Andy Summers Is Still Battling Sting Over ‘Every Breath You Take’
The guitarist is in the midst of an ongoing multimedia tour called The Cracked Lens + The Missing String. While promoting the shows on The Jeremy White Show podcast, Summers was asked about songwriting credits for the chart-topping 1983 single.
He offered a pointed response: “It’s a very contentious [topic] that is very much alive at the moment. That song was going in the trash until I played on it, and that’s all there is to it. And I think that’s composition, absolutely.”
He wouldn’t go into detail about ongoing efforts to get songwriting credit, but Summers hinted that a potential legal battle is brewing. “Watch the press,” he said. “Let’s see what happens in the next year.”
Watch the Police's 'Every Breath You Take' Video
The Police’s Struggles With ‘Every Breath You Take’
Sting began work on “Every Breath You Take” in 1982 following his breakup with his first wife Frances Tomelty and the subsequent beginning of his relationship with her friend, Trudie Styler. The Police intended to include the song on their album Synchronicity, but it proved to be one of the most difficult to complete.
Sting’s initial concept didn’t have a guitar part and his bandmates disagreed over the best approach. “That song, ‘Every Breath You Take,’ was going in the trash," Summers reiterated. "Stewart [Copeland] and Sting couldn’t agree on where the drums and bass were gonna sit with the song. And it wasn’t going to make it onto the album."
According to Summers, the only reason "Every Breath You Take" wasn't abandoned was because the Police hadn't yet filled out the album.
"We needed the material," Summers explained, "and the famous story is Sting just turned to me and said, ‘Well, go on. Go in there and make it your own.’ And of course, I had all this sort of stuff under my fingers. I was the Police stock-artist guitarist, if you like. And I went in and I got that lick almost, it was like one take. Everyone stood up and cheered.”
Once Summers’ instantly recognizable guitar part was added, the song seemed complete. Still, that didn’t end the drama surrounding “Every Breath You Take.”
Watch the Police Perform 'Every Breath You Take' Live
One of the Biggest Hits in History
Things got turbulent again when the Police went to Canada to mix Synchronicity.
“The engineer did all this shit on [the song],” Summers said. “He had fucked up the guitar sound and I was absolutely furious. And I said, ‘Man, I don’t know what you did, but you’ve ruined the guitar sound. Take all that crap off.’” The band “pretty much got [the sound] back to what it needed to be,” but Summers said “it was a heartbreaking moment when he almost lost the incredible sound that I had.”
Released on May 20, 1983, “Every Breath You Take” hit No. 1 in both the U.K. and America. It spent eight weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and was the best-selling single of 1983. It also earned the Police a pair of Grammys: Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
“Every Breath You Take” has also been recognized as the most-played song in radio history.
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Gallery Credit: Ed Rivadavia
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