David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 83: The Police (Message In A Bottle)

July 18, 2020

To Whom It May Concern:

I am on day 83 of my self-imposed deserted island of discs. While most people are smart enough to do a "Top 10 Records If Stranded On A Deserted Island," idiot me jumped off ship, and over the shark, with a 365 artists in 365 songs series. After 82 days, I am already feeling desperate. Just this week, I had to use a Sister Sledge song. Pirates aside, who knew I would resort to that kind of stock material?

If you are receiving this message in a bottle, you know I have put another X on the solitary palm tree here with me, marking another day, another song, another artist, closer to salvation on April 27, 2021. The problem has been is that I am afraid I have not paced myself well for surviving a whole year. Early on, I threw away the subsidence that can be The Smiths, (boy, could I have learned from "Stretch Out And Wait"); Neil Young (Think "Sail Away" might help me?); Elvis Costello ("Shipbuilding" . . . duh!), or XTC (glad not to use "Desert Island," worthless b-side that it is). They were easy to consume early on, like a bag of apples that I was convinced would go bad.  Now, I look at my sparse provisions necessary to hold on for 9 more months, and I am afraid to use anything that has long-term value.

In the midst of this existential crisis, I realize The Police have provided me this message in a bottle.

I associate The Police very similarly with actual police. Like the men and women in uniform who are there to protect us, Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers look good as a whole unit. As a trio, they manage to do a lot with a little. They are bound to get a person's attention.

On the other hand, sometimes they try too hard ("Don't Stand So Close To Me"), sometimes they don't seem to try at all ("De Do Do Do De Da Da Da"), and the head of the police, Sting, himself, really can irritate me. Don't even ask me about dreams of blue turtles. I don't know what kind of deserted island he found himself on, but outside of a snapping turtle that led me to Supertramp, there ain't no blue turtles in my world.

However, this "Message In A Bottle" is my lifeline, especially today. Even "Every Breath You Take" "Synchronicity II" and "King Of Pain," their masterpieces from their final album, don't quite match up with this message in a bottle.

The message is, of course, you are not alone. None of us are alone in our "more loneliness than any man can bear," or immune to the fact that "love can mend your life but love can break your heart." If you doubt it, do the modern version of bottled messages, socially unmediated media, and wait a little while to have a hundred billion posts showing that you "are not alone in being alone." (But disregard the thousand telling you that you are a piece of crap.)

More than this just being the proletarian version of "it's my destiny to be the king of pain," "Message In A Bottle" exemplifies just how much a power trio can power through musically. Off of Regatta De Blanc, The Police's second album, this song produced a much richer sound than anything off of the debut album, Outlandos D'Amour, which packaged reggae inside a lot of noise ("Next To You," "Truth Hits Everybody," the chorus of "Roxanne"). It was lovely white noise, but it was true white noise.

On "Message In A Bottle," Andy Summers provides moments of texture that are like the clinking of bottles washing up on my shore, saving the song from basically being one long, single paragraph rendition. Note especially the flourishes he provides in the long fade out surrounding "sending out an SOS." Then there is Stewart Copeland's mad drumming, especially with cymbals and snares, which even he thinks he may have overdone--although I would beg to differ. Even Sting's bass carries the day when the drums and guitar mostly drop in the middle. This is a song that can showcase just how much better three people making live music can be as opposed to six people. "More is not better," says the guy eyeing his rations anxiously.

So for today, my message in a bottle covers July 18. Tomorrow, the crisis begins again. Excuse me, while I rifle through my remaining possessions to see what I have yet to squander.


A castaway, an island to sea

"Message In A Bottle." Regatta De Blanc. The Police. A&M. 1979. Link here.

Day 82: Sigur Ros "Saeglopur."

Day 84: Aimee Mann "Deathly."

See complete list here.