs of all time. The song has oddly been mistaken by many to be a love song, but is actually a dark tale about stalking. “The narrator…tracks his lover's tiniest movements like a detective, then breaks down and pleads for love, the light pop rhythm becomes an obsessive marking of time.” SH Sting wrote the song “in ten minutes in a middle-of-the-night inspiration, after which he went back to sleep.” CD “Few contemporary pop songs have described the nuances of sexual jealousy so chillingly.” SH “The subtlety and passion of [Sting’s] performance…remains unforgettable.” MH

“King of Pain”

“The happy pop of ‘De Do Do Do De Da Da’ is gone, replaced by despairing songs of longing, as on King of PainCS in which “the rejected narrator…sees his abandonment as a kind of eternal damnation in which the soul becomes "a fossil that's trapped in a high cliff wall/ ... A dead salmon frozen in a waterfall.’” SH Despite the words and tone, the song still evokes as “Beatles-quality vocal melody” GS even as Sting sings lines like “there’s a little black spot on the sun today.”

“Wrapped Around Your Finger”

That song and Wrapped Around Your Finger both “carried the venerable theme of tortured romance to further heights on the airwaves.” MH ‘Wrapped’ "takes a longer, colder view of the institution of marriage. Its Turkish-inflected reggae sound underscores a lyric that portrays marriage as an ancient, ritualistic hex conniving to seduce the innocent and the curious into a kind of slavery.” SH The song “also has Sting assuming the A-A-B-B rhyming scheme for his verses instead of the traditionally classic A-B-A-B scheme. How clever.” GS

“Tea in the Sahara”

Tea in the Sahara is the album’s “moodiest, most tantalizing song…[it] is an aural mirage that brings back the birdcalls and jungle sounds of earlier songs as whispering, ghostly instrumental voices. In this haunting parable of endless, unappeasable desire, Sting tells the story, inspired by the Paul Bowles novel The Sheltering Sky, of a brother and two sisters who develop an insatiable craving for tea in the desert. After sealing a bargain with a mysterious young man, they wait on a dune for his return, but he never appears. The song suggests many interpretations: England dreaming of its lost empire, mankind longing for God, and Sting himself pining for an oasis of romantic peace.” SH

“Murder by Numbers”

Murder by Numbers, the album closer, wasn’t on the original LP version, but was added to the cassette as a bonus track and is standard on the CD. This “cool little jazzy tune” GS with its ”off-kilter guitar sprinkled behind lyrics” BR about a contract killer is simultaneously creepy for its content and joyous in its delivery.

The End

While this was the Police at their highest peaks both creatively and commercially, this was also the end for them. The tension of their working relationship in the studio and a lengthy world tour drove wedges between them. Sting ventured out for a solo career and an attempt to reunite in 1986 was short-lived.

Nonetheless, Synchronicity “remains the most compelling work of The Police’s career and one of the signature albums of the ‘80s.” CS It is “a benchmark album from a tremendously influential band, it will stand the test of time as a genuine classic” AM and “one of the best swan songs in existence.” GS

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, July 9, 1983

The Police hit #1 with “Every Breath You Take”

First posted 7/8/2012; updated 4/8/2020.

Every Breath You Take

The Police

Writer(s): Sting (see lyrics here)


Released: May 13, 1983


First Charted: May 28, 1983


Peak: 18 US, 17 CB, 18 RR, 5 AC, 19 AR, 1 CO, 14 UK, 12 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 1.6 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 14.0 radio, 634.16 video, 531.0 streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

If there was an award for misunderstood songs, “Every Breath You Take” would clearly be vying for the prize. Police drummer Stewart Copeland explains, “People often choose this...as their wedding song. They think it’s a cheerful song. In fact...it’s a very dark song.’” KL

Dark indeed. Sting, the band’s primary singer and songwriter, penned his very un-romantic song in the wake of his broken marriage to Frances Tomelty. Sting told Rolling Stone that it is actually “‘a fairly nasty song…about surveillance and ownership and jealousy.’” BR1 Ah, nothing expresses wedded bliss like a tale of an obsessive stalker.

Often mocked for pretentiousness, Sting whittled the lyrics for “Breath” down to bare essentials as well. The words are “pulled from the rock & roll cliche handbook” RS500 or “straight out of a rhyming dictionary.” TB The song came out of one of those few-minutes-of-writing sessions in the middle of the night and, according to various claims, was influenced by the Gene Pitney song “Every Breath I Take,” Leo Sayer’s “More Than I Can Say,” and the opening lines of Judith Merrill’s sci-fi short story “Whoever You Are.” WK Structurally, the song thrives on its simplicity. To avoid distracting from the song’s “hypnotic bass line,” RS500 the Police jettisoned an intricate synthesizer piece.

Regardless of where it came from, “Every Breath You Take” became the biggest pop song of 1983. WHC To continue the grand that-song-came-from-this-one tradition, it was memorably sampled in “I’ll Be Missing You,” the chart-topping 1997 tribute to slain rapper the Notorious B.I.G. helmed by Puff Daddy.


Resources and Related Links:

  • The Police’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • DMDB page for parent album Synchronicity
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 574.
  • KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 291.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 205.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 112.
  • WK Wikipedia.org