Saturday, July 23, 1983

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


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


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

  1. Synchronicity I [3:26] (5 DF)
  2. Walking in Your Footsteps [3:36] (10 DF)
  3. O My God [4:02] (18 DF)
  4. Mother (Sting/ Summers) [3:05] (19 DF)
  5. Miss Gradenko (Copeland/ Sting) [2:00] (18 DF)
  6. Synchronicity II [5:02] (7/16/83, 16 US, 9 AR, 17 UK, 21 CN, 1 DF)
  7. Every Breath You Take [4:14] (5/28/83, 1 US, 5 AC, 1, 1 AR, 1 UK, 1 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF, sales: 1 million, airplay: 15 million)
  8. King of Pain [4:58] (7/9/83, 3 US, 1 AR, 33 AC, 17 UK, 1 CN, 44 AU, 1 DF)
  9. Wrapped Around Your Finger [5:13] (7/9/83, 8 US, 9 AR, 13 AC, 7 UK, 10 CN, 26 AU, 1 DF, airplay: 1 million)
  10. Tea in the Sahara [4:11] (10 DF)
  11. Murder by Numbers (Sting/ Summers) [4:34] (4 DF)

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)


4.201 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)


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


(Click on award to learn more).

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 Sting, the band’s frontman and bassist, said he thinks it is the group’s best album. UCR

Synchronicity was “the final evolution of their sound” AM and, as Sting said, “a more refined record than we’ve previously made.” UCR 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 Sting noted, however, that the reggae tones were “more buried” on Synchronicity. UCR

The Recording

Just as they had done for Ghost in the Machine in 1981, The Police reconvened at George Martin’s AIR Studios in the Caribbean to start work on their fifth studio album. UCR One of the most significant changes was to get back to working with just three instruments after using a lot of keyboard on Ghost in the Machine. Guitarist Andy Summers said “everything we play with dense keyboard parts…end up sounding like Yes on a bad day.” UCR

Tensions, however, were high and the group would nearly break up twice during the making of the album. UCR Co-producer Hugh Padgham said Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland hated each other and Summers was “grumpy.” UCR However, he thought the friction gave the fast songs on side one “a incredible energy” UCR because they were “born out of anger.” UCR

At one point, Summers reached out to the famed Beatles’ producer George Martin for advice. He told them “it’s typical group-stuff – seen it all before” and said they needed to work it out for themselves. UCR Copeland asserted that they weren’t fighting all the time, but that “being in the Police was like wearing a Prada suit made out of barbed wire.” UCR He has also acknowledged that while Sting angered him by telling him how to drum, he “does actually know how to arrange a song and arrange the band and his ideas are pretty good.” UCR

Despite the tensions, the group worked efficiently, taking only six weeks to record the album and two more to mix it. Sting said they came prepared with at least twenty demos written and recorded when they entered the studio. UCR The band’s manager, Miles Copeland, said it took two weeks before the band had anything committed to tape “that we could call a song.” UCR

The Concept

The album was loosely built around Carl Jung’s synchronicity concept which suggested an interconnectedness amongst seemingly non-related occurrences. It was Sting who was first influenced by Jung’s book, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, but Summers also grew to love Jung. UCR

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

Sting was also a fan of Arthur Koestler (whose works inspired the title for the previous album, Ghost in the Machine) and his book The Roots of Coincidence. UCR

The Cover

“The album cover features a series of precisely positioned photographs, with a swath of red, yellow, or blue overlaid.” UCR However, there are many variations. Collector Jay Matsueda said there are at least 40. Goldmine magazine says there are at least 93. UCR It was Sting’s idea to have each band member come up with his own photos for the album sleeve without the others knowing what they had in mind. UCR

The Songs

“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 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 the Jungian concept 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 song “shows signs of self-plagiarism (hmm, haven’t we already met that bassline before? ‘Demolition Man’? ‘Driven To Tears’?). GS It actually takes its first verse and chorus from an unreleased Police song called “3 O’Clock Shot” and also quotes “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” at the end. UCR

While “the critics are right when they pinpoint the song as one of the weakest links on the album” GS it is also “one of the most deeply felt cuts on the album, and while it lacks an immediate hook, it’s…disgustingly sincere.” GS

While “O My God” 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 Summers “gets the bad luck to contribute” GS “the almost unlistenable Mother.” GP

The song “inverts John Lennon's romantic maternal attachment into a grim dadaist joke.” SH Summers explained, “I had a pretty intense mother who was very focused on me…I Was sort of ‘the golden child’ and…was sort of fulfilling all her dreams by being this pop star in the Police. I got a certain amount of pressure from her.” UCR p> He credited Captain Beefheart with influencing the tone of the song and said it “was written to be ironic, funny, and crazy.” UCR However, 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. Miles Copeland and Padgham were both convinced it was a hit the first time they heard it. UCR

Sting wrote the song “in ten minutes in a middle-of-the-night inspiration, after which he went back to sleep.” CD When he presented it to the band it had what Summers called a “huge rolling synthesizer part.” UCR Copeland and Sting argued “extensively about how the bass and drums would be positioned to best serve the vocal.” UCR Summers got the guitar part, influenced by composer Bela Bartok, down in one take. UCR

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 called it “a fairly nasty song…about surveillance and ownership and jealousy.” UCR “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.”

The song starts with a xylophone simulating a steady heartbeat before “shifting to a more percussive beat as the song kicks in.” UCR Copeland said, however, that those chords were initially written by Sting on a Casio synthesizer before the band decided it sounded more organic on the xylophone. UCR

“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.” SH Sting taught himself how to play the oboe for the song. UCR

“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 song came about in a matter of minutes. Copeland said Summers “absent-mindedly played some jazz chords on his guitar…Sting perked up and said he might have lyrics.” UCR The trio hit the studio and recorded the song in one-take without even doing a run-through first. UCR

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

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First posted 3/22/2008; last updated 6/20/2023.

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