It took only three dates for this project to acquire its first solid crotch-kick by the wayward steel-toed boot of fickle fate. Our plan was to conjoin a random album with a visit to our beloved Jubilee Auditorium to catch the Tony-winning musical Come From Away. I’d never seen it, and it’s one of Jodie’s favorites from the last decade. But as the sun coughed its way over the horizon that morning, I was greeted with the tragic news that a close friend of mine had died tragically in a car accident on the highway.
We attended the show, and I enjoyed the roughly 15% of the performance with which I was engaged, but that entire day was so deeply steeped in pain it seemed ridiculous to call that a proper date. A week later, we found ourselves at a family wedding (only the second in my family this century), and we spontaneously opted to use that same album – The Police’s swan-song masterpiece Synchronicity – to interweave with our vibrantly funky night out. So here we are.
The happy couple pictured above are my first cousin, Isaac, and his luminous bride, Taylor. Their official legal paper-signing ceremony had taken place a week earlier, so Saturday night was all about the celebrating, the dancing, the drinking, and the whatnot. Can’t forget the whatnot. In addition to being all cute and joyous-looking, they are a brilliant pair of humans, which makes the task of linking their wedding with one of the most intellectually-inspired albums of the last half-century relatively simple.
Sting was a teacher for two years before he opted for the rock star lifestyle. As a songwriter, he loved to flex his academic muscle and sprinkle literature and philosophy references in his music. For Synchronicity, he leaned on the 1972 book, The Roots of Coincidence by Arthur Koestler, who in a weird coincidence (pun strangely not intended) committed a double-suicide with his wife only a few weeks after this album was recorded.
Synchronicity opens with “Synchronicity I”, a groin-throttling rock beat beneath Stewart Copeland’s capable sticks, a hyper-catchy sequencer melody played by Sting, and lyrics that evoke Carl Jung. Have you ever felt that certain unrelated events in your life may share some unknown connection? If so, congrats – you have experienced synchronicity. Jung tied the concept to belief in the paranormal as the possible unknown connection, and why not? Koestler felt that science needed to enfold the notion of the paranormal into its thinking, to further explore how the otherworldly hullaballoo may be flicking its ethereal fingers amongst the muck of our observable experiences. I’d liken this to some quality marital advice – not to blame the ghosts for not taking out the garbage, but to always be aware of greater outside influences that may be nudging a healthy relationship into shaky territory.
Also, this song has fucking Latin in it. “Spiritus mundi,” which literally means “spirits of the world,” was a phrase William Butler Yeats used to employ to designate the collective unconsciousness. The Force, if you will. Sure – let’s say this album opens with a tribute to The Force, and it never hurts to have the blessings of a Jedi Master at a wedding.
“Walking In Your Footsteps” comes next – a trippy little tribute to the dinosaurs that rhymes “lesson for us” with “brontosaurus.” Of course, the lesson for *us* with this number is to pay attention to history and those who have promenaded throughout it. In this regard, Isaac and Taylor would do well to emulate all four of their parents, who are still blissfully married and genuine lovers of life. The parents of the groom, my aunt and uncle who are both surfing the crest of 60, have already planned a trip to their second ska festival of the year. Walking in the footsteps of such an example of perpetual love and happiness is good advice.
Up next comes “O My God,” a song that clings (as many Police songs do) to a punchy and thick groove emanating from Sting’s bass. I glanced at the lyrics for this tune and can’t find any marital advice in there, but this is a great opportunity to point out that this wedding featured a spectacular performance by Dave Hillier and the RockSteady Seven. I don’t tend to dance when I can avoid it, but it was impossible not to spend most of the evening on the dance floor. This was not only my first wedding with a live band, but my first live music experience since Covid. O My God, how these folks rocked.
Okay, we now twist our way down to “Mother.” This may be the most psychotic song The Police ever put to wax. Guitarist Andy Summers gave us this monstrous and intriguing sketch of a broken mind obsessed with his mother. I refuse to link any sentiment of this song to anyone I saw at the wedding, but I will point out that my mother was there as well. So this song is linked by title alone.
Next comes the two-minute “Miss Gradenko,” penned by Copeland. Two minutes, no Latin, but a remarkably solid album cut. All the magic of any of their four or five minute numbers gets packed neatly and wonderfully into 120 perfect seconds of catchy hooks. I emphasize the brevity of this tune only to poke some fun at my Uncle David, a terrific human and exemplary human. His hilarious wedding speech, which included a musical number and a startling amount of prop comedy, was a tad lengthy. It needed some of that Miss Gradenko magic.
On to the last track of side one, “Synchronicity II.” This is the one that doesn’t feature the word ‘synchronicity’ in it – though in an interview Andy Summers confessed he and Copeland would get the two songs confused. Sting never really explained why these two songs share the same name. The dude was operating at a higher vibration than the rest of us, I’m thinking. Wait… how are two unrelated songs joined by some unknown connection? Fucking synchronicity. Goddamn, this album keeps getting better and better.
The lyrics of “II” are dark and brooding, with a mysterious (and likely metaphorical) darkness rising from a loch and making its way to collide with a man living an unfulfilling and miserable life. No connection to the wedding, except for the fact that it’s a tremendous track, and Isaac and Taylor deserve to have their wedding connected to such a brilliant batch of tunes. Oh, and Isaac is ¾ Scottish, so the references to Scotland in this song might also count.
Side 2 of Synchronicity plays like a greatest hits collection. “Every Breath You Take” was not played at this wedding, but it’s definitely a wedding staple. I’ve seen it used as a romantic first dance at weddings in the past, which is odd given that the lyrics very clearly spread from affectionate and loving to utterly creepy and obsessed. Sting himself has been baffled by this. That said, if you plop this track onto a lyrical sieve and shake out, like, 20% of the lyrics, it can be a terrific pure love song. There’s the love lesson in this track: sometimes you’ve got to filter out some bullshit of life to embrace the love in your life.
“King of Pain” – yeah, this one will be a stretch. Wait – no it won’t. Forget the lyrical poetry running through every verse and the infectious emotion this track always seems to evoke for me. The concept came to Sting while he was vacationing with Trudy in Jamaica. As luck would have it, Isaac’s parents have vacationed in Jamaica many, many times. See? There’s always a way to link these tunes. Here’s another – I first heard this song after I’d heard Weird Al Yankovic’s “King of Suede,” and there were at least a half-dozen dudes wearing suede at the wedding.
“Wrapped Around Your Finger” would appear to be the most direct point-to-point link between Synchronicity and the starting point for decades of marital bliss. It’s about a wedding ring, right? No. It’s about a struggle for power, and it really doesn’t play out too well as a love song. But hey, there are some quality literary references in there. Like the mythical sea creatures Scylla and Charybdis, who get called out in the first verse. This old Greek tale is essentially an idiom for the wisdom of choosing the lesser of two evils. I had to make such a call when the band began its third set of the evening. Do I choose the evil of sloth – resting my aching feet and spending more time drinking? Or do I choose the evil of utter masochism – dancing more of the night away, all whilst foregoing a pain-numbing buzz? I opted for the latter, then went home and smoked a joint. It wasn’t my first sea monster fight.
The album officially ended with “Tea In The Sahara,” which was inspired by a story told to the lead character in The Sheltering Sky, a 1949 novel by Paul Bowles. It’s literally about three sisters waiting in the desert for some dude to return. The sisters in the song’s lyrics are patient and passionate, a terrific pattern for a young married couple to emulate. But the dude doesn’t return, and the sisters wind up waiting until they die. Another big lesson: don’t spend your marriage far apart. It’s a killer I’ve watched assassinate numerous marriages among my friends and family. Stay close.
I can only half-count the last track, “Murder By Numbers.” As I understand it, the song was not on the original LP, but appeared as a bonus track of sorts on later cassette and CD pressings. I’m only half-counting it because, to my knowledge, neither Isaac nor Taylor have committed a murder. Nor had anyone who was at the wedding.
Actually, I honestly have no idea. It’s entirely possible some guest I didn’t meet had murdered someone in their past and gotten away with it, one-two-three. So I guess this last one goes out to the mystery killer who may or may not have danced the same floor with us last Saturday night.
I once again offer up my congratulations to the happy couple. You both deserve a life as thoroughly awesome as both of you are, and as tremendous as Synchronicity remains.