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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 169
Tues. June 25, 2012

“Fortress Around Your Heart”
Sting
1983

“♫ […] then let
me build a
bridge/ for I
cannot fill the
chasm/ and let
me set the battlements
on fire
[…] ♫”

Growing up, my older brother and I were huge followers of Sting/The Police. Between the both of us, by the time we hit high school, we owned all of Gordon Sumner and The Police’s discography on vinyl. But he was my older brother, so there we favored different styles of The Police’s sound. My brother, the future psychologist leaned towards the more melancholy morose songs like “Every Breath You Take” and “Invisible Sun” while I dug more positive sounding vibes of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” while dancing “Shadows in the Rain.”

No surprise “Fortress Around Your Heart” around your heart was my older brother’s favorite from The Dream of the Blue Turtles. While I preferred “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” his choice song was one that was linked to The Police’s most infamous number one hit—“Every Breath You Take.”

Sting explained when he said. “It really harks back to ‘Every Breath You Take’, this image of a building, a structure around a person, ostensibly to protect them but ultimately to control them – so much so that you end up isolated from them. It’s an antidote song.” Another antidote song, Sting must feel terribly uncomfortable for unleashing “Every Breath You Take” into the world because he had to compose another antidote song toward the spirited misinterpretation of his most famous penned Police song.

Unlike most Police fans, my brother and I were eager to hear Sting’s first foray into his solo career. I remember the time so well. My abuelo had just passed away. My parents had to fly back to South America to attend my grandfather’s funeral. It was a very strange time being in our house, as young teenage boys, grieving and trying to process the loss of our abuelito with our parents out of the country. Sting released his first solo LP—Dream of the Blue Turtles, that same summer, so my older brother and I drove to Musicland at the Mall Del Norte in Laredo, Texas— hoping that purchasing Blue Turtles would take our own blues away. It worked.

I’m, still amazed at the way Sting incorporated more jazz songs within his more traditional Sting rock sound. I love Branford Marsalis’ soaring saxophone throughout “Fortress.” Brandon’s sax is the light coming through dark lyrics surrounding Sting’s “Fortress” Like I said; “Fortress” was my older brother’s song. At that age, I never really understood the meaning. But at least he found solace in Sting’s song.

It’s not a song that lends itself to changing much; we play it the way it was written. It’s an odd structure because it doesn’t have a bridge, but I suppose that’s symbolic itself, saying there is no bridge between these relationships. It’s purely accidental of course. The song doesn’t have a bridge; therefore it isn’t a standard pop song. They are supposed to have bridges. Maybe with a bridge it would have been a bigger hit, but it is what it is.” Sting said.

Ironically enough, growing up my older brother and I were rivals. The only thing that brought us together was our love of music. Dream of the Blue Turtles was our favorite album that summer. Living in a small South Texas town, Sting’s songs took us on personal journeys that we experienced. Best of all we found a bond, a bridge as brothers, through albums like Blue Turtles through songs like “Fortress Around Your Heart.”

Fortress is about appeasement; it’s about trying to bridge the gaps between individuals. The central image is a minefield that you’ve laid around this other person to try and protect them. Then you realize that you have to walk back through it. I think it’s one of the best choruses I’ve ever written.” Sting said, bringing to light the reasons why “Fortress” is more than a pop song to me—

“Fortress Around Your Heart” is a place I keep returning—to a time when music like Dream of the Blue Turtles was always there for us, as hermanos, it reflected our dreams and future lives closer than we ever could imagine. And to my older brother and I— looking back this “Fortress” will always matter most.

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