Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 211
Fri. August 10, 2012
Growing up, every year our family friends The Mesa would give me a vinyl record for my birthday. Yes, even when I was younger, back then, everyone knew how much I loved music. I used to be the one who would make mix tapes and bring my boom box to play during recess. I remember playing one of my mixes in the playground and in the middle of a Police song comes my little brother Joe’s voice saying “hello, hello…” Something he loved to do, recording his voice over the middle of my mix tapes just to mess with me. Yes, my little bro knew that it would infuriate me. I still can see my classmates’ faces, when the music stopped, and Joe’s voice came on, so embarrassing. We all laughed at my little brother’s practical joke.
The Police album I received as a gift in 1981 was The Ghost in the Machine. My theme song while growing up was “Demolition Man.” I know I had a very innocent face but when I was younger I was a very creatively mischievous child. At school, my teachers would rave how much of an angel I was in class. I remember my Papi, snickering at one parent/teacher conference, under his breath, would call me “Angel with a Dirty Face” after the James Cagney movie.
“Demolition Man” is my explosive kind of song. I used to crank up the vinyl on my stereo, put on some shades and play air saxophone with my thumb during the coda. My favorite part of “Demolition Man” is the horns blowing madly throughout. Drummer Stewart Copeland explained the genesis of the horns on Ghost in the Machine when he said, “We’re on tour in Japan, and Sting buys a saxophone and one of those tune-a-day instructional booklets. Every night in the dressing room he’s going “bluh, bluh, bluh,” until he can finally play “Tequila”. Cut to a mere three months later, and we’re at Air Studios in Montserrat for the first time, starting this new album and Sting is playing all these layered brass parts like a fucking one-man Tower of Power.”
Unbeknownst to some, Sting originally after writing “Demolition Man” gave it to Jamaican American vocalist to record, as Sting recalled when he said, “Grace Jones recorded it first, and we took umbrage that somebody else was having a hit with it. That made us want to do it ourselves. Regarding Peter O’Toole, I was staying at his house in Ireland when I wrote it.”
One of the most infamous lyrics on “Demolition Man” was the “I’m a three line whip” was assumed to be a reference to Sadomasochism, Sting explained the true meaning of the line when he said, “[…] and the best line is “I’m a three-line whip”, which everybody assumes was about S&M. You have to know British constitutional law to know what it really means. Whatever part’s in power in Parliament, if it’s a really important vote, you get a one line whip. If it’s incredibly important, you have a two-line whip, and something monumentally important is a three-line whip. So it’s not sado-masochistic.”
Of course, back then before the internets, I had no idea what “Demolition Man” or any song was about. We just used our imaginations. And in my mind “Demolition Man” was the soundtrack theme song to my own personal spy movie in my head.
Forget about Sting’s 1993 remake, the 1981 original from The Ghost in the Machine is the essential version. Spinning “Demolition Man” gives me the urge to grab my sunglasses and polish off my thumb, reading for some air sax. Scorching and memorable, The Police’s “Demolition Man” is a priceless soundtrack to my vinyl days of my youth. “Demolition Man” is the perfect song for me. Being a middle child, I was proudly creatively mischievous and I have the theme song to prove it.