The Pop History Dig

Sting: “Russians”
1985

Cover of 1985 CD single for Sting’s ‘Russians’ song.
Cover of 1985 CD single for Sting’s ‘Russians’ song.
     The Cold War and rock music – not a likely combination, right?  But back in 1985, one musician at least thought it an appropriate arena for song  — a song with a message and point of view.  British singer and songsmith Sting – formerly a member of the rock group Police – had embarked on a new phase in his career.  His debut solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, released in June 1985,  included a song entitled “Russians,” which was also released as a single in November that year.

     Ronald Reagan was President of the United States at the time, and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the U.K.  In the Soviet Union, a succession of three leaders had occurred in the early- to mid-1980s: Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, and Mikhail Gorbachev. The nuclear arsenals of the two “superpowers” – as the U.S. and the Soviet Union were then called  — were still aimed at each other. 

 

Music Player
Sting: “Russians” 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

[For full lyrics, see box below]

     Sting’s song was leveled at both sides, drawing on the Cold War’s nuclear rhetoric, which by the early- and mid-1980s was running quite hot between the U.S. and Russia, with Europe caught in the middle.  Sting set his lyrics to the dirge-like Russian music of Sergei Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije Suite.  His song covers some Cold War history, the bomb’s origins, and the tough talk that began in the 1950s.

 

“Mr. Khrushchev Says…”

Nikita Khrushchev, 1950s.
Nikita Khrushchev, 1950s.

     Sting first points to the famous November 1956 line by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, who said, generally translated, “we will bury you” meaning the capitalist West.  Khrushchev was addressing Western ambassadors at a Polish embassy reception in Moscow on November 18, 1956 when he made the remarks.  Time magazine about a week later reported on Khrushchev’s remarks, noting that he said, in part:  “…Whether you like it or not, history is on our side.  We will bury you!” There were some differences over the exact translation of Khrushchev’s words, interpreted by some as “we will dig you in,” or to mean “we will attend your funeral.”

Khrushchev on the cover of Time magazine early September 1961 when the Soviets resumed nuclear testing.
Khrushchev on the cover of Time magazine early September 1961 when the Soviets resumed nuclear testing.
     Khrushchev himself, some years later in August 1963, in remarks he made in Yugoslavia, offered further clarification:  “I once said, ‘We will bury you,’ and I got into trouble with it.  Of course we will not bury you with a shovel.  Your own working class will bury you.”  Khrushchev was here referring to the Marxist proletariat as “the undertaker of capitalism” with communism the ultimate victor.  In any case, “we will bury you” is what stuck and became a famous line from the mid-1950s on.  Everyone knew the threat and implication.  Republican U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, when he ran for president in 1964, used a clip of Khrushchev making the remark during his presidential campaign.  Khrushchev came off as a gruff and hostile leader in his speeches, prone to expressive outbursts.  In an October 1960 speech at the United Nations (photo above), he reportedly pounded his shoe on the rostrum for effect.  His unpredictable and blunt style, made him even more menacing in Western eyes.  In any case, he was one of those Russian leaders who augured the Cold War ideology deeply into the world’s psyche in those years, which is why, no doubt, Sting chose to use him in the song.

 

“Oppenheimer’s Deadly Toy…”

J. Robert Oppenheimer, Life magazine cover, October 10, 1949.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, Life magazine cover, October 10, 1949.
     Sting also touches on the origins of the bomb, with the line: “how can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy.”  Oppenheimer here is J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904- 1967), the American theoretical physicist and University of California, Berkeley physics professor who is known as “The Father of the Atomic Bomb.”  He was the scientific director of the Manhattan Project: the World War II effort to develop the first nuclear weapons at the secret Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.  Much has been written about Oppenheimer’s changing views on the value of nuclear weapons, first believing they would end all wars, then in later years trying to put the genie back in the bottle. 

Oppenheimer explaining the atomic bomb to U.S. military leaders, 1946.
Oppenheimer explaining the atomic bomb to U.S. military leaders, 1946.
     At the Trinity test in New Mexico, where the first bomb was tested in 1945, Oppenheimer is said to have uttered phrases from the Bhaga- vad Gita, an important Sanskrit Hindu scripture, including:  “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one,” and, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

     The bomb that Oppenheimer and his team developed was used on Japan during WWII, dropped on two cities in August 1945 – Hiroshima and Nagasaki — touching off for decades thereafter, an escalating nuclear arms contest between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  The understanding that followed with the nuclear arms build-up in both the U.S. and Soviet Union was that any nuclear exchange between the superpowers would result in all-out war and “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD).


“Winnable War”

     In 1981, as the Administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan assumed power in Washington, there began some tough and loose talk about the use of nuclear weapons.  Reagan himself remarked at one point, for example, “Yes, there could be a limited nuclear war in Europe.” “The probability of nucle- ar war is 40 percent …and our strategy is winnable nuclear war.”
                -Richard Pipes,
                             Reagan advisor,1982  
And Secretary of State Alexander Haig in 1981 also said: ”We have contingency plans to fire a [nuclear] warning shot at the Soviet Union, warning of U.S. intentions to begin a nuclear war.”  By late 1981, as reported by the New York Times, President Reagan approved a National Security Decision Document committing the United States to fight and win a global nuclear war.  And some of Reagan’s top advisors at the time were quite clear on their positions.  “There is no alternative to war with the Soviet Union if the Russians do not abandon communism,” said Richard Pipes, a top Reagan adviser in 1981.  And Pipes again in 1982:  “The probability of nuclear war is 40 percent…and our strategy is winnable nuclear war.”  This, no doubt, is what Sting is singing about in the next verse of his song:

“There is no historical precedent,
To put the words in the mouth of the president
There’s no such thing as a winnable war
It’s a lie that we don’t believe anymore…”

 

“We Will Protect You…”

Ronald Reagan and his ‘Star Wars’ defense initiative on Time’s cover, April 4, 1983.
Ronald Reagan and his ‘Star Wars’ defense initiative on Time’s cover, April 4, 1983.

     Next came Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as “Star Wars,” a take-off on the popular 1977 film of that name by George Lucas.  Reagan gave his “Star Wars” speech on March 23, 1983, proposing a space-based defense system equipped with high-powered lasers that would shoot down incoming Soviet missiles. 

     Only a few weeks earlier, on March 8, 1983, Reagan had given his “Evil Empire” speech, in which he pointedly meant the Soviet Union.  In an earlier speech to the British House of Commons on June 8, 1982, although he did not use the exact phrase “evil empire,” Reagan had sounded similar anti-Soviet themes, outlining the evils of totalitarianism. 

     All of this rhetoric was needed, in part, to justify the new nuclear defense hardware Reagan was proposing.  But the “Star Wars” plan brought protests from Congress, Europe, and elsewhere, and was also charged with violating other international measures to prohibit the militarization of space.  Still, the Reagan Administration charged ahead with money and planning as the U.S. Defense Department began to work on the new program.  But Sting, in his song, wasn’t buying the idea of protection.

“Russians”
Sting – 1985

In Europe and America
There’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets

Mr. Khrushchev said we will bury you
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too

How can I save my little boy
From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy
There is no monopoly of common sense
On either side of the political fence

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

There is no historical precedent
To put words in the mouth of the President
There’s no such thing as a winnable war
It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore

Mr. Reagan says we will protect you
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me and you
Is if the Russians love their children too

 

“…The Same Biology”

     In his song, Sting’s plea is for common sense.  “We share the same biology, regardless of ideology,” he says in one of  the lines, asking more or less, why do we want to kill one another; what’s the sense in that?  His hope: “that the Russians love their children too.”  In a later interview in 1994, Sting gave some of the background on this song and how it came about:

     “Russians” is a song that’s easy to mock, a very earnest song, but at the time it was written –  at the height of the Reagan-Rambo paranoia years, when Russians were thought of as grey sub-human automatons only good enough to blow up – it seemed important.  I was living in New York at the time, and a friend of mine had a gizmo that could pull the signal from the Russian satellite.  We’d go drinking and then watch Russian morning shows in the middle of the night.  It was apparent from watching these lovingly made kids shows that Russians weren’t quite the automatons that we’d been told they were.  The song was also precipitated by my son asking me if there was a bomb that existed that could blow up the world, and I had to tell him, ‘Actually, yeah, there is.’  So he was introduced to that horror, the horror we’ve all lived with for most of our lives.  It’s very cheeky to have stolen a bit of Prokofiev and stuck it in a pop song, but in that context it was right.  (See more Sting comments on this song at his website).

U.K. rock star, Sting.
U.K. rock star, Sting.
In the mid-1980s, with the escalating nuclear rhetoric, the outlook did not seem bright.  And Sting’s song found its listeners.  Around the world, the song rose on the pop charts.  In France, the song did especially well, peaking at  No. 2 for three weeks and remaining in the top 50 for 19 weeks.  In France the single also reached “gold” sales status, selling more than 500,000 copies.  The single also hit No. 8 on the Dutch charts; No. 11 on the Irish charts; No. 16 on the Swedish charts; No. 13 on the Swiss charts; No. 12 on the U.K. singles chart; and No. 16 the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

     In his music, Sting has not been reticent about raising political matters, or incorporating current events into his songs, which he would continue to do throughout his career.  In fact, on The Dream of the Blue Turtles album, in addition to “Russians,” there are two other “social concerns” songs – “Children’s Crusade,” about heroin addition, and “We Work the Black Seam,” about the 1984 U.K. coal miners’ strike and nuclear power plants.


Postscript

     In 1987, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, in historic meetings, agreed to reduce nuclear arsenals as intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear missiles were later eliminated.  In early November 1989, the Berlin Wall began to come down, and by December 31, 1991 the Soviet Union formally dissolved, ending the Cold War.  The worry about nuclear weapons, however, did not dissipate, especially for those stockpiled in the Soviet Union during the Cold War that could now find their way to terrorists or rogue nations.

CD cover of 1988 Sting single, ‘They Dance Alone.’
CD cover of 1988 Sting single, ‘They Dance Alone.’
     Sting, meanwhile, continued to use his talents to send other musical messages.  A classic in this vein is his 1987 song, “They Dance Alone”(Gueca Solo), about women in Chile who assemble in quiet protest to dance “with the invisible ones” – their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers – who “disappeared” in Chile, presumed tortured and murdered by the military dictatorship under Army General and President Augusto Pinochet (b.1915-d.2006).  Sting, who witnessed one of these public dance protests, offered this explanation in liner notes on his 1987 album Nothing Like The Sun:

     “On the Amnesty Tour of 1986 the musicians were introduced to former political prisoners, victims of torture and imprisonment without trial, from all over the world.  These meetings had a strong affect on all of us.  It’s one thing to read about torture but to speak to a victim brings you a step closer to the reality that is so frighteningly pervasive.  We were all deeply affected.  Thousands of people have “disappeared” in Chile, victims of murder squads, security forces, the police, the army.  Imprisonment without trial and torture are commonplace.  The ‘Gueca’ is a traditional Chilean courting dance.  The ‘Gueca Solo,’ or the dance alone, is performed publicly by the wives, daughters and mothers of the”disappeared.”  Often, they dance with photographs of the loved ones pinned to their clothes.  It is a symbolic gesture of protest end grief in a country where democracy doesn’t need to be ‘defended’ so much as exercised.  (see more on this song, and more on Sting’s impressions of what he saw and experienced in Chile, under “artists comments” at Sting’s website).

Trudie Styler and Sting.
Trudie Styler and Sting.
     Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, have used their celebrity on numerous occasions to help advance various social and environmental causes.  Sting has also acted independently to advance his music when traditional avenues appear to block or slow its dissemination.  See related story on this latter topic at, “Sting & Jaguar, 1999-2001.”

     Stay tuned to this website for future profiles of “message music” from other artists.  Thanks for visiting.  - Jack Doyle

Please Support
this Website

Donate Now

Thank You



_________________________________

Date Posted:  30 April 2009
Last Update:  30 April 2009
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Sting: ‘Russians’, 1985,”
PopHistoryDig.com, April 30, 2009.

_________________________________


 

Sources, Links & Additional Information

Sting’s ‘Dream of the Blue Turtles’ album, 1985, which includes the song, ‘Russians’.
Sting’s ‘Dream of the Blue Turtles’ album, 1985, which includes the song, ‘Russians’.

“Khrushchev Tirade Again Irks Envoys,” New York Times, November 19, 1956, p.1.

“We Will Bury You!,” Time, Monday, November 26, 1956.

You Tube clip: Barry Goldwater’s Khruschev Clips, 1964 Election Ad.

Jan Sejna, We Will Bury You, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, England, 1982. Book on communist Cold War strategies by former communist general Jan Sejna of the Czechoslovak Army, who later emigrated to the U.S.

Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers, Little Brown & Co., January 1970.

“The United State Prepares for Nuclear War in the 1980s,” American Studies, Colorado.EDU.

Sting’s Website.

“Russians,” Wikipedia.org.

Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold’ album, a Best-of-Sting compilation, which includes ‘Russians’ and ‘They Dance Alone,’ among others.
Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold’ album, a Best-of-Sting compilation, which includes ‘Russians’ and ‘They Dance Alone,’ among others.
Kai Bird, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

Bernard Gwertzman, “Reagan Clarifies His Statement on Nuclear War,” New York Times Thursday, October 22, 1981, p. A-1.

Hon. Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, “Address to the Nation on National Security,” March 23, 1983, reprinted in Congressional Record, U.S. Senate, March 29, 1996, p. S-3206.

Lou Cannon, “Reagan Defends ‘Star Wars’ Proposal,” Washington Post, September 5, 1984, p. A-1.

Cass Peterson, “U.S. Won’t Abandon ‘Star Wars’,” Washington Post, December 24, 1984, p. A-1.

David Hoffman, “U.S. Firm In Pursuing ‘Star Wars’,” Washington Post, January 4, 1985, p. A-1.

Don Oberdorfer, “Reagan Claims ‘Star Wars’ Progress Does Not Violate Terms of ABM Pact,” Washington Post, October 13, 1985, p. A-11.

Sting Interview, Independent On Sunday (U.K.), November 1994.

Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, “The Reliable Source: Mrs. Sting, Happy to Play Her Part,” Washington Post, April 1, 2009, p. C-3.



“Sting & Jaguar”
1999-2001

Rock star ‘Sting,’ especially popular through the 1980s and 1990s, cut a deal with the Jaguar car company in 2000 to use his ‘Desert Rose’ song in their TV commercials, helping make the song & its album top hits.
Rock star ‘Sting,’ especially popular through the 1980s and 1990s, cut a deal with the Jaguar car company in 2000 to use his ‘Desert Rose’ song in their TV commercials, helping make the song & its album top hits.
     Sting, the rock star, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, is a U.K. musician, popular since the late 1970s.  He is the recipient of numerous music  awards and has taken home at least 16 Grammys in various categories.  He has also been nominated for the best song Oscar.  In his musical career, he has had a number of affiliations, among them, as principal songwriter, lead singer, and bass guitar player of the rock band Police.  Including his years with  Police,  as well as his own solo career, Sting has sold over  100 million records worldwide.  Among his hits with Police have been: “Message in a Bottle” (1979), “Every Little Thing She Does” (1981), and “Every Breath You Take” (1983).  Solo hits have included:  “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free”  (1985), “We’ll Be Together” (1987), “All This Time” (1991), “If Ever I Lose My Faith in You” (1993), and others.  Sting has established himself as an artist pushing out the boundaries of pop music, incorpor- ating elements of jazz, classical, and world music into his writing and songs.

CD cover for 'Desert Rose' maxi single, which includes a Sting duet with Algerian raï singer Cheb Mami.
CD cover for 'Desert Rose' maxi single, which includes a Sting duet with Algerian raï singer Cheb Mami.
     In the fall of 1999, however, Sting’s Brand New Day album was not exactly setting the music charts on fire.  Included on the album was “Desert Rose,” a haunting, calling love song with desert imagery and some Arabic verse.   The song is said to have been inspired, in part, by the science fiction novel and movie, Dune, both of which use desert imagery and Arabic language.  In the 1984 film version, in fact, Sting had an acting role as the character Feyd Rautha.  The song “Desert Rose” includes a Sting duet with Algerian raï singer Cheb Mami, and some reviewers noted the song’s ”world music” flavor.  But when Sting and his team tried to get the song played on the radio, they had little success.  Sting’s new music, some suggested, was perhaps a bit too sophisticated for normal pop radio.  Radio pro- grammers reportedly showed Sting research that supposedly proved listeners did not want to hear “Desert Rose.”  That’s when Sting and manager, Miles Copeland, were forced to “plan B,” as they say.

Video Used a Jag

Jaguar S-Type, similar to the one used in 'Desert Rose' video.
Jaguar S-Type, similar to the one used in 'Desert Rose' video.
     Stings’ video maker had shot a music video for the “Desert Rose” song.  It featured Sting taking a trip through the desert in a stylish, chauferred car on his way to a nightclub to perform the song with Cheb Mami.  The car they chose to shoot the video was a new Jaguar S-Type.  In fact, when the video was completed, Sting’s manager, Miles Copeland, thought it looked a lot like a car commercial.  He then sent it to Jaguar’s advertising agency and asked them to make their car commercial look like the video in exchange for free use of the song.  The Jaguar people loved the tape as soon as they saw it.  Sting then licensed “Desert Rose” to Jaguar and the two sides then collaborated on the project for developing the TV commercials, which were similar to the video.  (Various versions of the video appear on You Tube and elsewhere.)

     Jaguar’s advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather of New York developed two TV spots – a 30-second and a 60-second version in a campaign they titled, “Sting S-Type.”  It first began running on March 20, 2000 in the U.S.  By August 2000, the ads began appearing in several international markets as well.  The spots used footage from the Sting music video along with previous Jaguar footage. “Everyone dreams of becoming a rock star. What then do rock stars dream of?”
           – Jaguar’s ‘Sting-S-Type’ TV ad
“To have Sting in our car and the ‘Desert Rose’ music behind the product is what marketing executives dream about,” explained Jaguar’s Al Saltiel, general marketing manager.  “With the introduction of the S-Type last year and the upcoming launch of the X-400, one of our key strategic goals is to reach a broader market.  We believe this campaign will help us do that.”  The voice-over in the spots and the ad’s main line – “What do rock stars dream of” – grew out of the lyrics in Sting’s song.  “Desert Rose” is based on a dream,” explained Ogilvy & Mather’s Anton Crone, describing the ad’s theme.  “And from that we got the line, ‘Everyone dreams of becoming a rock star.  What then do rock stars dream of?’ “  The answer: riding in a Jaguar S-Type, of course.

This Jaguar press kit was handed out at the New York International Auto Show 2000. It included ‘Desert Rose’ videos,  Jaguar TV ads using the song, a CD-single with three versions of the song, and photos with Sting and car.
This Jaguar press kit was handed out at the New York International Auto Show 2000. It included ‘Desert Rose’ videos, Jaguar TV ads using the song, a CD-single with three versions of the song, and photos with Sting and car.
     In early 2000, at the International Auto Show in New York, Jaguar also handed out and extensive press kit on their Sting and “Desert Rose” collaboration. It included a ‘Desert Rose’ video and two Jaguar TV ads using the song: a 60-second version and a 30-second version.  A promotional CD- single was also included in the packet that had three versions of the song – a radio version at 3:54 minutes; an LP verison at 4:46; and a club mix version at 4:44.  There were also six 35mm full color transparencies featuring Sting and car, full color sheets of the same photos, and some Jaguar background info.  However, the deal between Sting and Jaguar to run the ads raised some eyebrows, considering that Sting was an avid environmentalist who was endorsing a gas-guzzling vehicle.  The Jaguar ads, however, helped turn the tide for “Desert Rose” and the album Brand New Day.  The ad ran everywhere and people started demanding the song, and it was soon being played on the radio and beyond.

     “. . .‘Desert Rose’ was a moderately successful U.K. single, but in the States it became a phenomenon, turning into one of the biggest sleepers for some time,” explains one summary of the song at Sting’s website. The song ran for a good six months on the U.S. music charts and had “top ten” showing all across Europe. “[The Jaguar] TV commercial proved an excellent piece of marketing, with the song being continually exposed to mainstream TV audiences, who got 30 seconds of prime Sting when they least expected it.”  The song ran for a good six months on the U.S. music charts and had “top ten” showing all across Europe.  It became Sting’s biggest hit in 10 years.  It also lifted the album Brand New Day to become one of Sting’s best selling ever.  By January 2001, the album had sold more than three million copies (triple platinum). The album also won several Grammys for the year 2000.  At the Grammy awards ceremony, Sting performed “Desert Rose” with his collaborator, Cheb Mami.

Desert Rose
Sting

I dream of rain
I dream of gardens
   in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs
   through my hand

I dream of fire
Those dreams are tied to a
   horse that will never tire
And in the flames
Her shadows play in the
   shape of a man’s desire

This desert rose
Each of her veils, a secret promise
This desert flower
No sweet perfume ever tortured
   me more than this

And as she turns
This way she moves in the logic
   of all my dreams
This fire burns
I realize that nothing’s as it seems

I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs
   through my hand

I dream of rain
I lift my gaze to empty skies above
I close my eyes, this rare perfume
Is the sweet intoxication of her love

I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs
   through my hand

Sweet desert rose
Each of her veils, a secret promise
This desert flower
No sweet perfume ever tortured
   me more than this

Sweet desert rose
This memory of Eden haunts us all
This desert flower, this rare perfume
Is the sweet intoxication of the fall

     In September 2000, Sting performed the song with Cheb Mami, among others, at a Sting concert in New York’s Central Park before 20,000 fans who were given free tickets by the chain store Best Buy, then making its debut in the New York market.  Ann Powers, reporting for The New York Times, made the follow- ing observations on the concert and Sting:

     …No one seemed the least bothered by Best Buy’s ubiquity at Central Park; such deals do not undermine Sting’s credibility because they are utterly congruous with his image.  Sting’s music is the sound of money well spent.  His signature mix of torchy balladry and uplifting dance pop can absorb almost any outside influences, and he furnishes his songs with cosmopolitan touches like the Algerian rai music that underlies “Desert Rose” or the Cuban conjunto rhythms that occasionally enlivened Tuesday’s show.  It’s the old colonialist way, updated for an age of corporate, rather than state, domination: if you love something, buy it up.  It’s possible to view Sting’s genre-shopping as artistically commendable.  After all, this is pop, whose essence is assimilation.  In his groundbreaking band the Police, Sting rubbed reggae against punk to create a hybrid whose energy reflected the anxiety caused by such miscegenation.  As he matured, Sting grew suspicious of rock’s amateurishness and moved toward an ideal based in poised musical interplay instead of conflict.  His belief in a true world music led him to form outstanding bands, including the one appearing Tuesday.  It also pushed his music toward a rootlessness that can seem decadent.
     His cosmopolitanism illuminates when it holds that seed of self-awareness.  It’s there in “Desert Rose,” in the amazing second vocal by Cheb Mami, the Algerian rai vocalist who joined Sting as an opening act at the concert.  Sting, the Englishman, can nearly match the North African’s sinewy technique, but Sting’s fairy-tale lyrics about a veiled seductress are undermined by the immediacy of Cheb Mami’s voice.  Performing the song with him, Sting finally surrendered, allowing his partner to lead its final crescendo.  Humbly giving over to his inspiration, Sting proved himself a sensitive collaborator…

     Sting also performed the song on the 2001 Superbowl pre-game show, reaching an audience in the millions. “Desert Rose” also became a regular song featured on Sting’s ‘Brand New Day’ world tour.  So in many ways, the Jaguar deal proved a powerful catalyst for Sting’s new music; providing lift off for “Desert Rose” and the album.

     Before making the deal with Jaguar, Sting’s record company had planned on selling about 1 million albums. Their marketing and promotion budget had been estimated at about $1.8 million, including $800,000 to make the “Desert Rose” video.  Jaguar, by comparison, shelled out about $8 million for the TV commercial time, and gave the song exposure to a global audience Sting might not have reached with its own marketing.  To date, Sting’s Brand New Day album has sold over 4 million copies.

Jaguar’s Ad Music
“Greatest Hits” – 1999-2008

Desert Rose
Sting
History Repeating
Propellerhead & Shirley Bassey
I Turn My Camera On
Spoon
The Girl’s Attractive
Diamond Nights
Hardcore Days & Softcore Nights
Aqueduct
Signs Of Love
Moby
I’m In Love With My Car
Queen
Battle Without Honor…#2
Tomoyasu Hotei
London Calling
The Clash
Two Rocks And A Cup Of Water
Massive Attack
Hush
Deep Purple
__________________________
Sources: “Jaguar TV Ad’s Greatest Hits,”
Rhapsody Radish, February 20, 2007, and
Jaguar.com.

     Jaguar for its part, was quite happy to have used the Sting song, and the experience appears to have had an impact on Jaguar’s thinking about how to package itself thereafter.  Owned by the U.S. auto giant Ford, Jaguar is the venerable U.K. car company known for its luxury cars, but also for its somewhat stuffy image.  However, in the last several years, Jaguar has continued to use popular music in other car ads – from Deep Purple’s “Hush”, a 1968 hit, to Spoon’s more current tune, “I Turn My Camera On.”  Songs by Clash, Queen, Moby and Propellerhead have also been used.  Granted, not all of these have worked as well as Sting’s “Desert Rose.”  Yet taken together, such pop and progressive music tracks are helping to give Jaguar a new brand image, which in turn helps the company reach into new groups of potential buyers.

 

New Song vs. Old Song

     On the artist side of the equation, a few years after Sting’s success using the Jaguar ad, other artists followed allowing their music and/or image to be used in product advertising, including Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, and Paul McCartney.  However, some of the artists, like Sting, were using TV ads not so much to capitalize on older music, but as a way to help launch new songs or albums.  Music fans are often offended to find their favorite old songs appearing in TV ads.  They call it “selling out” and regard the advertising as a crass exploitation of the emotional connection built up over their years with song and artist.  However, a new song used in a commercial, unknown and without a track record – no “emotional constituency,” so to speak – might be seen somewhat differently.  Artists argue that given the tougher climate in the music industry and the keen competition out there, a new song needs all the help it can get.  And TV spots are a good way to get noticed.  Still, one car company ad or beer commercial does not always mean immediate pop success for the artist.  And the chosen sponsor can also carry baggage that the artists’ fan base does not like.  For the sponsor too, the chosen music can boomerang on the company or turn off other customers.  Music fans, meanwhile, remain divided on the practice, whether old song or new, with some being more vehement about it than others.

     Stay tuned to this website for additional stories on the use of music in advertising, covering both past history and more recent uses.  Thanks for visiting.

Please Support
this Website

Donate Now

Thank You

______________________________

Date Posted: 27 September 2008
Last Update: 1 December 2010
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Sting & Jaguar, 1999-2001,”
PopHistoryDig.com, September 27, 2008.

_______________________________ 



Sources, Links & Additional Information

Sting, shown here, played the villainous Feyd Rautha in the 1984 film adaptation of 'Dune'.
Sting, shown here, played the villainous Feyd Rautha in the 1984 film adaptation of 'Dune'.
“Song Details, Desert Rose,” Sting.com.

Jaguar website, Jaguar.com.

Desert Rose Remix video at You Tube.

“In Rock Stars’ Dreams – The Jaguar S-Type,” Automotive Intelligence News, March 16, 2000.

Cherie DeLory, “Sting Rides a Jaguar S-Type,” ‘boards, March 23, 2000.

Ann Powers, Pop Review, “It’s Sting’s World: Exoticism, Torchy Ballads and the Good Life,” New York Times, September 14, 2000.

Phil Patton, “Like the Song, Love the Car,” New York Times, September 15, 2002.

John Schacht, “Sting Pioneers Revolutionary Trail to TV Commercials,” Creative Loafing.com, published 09.01.04.

Bill Flanagan, “Selling Records Or Selling Out?,” CBS Sunday Morning, February 26, 2006.

Janet Morrissey, “If It’s Retail, Is It Still Rock?,” New York Times, October 28, 2007.

“Jaguar TV Ad’s Greatest Hits,” Rhapsody Radish, February 20, 2007.

“Desert Rose,” SongFacts.com.

“Desert Rose” and “Sting,” Wikipedia.org.

____________________________________



Home | About | Videos | Archive | Custom Research | Donate | Contact
© 2014 The Pop History Dig, LLC design by: Mindstorm Interactive, Inc.