You know how, every so often, something you haven’t thought about in the longest time will just sort of pop up out of nowhere, and all of a sudden you’re like, “Hey… Wait a minute”? Well, that happened to me last week, when it occurred to me that I actually used to sort of be cool once.
I guess, like everybody else, I’ve gotten used to thinking of myself as, you know, one of those guys on VH1. Some vaguely “adult contemporary” artist like Billy Joel or Elton John or somebody. The sort of musician you’d find your dad listening to or hear really quietly in the background at the bank. I mean, “cool” is the last thing I’d normally think of myself as being.
Looking at it now, who would think that the composer of “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” used to be cool? Sounds crazy, huh? It seems ridiculous, but it’s true. I was kind of hip, in a way, if you think about it.
Isn’t that just so weird?
It hit me the other day, and it was like, “Whoa—that’s so bizarre.” I was sitting at one of my pianos, working out some chords for my forthcoming album The Tepid Heart, when the wife asked me to pick up some diet soda. Since the staff was off (it was a Sunday), and the kids were due home from football practice soon, I said sure and drove down to the cornershop.
When I got there, the kid behind the counter had a tape playing that sounded oddly familiar. It wasn’t really my cup of tea—polyrhythmic and uptempo, with intense emotional energy and electrically amplified guitars instead of acoustic. And the kid was, to be honest, playing it a bit loud. But instead of being annoyed, I found it compelling in a weird sort of way. When I asked the kid who it was, he said he’d found it in a bag of stuff that used to belong to his older brother. “It’s old, but I like it,” he said. “It’s kind of reggae, but it sounds punk, too.”
Well, several weeks went by, but it kept nagging at me. Then, finally, last Thursday, I figured it out. I was in the den, watching some figure skating on TV and reading Parade. (Isn’t it funny how these things always hit you at the oddest times?) Anyway, there was an article about a policewoman who volunteers teaching schoolchildren about pet safety, when suddenly, it clicked: That kid was listening to Outlandos d’Amour, the first record by my old band, The Police!
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow… I haven’t thought about The Police in years.” And neither had I, but you know what? It sounds nothing like what you’d expect after hearing “Fields Of Gold.” At first, I thought, “Wait… Is this just my memory playing tricks on me? I mean, I recorded the love theme from The Three Musketeers with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart, for Christ’s sake. How cool could I possibly be?” But then I dusted off a bunch of the old LPs and, boy, was I amazed. Those records were actually pretty rockin’! You wouldn’t think that kind of stuff would come from me, but, hey, the opening track, “Next To You”? Come on! And the rest of the album, too: “So Lonely,” “Born In the ‘50s,” and you’ve got to admit that “Sally Be My Girl” is one cool song. I was like, “Did I write this stuff? No way!”
Come to think of it, I did lots of cool things back then. Sure, now we all think of me as starring in duds like The Bride, but I was in Quadrophenia, too. Heck, I was even in Urgh! A Music War. Remember that one? I’d totally forgotten until now. Man, I used to watch that on USA Network’s Night Flight back in the ‘80s, and I just thought it was so awesome. It had X and Devo back when they were really punk. Even the Go-Go’s were hardcore in that show! Shit, man, things sure do change.
And it wasn’t just the early years. The whole Police catalog was pretty cool. I mean, the chorus on that one song, what was it, “My wife has burned the scrambled eggs / The dog just bit my leg / My teenage daughter ran away / My fine young son has turned out gay”? That one actually had the mosh-pit kids slamming. Can you believe it? Teenagers, moshing to me of all people! Sure, nowadays, most people think of “(Don’t Stand So) Close To Me” as a deodorant commercial, but at the time, it was pretty out there, what with the whole Nabokov-pedophilia thing.
I know the idea of me being cool doesn’t seem to make sense (it didn’t to me at first, either), but just listen to those albums. Even Synchronicity isn’t bad, and I didn’t start really laming out until “(Don’t Stand So) Close To Me ‘86.” Go figure, I guess.
Then again, Eric Clapton, of “Tears In Heaven” fame, really used to tear it up, too, come to think of it. Or, hell, just take Paul Westerberg. Now there’s one to ponder.
Makes you wonder, you know? I mean, I guess it just really goes to show you.