Sumner's Tales: Sting talks...
"I needed to write an antidote to 'Every Breath You Take'. I don't think the idea of loving somebody and setting them free is particularly original, yet it's about love relationships in a larger arena than the property market of owning something, surrounding it with protection so you can control it, which is basically what most relationships are about. "I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to actually believe it, loving someone and setting them free. But singing it helps in a way, if you say something long enough..."
New Musical Express, 6/85
"This was the first single I did on my own away from the Police. I'm not sure if the phrase is mine. I probably read it somewhere. But it's the first time it's been used in a song, I think. And it's true, you can't imprison someone in a relationship. It's an antidote song to 'Every Breath You Take'. One song is about constricting, possessive love, and one is about being free. I suppose the truth is somewhere in the middle. It has a Motown sort of vibe, and my attempt at soulful singing. I had a great band at the time: Kenny Kirkland (keyboards), Branford Marsalis (saxophone), Darryl Jones (bass). Yes, Darryl's in the Rolling Stones now. He's one of my alumni I'm most proud of."
Independent On Sunday, 11/94
"'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' was written as an antidote to the song 'Every Breath You Take'. 'Every Breath You Take' was about obsessive surveillance of a loved one to the point of paranoia. I wanted to write a song that was the opposite. But both songs are kind of ambiguous because 'Every Breath You Take' has a kind of seductive and romantic side to it which a lot of people responded to. A lot of people think its their song. I don't know what kind of relationships they have but to me it's a very dark song. And some other people would find 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' quite sinister. But I enjoy that. It's whatever you make of it."
'All This Time' CD-ROM, '95
"I think the highest tribute you can pay another person is to say, 'I don't own you - you're free.' If you try to possess someone in the obvious way, you can never have them in the way that really counts. There are too many prisons in the world already; we don't need a prison in every home. It's not just a clever, thought; it's a genuine feeling. I've lost the emotion of jealousy, I really have. Some people may see that as being cold... In relationships I feel very susceptible to entrapment. I see the bars go up and I try and escape, usually in the most violent and vicious way. I've destroyed one person totally; I've left people in a bloody pulp as I've felt the bars go up. If anything, 'Set Them Free' is a kind of warning. I'm not really into the idea of permanent relationships. I find that phoney, shallow and unrealistic in many ways. That's not to say the relationships I have are in any way inferior. I think they're more intense because of that belief."
"There is a nasty side to it too. It's got quite a swagger to it, and a kick in the teeth. But most of my seductive, pleasant, blander songs have a kick in the teeth in them somewhere, if you look. But it's a good kick in the teeth. A positive kick in the teeth! Character building!"
International Musician, '85
'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' was the first solo single (if you discount 1981's 'Spread A Little Happiness') and appears on 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles' album. The single performed much better in the US (#3) than in the UK (#26). The song is said by Sting to have been written as an 'antidote' song to 1983's colossal hit 'Every Breath You Take'. A regular in set lists since 1985, although it has been through a number of variations, the song clearly remains one of Sting's favourites. Several remixes of the track exist - some from as early as 1985, but most of them in 1994 when they were used as bonus tracks on a variety of singles from that era. A nice variation of the single is the Canadian 7" which appeared in a yellow vinyl. The B-side is a rarity in as much as it became a set list staple during the 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles' tour. Described by Sting as a 'despondent song' the track covers similar ground to 'Driven To Tears' and the 'Blue Turtles'' track 'Russians', but for a B-side this is a very strong song indeed. A live version of the track (recorded in Rome) can be found on the double live album 'Bring On The Night'.