The Police: Synchronicity [Record 89]
Synchronicity is the fifth and final studio album by The Police, released on 1 June 1983. The band’s most popular release, the album includes the chart topping hit singles “Every Breath You Take”, “King of Pain”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and “Synchronicity II”. Much of the material in this album was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence, which is what the title and album’s concept is based on. At the 1984 Grammy Awards the album was nominated for a total of five awards including Album of the Year and won three. At the time of the album’s release and following its immensely popular tour The Police were hailed as the “Biggest Band in the World”.
The album was number one on both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200, and sold over 8 million copies in the US. Synchronicity was widely acclaimed by critics. Praise centred on its cohesive merging of disparate genres and sonic experimentation.The record has featured in numerous publications’ lists of the best albums of the 1980s and the best albums of all time. Many consider Synchronicity to be the band’s finest album, Rolling Stone described “each cut on Synchronicity is not simply a song but a miniature, discrete soundtrack.” It has since been included on their lists of the “100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s” and the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In 2009, “Synchronicity” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In the 1983 Rolling Stone readers poll, “Synchronicity” was voted “Album of the Year”.
In the USA, the hit single “Every Breath You Take” was the best-selling single of 1983 and fifth best-selling single of the decade.
1, Synchronicity I.
2, Walking in Your Footsteps.
3, O My God.
5, Miss Gradenko.
6, Synchronicity II.
7, Every Breath You Take.
8, King of Pain.
9, Wrapped Around Your Finger.
10, Tea in the Sahara.
History: The album’s title was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence, which mentions Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Sting was an avid reader of Koestler, and also named Ghost in the Machine after one of his works.
The album marked a significant reduction in the reggae influences that were a part of the band’s first four records, instead featuring production-heavy textures and liberal use of synthesizers that, at times, drove entire songs (“Synchronicity I,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger”). The influence of world music can also be heard in songs such as “Tea in the Sahara” and “Walking in Your Footsteps.”
As with their prior album, the basic tracks for Synchronicity were recorded at AIR Studios, Montserrat. The three band members recorded their parts in separate rooms: Stewart Copeland with his drums in the dining room, Sting in the control room and Andy Summers in the actual studio. According to co-producer Hugh Padgham this was done for two reasons: to obtain the best sound for each instrument and “for social reasons.” Padgham also stated that subsequent overdubs were done with only one member in the studio at a time.
During the recording of “Every Breath You Take,” Sting and Copeland came to blows with each other, and Padgham nearly quit the project.
The album was published in the UK and US on both LP and CD in 1983, and on Super Audio CD in 2003. In 1989, it was published by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab as a remastered gold CD.
Songs: “Synchronicity I” starts the album off with a sequencer line that repeats throughout the song. Its lyrics include a term from “The Second Coming,” “Spiritus Mundi” (literally “spirit of the world”), which William Butler Yeats used to refer to the collective unconscious, another of Jung’s theories. “Walking in Your Footsteps” features lyrics concerning the relation between extinct dinosaurs and humans, and is followed by the jazzy “O My God”. (The song recycles some lyrics from two earlier Police songs: “Three o’ Clock Shit”, which was never recorded on an album but was widely bootlegged from live performances, and the 1981 single “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”). “Mother” features screamed vocals by Summers and a frantic guitar line reminiscent of Robert Fripp (with whom Summers had previously recorded), and “Miss Gradenko” is a song about a romance in the middle of a communist bureaucracy. “Synchronicity II” features extensive use of audio feedback.
“Every Breath You Take,” which begins side two of the record, is possibly The Police’s best-known song, with Sting’s vocals on top of a steady rhythm featuring picked guitar, strong bass, and controlled drumming. Originally, the song was what Summers called a “Hammond organ thing that sounded like Billy Preston.” The guitarist came up with a more interesting guitar riff which became a distinctive part of the piece. The song, released before the album, went to number 1 on both the US and UK charts, aided by a black and white video directed by Godley & Creme.
“King of Pain” features a lyrical imagery and numerous effects and instruments, while “Wrapped Around Your Finger” uses subdued keyboards. The record’s closer, “Tea in the Sahara,” is a quiet, eerie song about three women who meet their death in the desert; the song is based on a story from Paul Bowles’ novel The Sheltering Sky, and from its French/Italian title, “Un the au Sahara”/”Un tè nel Sahara”. “Murder by Numbers”, originally the B-side of “Every Breath You Take,” was added to the CD and cassette versions of the album, and has lyrics comparing political power to the development of a serial killer.
The album’s original cover artwork was available in 36 variations, with different arrangements of the colour stripes and showing different photographs of the band members, which they took themselves. In the most common version Sting is reading a copy of Jung’s “Synchronicity” on the front cover along with a superimposed negative image of the actual text of the synchronicity hypothesis. A photo on the back cover also shows a close-up, but mirrored and upside-down, image of Jung’s book.
The original vinyl release was pressed on audiophile vinyl which appears black like most records, but is actually purple or brown when held up to the light.
Reception: Synchronicity topped the album charts in both the UK, and US (interrupting the dominance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller in the US). It won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
In 2013, the album Synchronicity reached 13 in BBC Radio 2’s Top 100 Favourite Albums, a poll voted by over 100,000 people. In 2001, the TV network VH1 named it the 50th greatest album of all time. In 2000, the Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums rated Synchronicity at #91. In 2005, Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Albums ranked the album at No. 65. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame compiled a list of The Definitive 200 Albums of All Time in 2007, listing Synchronicity at No. 119. In 2010 Consequence of Sound composed a list of the Top 100 Albums Ever by listed the album at #37. In 2012, the album was ranked No. 448 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 1989, the album was ranked #17 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 greatest albums of the 1980s”. Pitchfork Media ranked it No. 55 in their list of The 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s. In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at No. 25 in its list of “40 Best Albums of the ’80s”. In 2009, “Synchronicity” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.