Don't Stand So Close To Me

Album: Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)
Charted: 1 10
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  • This song is about a teacher who lusts after one of his students. Sting was a teacher before joining The Police, and was no doubt the subject of young girl fantasy, but he insists the lyric is not based on personal experience. Putting the speculation to rest, he explained on the DVD for his 2001 All This Time album that he made up the story. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Tiffany - Castro Valley, CA
  • The line, "Just like the old man in the book by Nabokov," refers to the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which is about an older man who pursues underage girls. Sting based this song on the book. Sting mispronounces the author's name - the "bo" should be stressed. Also, in the novel Lolita, Humbert is not quite an old man. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Martin - London, United Kingdom
  • The Police recorded this in Holland over a period of months. The song started as a Hammond organ-based soul track then evolved through various complex arrangements, until it was eventually reduced to it's simplest elements.
  • In the UK, this sold 900,000 copies and was the best-selling single of 1980.
  • This won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Group.
  • The Police reunited in 1986 to record updated versions of some of their old songs. The reunion brought out old hostilities, and this was the only song they completed. The new version was released as a single titled "Don't Stand So Close To Me '86," and included on their greatest hits album Every Breath You Take - The Singles.
  • In 1985, Sting worked with Dire Straits on "Money For Nothing," which has a chorus that sounds very similar to this (compare the lines "Don't stand so close to me" with "I want my MTV"). Sting did not want a songwriting credit, but his record company thought he should get one so they could receive royalties.
  • The band made a video for this song in 1980 that MTV put in rotation when they launched the following year. In the clip, the guys are larking about a school in graduation gowns, with Sting going through a few costume changes and taking his shirt off at one point. They're clearly having fun and messing around with each other - it's a good snapshot of how they could get on in their early years.

    They also made a video for the 1986 version of the song, this one directed by Godley & Creme. No shenanigans in that one, just the band looking somber amid many dated special effects.
  • The race horse Zenyatta is named after the album Zenyatta Mondatta. The horse is owned by Jerry Moss, who signed The Police to his label A&M Records.
  • This is an example of Sting's "work backward" method. "I pluck a title from the air, just free-associating, and then try to figure out a story that it could apply to," he wrote in Lyrics By Sting. Fascinated by the dangerous obsession at the center of Nabokov's novel, he "transposed this idea to a relationship between a teacher and his pupil. Wanting by this time to identify whatever my sources were, I conspired to get the author's name into the song with one of the loosest rhymes in the history of pop. Well, I thought it was hilarious, but I caught some flak."
  • This was used in The Simpsons episode "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister" and in the Glee episode "Ballad" (2009).

    On The Office, Kevin is the singer and drummer in a Police tribute band called Scrantonicity (a play on the album title Synchronicity). In the season 2 finale, "Casino Night," Jim and Pam watch a video of Scrantonicity performing "Don't Stand So Close To Me."
  • This was featured in the first-season Friends episode "The One Where Underdog Gets Away," where the character Joey appears on a poster for venereal disease treatment. The song plays when they show the posters all over New York City. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Matt - Milton, PA
  • When Stewart Copeland put together the 2006 documentary Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, he created new versions of some of the songs using the original masters and outtakes. "The version of 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' comes from both studio recordings because we re-recorded it - strangely, no one can remember why - but we re-recorded it in a different key and I jammed both of those versions together, which was a hell of a puzzle to figure out the transition keys," he told Songfacts. "I used Sting's overdubs because he did some amazing overdub work with the new version of 'Don't Stand So Close To Me,' which I used on the original backing track."
  • In the video, Sting is wearing a T-shirt for the band The Beat (known in America as The English Beat) in some scenes. The Beat was an opening act for some shows on the Ghost in the Machine tour.

Comments: 43

  • Arpit Josiah MaseehWhen I heard Money for Nothing I also felt that some part of it sounded like Don’t Stand So Close To Me
  • Lisa from New YorkWell in this computer age, nothing is hidden. There should be a way to find out who this Canadian teacher is that supposedly wrote this song. Since someone believes that the man taught at their high school, that could be a starting point. I don't know why people can't believe that Sting actually wrote this song.

    To me both of them are ambivalent about their feelings for one another. He is attracted to her but knows it's wrong and she is aware that she is seen as 'teachers' pet'.
  • Sharon from FloridaHi all - I am quoting the lyrics of this song in a book I'm writing and trying to find out who to contact for permission so that I don't end up with any copyright infringement issues. I've checked the ascap, bmi, and sesac repertory listings but can't find this song listed. Any idea who I can contact for permission? Thank you so much!
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxThey re-made this song in 1986 and it was hideous. Worse, it was stuck on my Greatest Hits CD.
  • Rocco from New York City, NyHas anyone else noticed the ambiguity of the line "you know how bad girls get"? Does it mean how girls who are bad get? Or does it mean how bad--as in not-nice--girls get?
  • Brian from Rochester, NyI thought Canadians were relatively sane until now. Does anyone have actual written evidence that this song was written by an unnamed Canadian schoolteacher or is this just anecdotal evidence or some dumb viral movement?
  • Giselle from Buenos Aires, ArgentinaThis song was also featured in The Simpsons episode "On a Clear Day I Can't See my Sister", when Lisa files a restraining order against Bart; the song is played while they show Bart moving constantly in order to keeping himself far from her.
  • Thegripester from Wellington, New ZealandSorry, Greg, but that is an urban myth. Sting wrote this song, his name is on the copyright, and that is the end of the story. People who spout this "fact" never quote names, dates, or any other verifiable information to back it up. Therefore it is bulls--t.
  • Greg from Hampton, OnThis clever song expresses the authentic and moving feelings of a young Canadian English teacher for one of his students. A skilled musician himself, with strong connections to the music industry in Toronto, he wrote the song but regrettably sold the rights for a pittance. Nevertheless, he did win the beautiful prize who was the object of his love. After she graduated from university, they married, have had children, and taught together!
  • Thegripester from Wellington, New ZealandSomething that's left out in the notes above is that the attraction is mutual. The student has a crush on the teacher, not just the other way. It's still completely wrong, but if you read the papers you can see that it's an unfortunate reality.
  • Carrie from Roanoke, VaWow, I just listened to "Money For Nothing" and it does sound like "Don't Stand So Close to Me."
  • Kat from Northwood, NhI LOVE this song.
  • Jessie from Brisbane, Australiawhen i hear this song i think about how a student who went to my highschool a few years ahead of me is now in a relationship with a teacher who taught at that school. it wasn't forbidden coz he never actually taught her and they are around the same age... it reminds me of all the times my girlfriends and i would talk about which teachers we'd like to kiss in highschool!!! some of them are hot!!!
  • Xyzee from Boston, MaOK, here's the deal and for the exception of a few quite lucid comments (Thank You, know who U R), those of you who weren't born when (the) Police were the rage, Sting has always been quite the book-worm. He also possesses a brilliantly imaginative, always juxtaposing mind, which he puts to to full use.
    YES, he's written Don't Stand So Close To Me and
    NO, he didn't have any "help" nor did he "steal" it OR any of the other creatively constructed fallacies posted here. He intrinsically will not utilize, borrow, co-write, steal, because he is convinced he can say/write it better than anybody else...afterall, it's HIS "song"... HIS "experience". Also, the students he taught (in the lean days) were grade school kids; as in elementary. So, no LUST was involved, folks. He's NOT, as I'm sure, ALL KNOW, a pedophile. Sting DID read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and it was his (own) poetic's license that he applied to create the song. Oh, and a big NO to the Romeo and Juliette reference... you're waaaay off target! Keep reading and picking your teacher's brain. Who knows, maybe he'll write a song about it!!!
  • David from Youngstown, OhClever, clever lyrics, particularly "That book by Nabakov." As a young teen when the song was first released, I had no idea about the words in that line. I thought "that book's by now a car." Of course it makes no sense, but not knowing the name of the author of "Lolita" made it impossible to comprehend.
  • Tonya from Sharon Grove, KyI Lurve this song but i just know figured out that it was a police song.... shows how young i am. But like one day in school this started playing over the speakers thanxs to me!!!! And well it was worth a weeks worth of detentions!!!!
  • Brittany from Sacramento, CaThis reminds me of Marmalade Boy with Namura and Meiko.
  • Rebecca from Vancouver, BcThis was the first police song I ever heard, and it is still in my top ten police songs.
  • Heather from Liverpool, MnI Love This Song So Much, Seeing As I Do Like Police & Sting But This Song I Can Relate To So Much. I Have Liked Me Teacher For 2Years, & It's So Difficult To Accept That "It's A Forbidden Relationship". I Think About Him All The Time, & What Makes Things Worse For Me Is That He Gives Me That Attention That I Enjoy. Yes It's Innapropriate But.. I Don't Mind ! This Song Just Makes Me Hope & Believe That My Teacher Feels The Same Way For Me As I Do Him.
    i Wonder.. x
  • Catherine from Thornhill, Canadacory and joanna are right this song was not written by sting it was written by a teacher at my highschool in thornhill when he was just starting out of teachers college and fell in love with on of his OAC english students. Im sure that sting and the band bought the rights to the song off him, but was in fact not their own song. Just thought I would clear that up for everyone!!
  • Al from New York, NyThis song is about what it is-a cold hard fact:young girls often lust after older men, particularly teachers or anyone else who may be an authority figure. If you watch the movie Lolita or read the book, this song will make more sense. It's about how powerful the lust of a youn girl toward an older man can be, and how powerless the man is to resist. Hard fact.
  • Abc from New York City, NyThis song was rumored to have been used in a deordorant commercial in the UK.
  • Tony from Boston, MaTo Eric in Cincy

    I think the music in the original recording is meant to sound jovial and upbeat to give you that sense of this is wrong. Its like playing church music during a satanic ritual. It adds an element of mischief to the song.
  • Giovanni from New York, NyThis Song Is Actually The Theme Song For All Male Teachers That Work In All Girls Schools...I Suppose You Could See Why
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrSounds to me like the student and the teacher want each other. The first chorus is talking about the students desires. The rest are talking about the teacher's.
  • Lucy from Edinburgh, Scotlandi love this song, because i fell in love with my teacher!!.its great when you hear a song that says exactly how you feel and your situion.And believe me its not easy being the teachers pet.
  • Bob from The Colony, TxCory from Toronto... I don't know where you are getting the teacher from from Canada stuff, but you are wrong. It is a matter of legality. The CD credits Sting with words and music. It doesn't matter who owns the rights to a song the person who actually writes the song legally has to be credited.
  • Ruben from London, United StatesOK, why would Sting write a song about a teacher having an affair with a girl? Isn't it a bit of a coincidence that he was once a teacher and he made that song afterwards? Anyway, it's always easier to write or sing a problem that you have experienced, isn't it?
  • Patie from St. Paul, MnThe chorus of this song was played in the first "Friends" Thanksgiving episode in season one. Joey gets a job posing for posters for the NYC free clinic. They end up putting his picture on a poster about VD with the line "What Mario isn't telling you..." As the camera shows all the different places where the poster is being put up around the city, the song plays in the background. Joey ends up not being able to go home for Thanksgiving because his entire family thinks he has VD. Classic.
  • Sara from Floyd, VaI know that this is going to seem like a long post but here it goes. I have been listening repeatedly to this song for a very long time. In my mind, I am just envisioning what is going on and here is my best summary of the song. This schoolgirl becomes attracted to the teacher who is twice as old as she is. She is attracted to what he is teaching her and in return he becomes attracted to her because of her interests in him and what he knows. It also doesn't help that he is attractive. They both know it is wrong to become involved because of the whole student - teacher thing plus the age issue. But temptation takes over and they begin a relationship. But rumours begin to buzz around the students and teachers over all of this. Like someone saw her getting into his car. She is denying the accusations but at the same time "wants" a meaningful relationship with him. For she has fallen in love with him. But at the end of the song, she overhears him telling the teachers that he is not having a relationship with her and that she means nothing to him but a student. He then sees her and acts like he never said anything. Then I believe she grows upset and runs out of the school crying.
    I know I have thought about this along time. And I know it seems that I have no life if I am dissecting songs. But I really just wanted to express my opinion of the song. Basically, a love between two people who are faced with peril. Think Romeo and Juliet, sort of. :)

  • Joanna from Toronto, CanadaSting didn't write this song... It was written by a highschool teacher in Richmond Hill(near Toronto)in Canada.
  • Cherie from Ny, NyThe song IS about a student who lusts after the teacher -- and he knows it, so do the other staff members. He wants to keep his distance, but is having a tough time doing so.
  • Eric from Cincinnati, OhI prefer the '86 remake because the slower tempo and the drawn-out notes make it seem darker, more painful. I find the original's music is just too upbeat for such a serious subject. (As a humorous aside, I played this song for my mom when I was a teenager -- she was confused by what she heard: "Don't snazzle close to me!")
  • Merrie from Clive, IaI don't think it's about a teacher lusting after a student, but a student chasing a teacher. If Sting would have been my teacher, I would have.
  • John from Beaufort, ScIn an interview with Stewart Copeland, he mentioned there's a little snap sound you hear at the beginning of the song which is the sound of Andy Summers turning on a guitar effect. Copeland said they left it in there to bug people and make them think their "records" were faulty.

    Andy Summers uses a Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer during the "solo" portion of the song.

    I love the opening to this song. The slow snare drum cross-sticking sounds like someone's feet walking in a school hallway and the deep synth sound is hair raising too.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScI know this is sort of off the subject, but I saw the movie lolitta, and it's a crazy movie, and long, too.
  • Vincent from Harrisburg, Pait was ingenius how sting wrote his opuses..this is one of them!!!
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThe remixed version (entitled "Don't Stand So Close 86") is reminiscent of Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" to some degree because it combines a thundering guitar riff with a moody keyboard loop, but the original version of the song (which has no keyboards and is purley guitar-driven) does not sound even remotely similar to "Money For Nothing". The chorus lyrics are slightly different in the remix, too - in the original version it was "Don't Stand, Don't Stand So, Don't Stand So Close To Me", in the '86 remix it "Don't Stand So, (Don't Stand So Close), Don't Stand So Close To Me" repeated over and over by Sting, with Stewart Copeland singing "Please Don't Stand So Close" in the background. Interestingly, the two versions also feature totally different videos that do not appear to have any relation to one another. The 1980 version features a studio video similar to that of "Message In A Bottle"; however, the video for the remix is more impressive as it uses rudimentary computer graphics similar to those used in A-Ha's videos, but unlike A-Ha's static graphics keyed onto backcloths, the graphics for The Police's video were generated electronically. Surely the most colourful song of Sting's career - in both senses of the word!
  • John from Wilmington, NcUmmmmm, Cory?Sting did in fact write this song.
  • Alex from New Orleans, LaActually, it was inspired by improper relationships that teachers would have with students.
  • Cory from Toronto, United States"Some believe it might be from his own personal expieriences."
    doubtful....gordon sumner's didnt even write this was sort of a motown classic for the police
    they bought the rights off the record company who had previously bought the rights off of a english teacher located somewhere in canada who shall remain nameless
  • Patrick from Conyers, Gashortly after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a website devoted to Southern humor had a parody of the song with the line "That book by Nabakov" replaced with "That book by Anonymous" which referred to the book "Primary Colors" which was made into a film, and released at the same time the scandal was exposed.
  • Kristy from La Porte City, IaIt seems weird that Sting was a teacher and this song is about a teacher who lusts after his students. Some believe it might be from his own personal expieriences.
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