Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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King of Pain

Last night when I got home, I pulled The Police's album Synchronicity off the shelf. Back when I first conceived the notion of getting a CD player, one of my motivations was to get the extra track that bands would leave off their LPs in a format other than cassette, which I deemed insufficiently archival. I think "Murder By Numbers" was the first song of this sort that I lusted after. Thus, even though I had moved on from my Police phase by the time I got my Sony boom box as a high-school graduation present in June, 1986, I still had it in mind to purchase Synchronicity a second time in order to satisfy my long-deferred desire.

But I barely listened to the CD. Even though I was a big fan of Sting's first solo album, I found it difficult to deal with being transported back to the apex of my teenage misery. I was done identifying with the King of Pain. Somehow, though, I held on to the CD, even though I sold -- to my later regret -- some of the first records I'd obtained in that format during my first year at Berkeley, ones I listened to more than Synchronicity. Maybe I needed to remember what I didn't want to remember.

This morning I have listened to the whole album for the first time since 1986. Even now, the extent to which its better-known songs were played to death on the radio makes it hard to hear with fresh ears. And Sting's voice grates to the precise degree that it used to please me. From a musical standpoint, though, it impressed me more than I expected. Unlike so many records of the early and mid-1980s, it isn't overwhelmed by that era's ubiquitous synthesizer textures, though they can certainly be heard. I think it's Synchronicity's spacious drumming and spare guitar parts that save it from stereotype.

The amazing thing is that the record still has the capacity to transport me back to the steps in front of the administration building at Queen Anne School. I'm waiting for my mother, playing "King of Pain" over and over off of the cassette recording I made from the radio. I don't recall what she was doing. I'm not even sure I knew then. But I'm pretty sure it had something to do with something I wasn't doing. Homework, for example. Or feeling well enough to make it to school in the first place. Whatever it is, it's taking longer than I thought it would and I am glad I have my crappy black not-quite-boom-box to stave off the boredom. 1986 can't come soon enough.
Tags: autobiography, music

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