Thursday, April 29, 2021

"Englishman in New York" by Sting

Song#:  3478
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Jazz-Pop

Pop Bits:  The first two singles from Sting's second album, ...Nothing Like the Sun, performed well with "We'll Be Together" hitting #7 and "Be Still My Beating Heart" making it to #15. Hoping for one more hit to come from the double-LP, this track was selected for the third single. Unfortunately, it didn't get anywhere. It disappeared from the Pop chart after a short month and could only get to #32 Rock and #48 AC. A fourth single, "Fragile," would fail to make the charts. While the album wouldn't generate four Pop Top 20 hits like his debut Dream of the Blue Turtles did, it would still do very well hitting #9 and going double platinum. And like his previous LP, this one would also be nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys.

ReduxReview:  This Kurt Weill-ish song was a terrific album track with an interesting subject (see below). However, this really had zero appeal as a pop single. With it's lite-opera style and jazz interjections, the tune just wasn't a fit for pop radio at the time. I'm guessing that Sting and/or his label thought they would give this song a go as a single because there wasn't much else on the double-LP that had any commercial appeal. A third hit might have been nice to have, but in the long run, the album sold well enough just from the first two singles combined with the Grammy nods. It is hard to judge something like this because it was a poor single choice, but it was a wonderful song. Oddly, in 1990 this song got remixed by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand, who kept the main parts of the song, but added beats and other sounds/effects to make it more of a dance track. It was released in the UK and ended up doing quite well getting to #15. While the remix did make it a bit more commercial, it still wasn't something that was going to take over the US pop airwaves.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The Englishman who Sting wrote about as being in New York was the real life writer/entertainer/gay icon Quentin Crisp. Sting had met Crisp while filming the 1985 horror flick The Bride. Sting starred in movie with Jennifer Beales and Crisp had a supporting role. Crisp had moved from England to New York a few years earlier. In addition to being the subject of the song, Crisp also made a rare cameo in the video. Crisp, born Denis Pratt, was an unapologetic effeminate character who often shocked the people of London in the 20s and 30s - a time when homosexuality was taboo and could easily get you beaten up or even killed. Over the years he would work as a male prostitute and as a nude model for art classes. In 1968, he assembled his fascinating life stories into the autobiography The Naked Civil Servant. It was somewhat successful, but what pushed Crisp further into the spotlight was when the book got turned into a British TV movie that starred John Hurt. The success of the film prompted Crisp to develop a one-man stage show of his own, which was successful in the UK and the US. He permanently moved to the US in 1981. Later in '86, he had dinner with Sting and told him what homosexual life was like back when he was young. Sting was fascinated by the conversation and afterwards developed "Englishman in New York." Crisp died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 90. 


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