From the Stacks

From the Stacks: The Police – ‘Every Breath You Take’ (Live Bootleg)

Few artists lay claim to a perfect studio discography. My beloved Bowie can’t–he made several albums that were duds (but I like them anyway). The great Zappa certainly can’t. Frank’s discography is peppered with albums that were best left in the vaults. Even the Beatles have released an album or two with some “meh” tracks.

But the Police released five perfect albums, starting with 1978’s Outlandos d’Amour and calling it quits with 1983’s Synchronicity. Some may argue that tracks like “Mother” and “Sally” are needless filler, but I disagree. There’s not a thing that I would change about the band’s output.

Well, there’s one thing: I’d make the Police discography much bigger, and I do whenever I can. There are some tidbits on soundtracks, compilations, and benefit albums that one can hunt for, and then there are the side projects like Klark Kent. Once those have been snatched up, the truly rabid fan can go after Sting’s lute and hurdy gurdy extravaganzas and Any Summers’s new age-y solo albums, some of which are quite good by the way.

Eventually, though, there’s nothing left to purchase but radio shows and bootlegs, and that’s what we’re looking at today. Every Breath You Take captures two shows three years apart, one an August 2, 1983 concert at Montreal’s Spectrum, and the other a June 15, 1986 gig at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. I recorded the latter off the radio when it was originally broadcast, and for 30 years I’ve carried that tape around with me like it was the Ark of the Covenant or something.

Both shows on this disc are recorded off the sound board, which is what you want when looking for boots. Rare is the crowd recording that sounds like much more than a dude waving around a tape recorder and screaming “whoo!” No sir, right off the board is the way to go.

Even though the sound is great, the packaging on my copy is hideous. Mine is clearly a copy of a copy, burned on the same computer from which the inserts were printed. The skilled craftsman who put this package together couldn’t even spare the $20 for a paper cutter, so my cover looks like it was cut out by a drunken monkey with a pair of safety scissors.

My favorite packaging gaffe, though, was the responsibility of the original bootlegger rather than the bootleg bootlegger: Track seven, “Synchronicity II,” is mistitled “Many Miles Away.” “What the hell is this song?” somebody must have asked at On Stage World Headquarters. “I don’t know, but he says ‘many miles away’ a lot. Just put that down.”

I’m sure there’s not a single track on this disc that isn’t available on the intergooglewebtubes for free, and a homemade bootleg of a bootleg is worth pretty much nothing as a collectible. The music is great, though, and that’s what matters.

Want your own copy of Every Breath You Take? A cruddy copy like mine will run you a buck or so, but the original bootleg CD (how’s that for an oxymoron?) fetches around 20 dollars. Happy hunting.


2 replies »

  1. I was in Buenos Aires when the Police were at their peak. However, everybody knew who sting was. Sting was out by the pool and so was I (opposite sides), and I broke out the instamatic and was gonna take a photo. He gave a signal no, no, no photos. I respected his privacy and put my camera away. I swear, I saw a look of disappointment on his face. I thought “fuck you, two can play at this game”; which was strictly my snideness in play.

    Liked by 1 person

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