Saturday, July 9, 1983

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

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, 1095.5 video, 848.84 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

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 Sting, the band’s singer and chief songwriter, confirmed that, telling Rolling Stone it is “a fairly nasty song…about surveillance and ownership and jealousy.’” BR Ah, nothing expresses wedded bliss like a tale of an obsessive stalker.

Sting penned his very un-romantic song in the wake of his breakup with Frances Tomelty. BR He said, “I do my best work when I’m in pain and turmoil.” CR He was dealing with more than the end of his seven-year marriage. The sessions for the Police’s Synchronicity album was “frought with conflict.” CR

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:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for The Police
  • DMDB page for parent album Synchronicity
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 574.
  • BC Brad Carl (2015). 50 Songs from the 70s and 80s That Still Hold Up. Pages 29-30.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 242.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 54.
  • KL Jon Kutner and 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

First posted 7/8/2012; last updated 4/11/2021.

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