Friday, November 29, 2019

Disney World the saddest place on earth to end a career

The end of the end
You sang your song
For much too long
The songs they're wrong
The bread has gone

--"Peanuts," The Police, 1978

We need to talk about Sting.

Not for his sake, but for ours. Well, mine. I shouldn't speak for you. Perhaps you've already come to terms with the end of his meaningful career. Or perhaps you always thought he was a tosser and this only proves your point. Again.

But I grew up on his music. Synchronicity made the Police the biggest band on the planet when I was in junior high. I remember wanting to go see them in the Tacoma Dome the week before I started high school. I remember being so jealous of all the kids showing up on the first day in their concert t-shirts. My sister bought me a Synchronicity t-shirt that Christmas and I wore it until the black faded to gray and the holes in it became too large and numerous to ignore.

And then the Police broke up, walking away at the top, and I was gutted. I finally got to see Sting in concert a few years later, at the State Fair in Syracuse. I saw him three times as a solo act, and when the Police did their reunion tour in 2008 my wife and I caught them in Buffalo. My only regret looking back on it was I didn't pay for floor seats. It was my one and only chance to catch my all-time favorite band, and I should have sprung for a closer vantage point.

I bought Sting's first half dozen solo albums, from The Dream of the Blue Turtles through Brand New Day. The last one that actually worked for me was Mercury Falling. It was miles away from the early days of the Police, but I still found something there that I liked. Brand New Day, meh, not so much. I never felt compelled to buy anything else, and I could only tell you from looking on Wikipedia that he has put out another seven albums in the last two decades.

So maybe it's fair to say his career ended in a meaningful way for me a long time ago. I was fine letting him live in my memory as he was. I bought his 2003 memoir, Broken Music, on discount a couple of years after it came out. Didn't love it, but it was okay. Yeah, I could probably have done without the bit about his first experiments with masturbation, but it wasn't such a complete wankfest as to tarnish my impression of him.

Then came the story about him playing the Moscow wedding of a Russian oligarch's daughter in 2016. I wondered how badly he needed money, and how he could stomach performing as a mercenary for a Russian oil tycoon.

Maybe, in light of having hired himself out for wedding gigs, lip-synching Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic on a Disney Christmas special Thanksgiving night alongside pal Shaggy isn't actually a new low. But it's one thing to read about someone trotting off to Moscow to cash a (hopefully huge) paycheck. It's another to see him metaphorically flushing his career down the toilet in front of your own tryptophan-glazed eyes.

A 2003 story in Billboard magazine included this 1986 quote from Sting about walking away from the Police at the band's zenith: "Even though logic would say, 'Are you out of your mind? You're in the biggest band in the world—-just bite the bullet and make some money.' But there continued to be some instinct, against logic, against good advice, [that] told me I should quit."

Somewhere along the way, that bullet started looking tasty enough to bite again. He's making some money. Sadly, the instinct to know when to quit has failed him.

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