This was inspired by the Anne Rice novel Interview With The Vampire
. Police guitarist Andy Summers
gave Sting the book, which he read late into the night. Sting recalled in Lyrics By Sting
: "Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire
was the direct inspiration for this song, but there was one moonlit night in the French Quarter of New Orleans where I had the distinct impression that I was being followed."
Bourbon Street is a reference to the main drag in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. As might be expected for a street that shares its name with an alcohol, it's party-central whenever Mardi Gras is in session. While it's also a major tourist attraction, that attraction is due mainly to the street being tiled solid with bars, strip clubs, and general seedy business. The area was one of the few parts of New Orleans unscathed by Hurricane Katrina.
This is one of six singles released from the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Five of these at least charted on the UK Singles chart, including "Moon over Bourbon Street." The song put radio programmers in an awkward spot: Sting was one of the most popular artists of the time, but this song didn't fit any specific format. It didn't get a lot of play on American radio, but many UK stations expanded their horizons and added it.
The Dream of the Blue Turtles was Sting's first solo album. He enlisted four acclaimed jazz musicians to play on it and accompany him on the subsequent tour:
Branford Marsalis - saxophone
Kenny Kirkland - keyboards
Darryl Jones - bass
Omar Hakim - drums
Marsalis and Kirkland had been members of Branford's brother Wynton Marsalis' band, which caused some friction when they abandoned him for Sting. Hakim played in the band Weather Report, and Jones in known for this work with Miles Davis. With this new ensemble, Sting was able to create songs he couldn't do with The Police, which was a three-piece. "Moon over Bourbon Street" is a great example of how he put these seasoned jazz musicians to work.
Sting played the double bass on this track.
The album name comes from a dream Sting had. The album was recorded at Eddy Grant's studio (Blue Wave) in Barbados. Sting says that during his first night on the island, he awoke from a vivid dream that gave him the idea for the title. In the dream, he was sitting in the walled garden at his home in Hampstead when the wall crumbled down to reveal a bale of giant blue turtles, who proceeded to casually destroy the garden.
Parts of the recording sessions for this album are immortalized in the 1985 Sting documentary film Bring on the Night. The film won a Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video in 1987.
Sting was fascinated by the character of Louis, a vampire with a conscience, rather than the popular antihero Lestat in Anne Rice's novel. He explained for the live album All This Time: "The idea of being a vampire and being a predator, but regretting it all the time knowing that there was something morally wrong with your lusts and your hunger, and I love the struggle that is going on in that character's head. There was a kind of movement of people who thought that Lestat who became a rock star in resulting books was based on me. He wasn't the character I was interested in at all."