1991 was a strange year. It was the first year of my life I had to live without my Poppy. Around the time we lost him Sting had completed his album The Soul Cages, which was inspired by the loss of his father. That in itself should be enough to explain what drew me to the album, but I didn't know what the album was about the horrendously hot day I got into the car and discovered I could pull in WDRE, and they were playing Mad About You, I just thought it was a cool sounding song. Then the bridge hit me. "I have never in my life felt more alone than I do now." When you're a teenager and you've lost one of the bright lights in your life, songs like that get you through things like making everyone around you think you're fine despite feeling like you're dying with each step you take away from everything you ever knew.
All This Time, the peppy one about the last rites and burial at sea, with its message that time just keeps flowing got so deep into my head that I edited a quick bit of the video into footage from our trip. Sting totally was on our train, getting bounced around the dining car. Never mind that he was on a boat in his video. The video I edited for our trip was insane and I'll never know what anyone thought of the scenes where the train operator got off for coffee, or Shaolin monks battled on top on the train in Denver, but it amused me and if there's one thing you guys all obviously get about me it's that I need to be amused.
Why Should I Cry For You? was another one WDRE played, becoming a Shreeek of the Week in May of that year and that instantly qualifies it as ten kinds of awesome. Even before I knew the guy who'll be married six years tomorrow loved it, or that the ADD goth pirate who turns not quite Hobbit-old on Monday also thought the song was the greatest thing ever, it was another one of those songs that sat with me and stared out the window at the rain whenever I'd wake up and remember that only the year before, we did this, or we did that...together. Down the years it became the song for other things, stories and characters who are still waiting to live (or die, as their writers see fit), and it always has a tale to tell when we meet up again.
Some magazine recently thought it was clever to call Sting the worst songwriter of all time, and I disagree with that, and The Soul Cages is why. The soundtrack to the IMAX movie The Living Sea contains different versions of some of the songs, and indeed the extended intro Mad About You has a horn solo that could cause me to veer off the road it is so fantastic. Branford Marsalis is to blame for that, he's also the sax player who made the soundtrack to The Russia House what it is. My Nan and I, we hear that horn, and it could be that it was the first new thing we enjoyed after 1990, but we dig that horn, man.
Mad About You
All This Time
Why Should I Cry For You
Finally, I never did get as far as this guy with St. Agnes and the Burning Train, but it was one I picked out on the piano a few years after 1991, on the weekends I'd spend trying to calm the baby border collie with separation anxiety. It totally worked. For me, anyway. And no, there's no recording of me playing it so I've spared you that much.