This is a very personal song written by Sting. He had recently separated from his first wife, actress Frances Tomelty, and was not getting along with the other two members of the band. Instead of repressing or deflecting the hurt, Sting dives headlong into it on this track, crowning himself the "King Of Pain."
Sting said in Musician magazine: "I conjured up symbols of pain and related them to my soul. A black spot on the sun struck me as being a very painful image."
He recalled the specific incident and how future wife Trudie Styler inspired the song's title in Lyrics By Sting: "I was sitting moping under a tree in the garden, and as the sun was sinking toward the western horizon, I noticed that there was a lot of sunspot activity.
I turned to Trudie. 'There's a little black spot on the sun today.' She waited expectantly, not really indulging my mood but tolerant. 'That's my soul up there,' I added gratuitously. Trudie discreetly raised her eyes to the heavens. 'There he goes again, the king of pain.'"
Sting wrote this in 1982 at Goldeneye, an estate in Jamaica formerly inhabited by Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond novels there.
The Police recorded the Synchronicity album on the Caribbean Island of Monserrat. This was a tough song to record, and the sessions were a bit contentious, as Sting didn't accept most of the suggestions from Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland. The group split up after the album was released.
Sting has a talent for expressing torment in his songs, which is something many songwriters attempt in an effort to come to terms with their angst and write something that stands out among a sea of love songs. Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe, best known for the tormented hit "The Freshman," puts it this way: "Pain is something that's easier to write about than joy because so many songs have been written about love and joy that it's easier to write something painful and make it seem more unique. It's been a long time since I've heard a unique way to write an "I love you" song. With pain or bleakness or sorrow all the metaphors work and I think people get that.
A great example is "King Of Pain" by The Police - I love that. There are perfect metaphors in that and you know exactly what he's talking about."
Weird Al Yankovic recorded a parody of this song called "King of Suede," which is about a guy who is really good at selling suede products.
Suggestion credit: Cliff - Burkesville, KY
Alanis Morissette covered this for her MTV: Unplugged album in 1999. It was released as a single but failed to chart in the US or UK (though it was a minor hit in Brazil and the Netherlands).
A 2004 episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation is named for this song. Most of the show's episodes borrow titles from '80s hits.
Darren from Hampton, Ga, GaThere was no video for this song, and it had to survive on radio, were it went to #3 for 2 weeks in the US, and 5 weeks on the rock charts.
Esskayess from Dallas, TxI thought of this song's opening line when Venus transited the sun on 6/5/12.
Ryan from Jacksonville, FlThis is one of my favorite songs of all time. I wish Maynard Keenan would do a cover of it. The live version of "Pus--t" sort of reminds me of this song..."I saw the gap again today"...although that song is all about a relationship and not really pain itself...but anyway...
The lyrics are amazing...seeing the darkness where others see only light, seeing what is wrong and out of place, feeling the abandonment and sadness of inanimate objects, animals long-dead or dying or being tortured as part of the regular way of the world or for sport, things that most people don't care about or don't even notice. It's about being so empathetic that it hurts, and that he wishes he could stop being like that but he knows he never can because that's who he is.
And yes the middle part I think is definitely about Oedipus and Midas...two human kings cursed to a life of pain and misery even though they were mostly just victims of fate. The king on the throne and the blind man are both Oedipus. After stabbing his eyes out, Oedipus begged to be exiled, but it was decided he should live in his palace with his family. He probably spent the rest of his life trying to be happy but looking for a reason to hate his life or trying to hate his life but looking for a reason to be happy...always looking for a shadow of doubt.
And the rich man sleeping on a golden bed and skeleton choking on a crust of bread are probably both Midas. He had unimaginable riches, wealth beyond anyone's wildest dreams, and yet he couldn't enjoy them. He couldn't enjoy the warmth of another human being, he couldn't even eat...he wasted away surrounded by his opulence choking on a crust of bread that turned to gold before he could swallow it.
I love this song. Whenever someone says something about how beautiful the sunrise or sunset is because it's all pink and orange and shiny, I always say "there's a little black spot on the sun today". Yes there's beauty out there, but don't forget the dying and abandoned and lonely and tortured and hopeless and starving and blind. So much pain, and all the pain is part of the beauty of the world. There is beauty in pain. It makes the world real.
Jeff from Kingston, TnAlanis Morrisette version of this is pretty cool. Great lyrics that makes you think "WTF is he singing about" Then you get the human emotions. 'I have stood here before inside the pouring rain With the world turning circles running 'round my brain'
Thegripester from Wellington, New ZealandThe story that Sting told in one of his shows is that he was having breakfast with his second and current wife Trudie Styler, and she read an item from the paper about sunspots: "There's a little black spot on the sun today." Sting answered, "That's my soul up there." Trudie laughed at him and said, "wow, listen to the King of Pain!"
Miz Lady from Oakland, CaTo Kevin in Quebec:this defining line of the song if you listen and think. It follows the story of King Midas. He has lost the only thing that he tragically learns has ever really meant anything to him and and so is "magic touch" has left him laying in a golden bed alone in dispair - alone in anguish until death takes him. I like that line too.
Miz Lady from Oakland, CaThis was my first exposure to the Police as a fourth grader. Even at that age this song grabbed me, spoke to me. The drums, the chords called out to me through my radio recorded cassette on my generic walkman and I learned about real music. I remember rewinding it so much I would run my batteries down in on day so I'd take it home and play it on my plug in and finish dreamin and crying.
Mel!ssa from Pittsburgh, PaMudvayne's version of this song is great.
Pete from Canberra, AustraliaI consider myself fortunate in that when i first heard this song i was too young to actually judge it by it's lyrical content. I just loved hearing it, over and over, for the beautiful piece that it is. 'King Of Pain', is, and always will be etched in the imaginary mp3 soundtrack of my life. I have sung lines of this song in my head at least once a week for the last 22 years...Song writing of this calibre is very very rare and MUCH appreciated! Cheers Music lovers :-)
Christopher from Los Angeles, CaMudvayne covered this song and it currently on their "For The People.... By The People" album.
By-the-by, this is my Ultimate Anthem, the reason for that is that I am always on the receiving end of all pain, either internal and external(emotional and/ or physical).
Jay from Atlanta, GaRingo Starr wrote the bridge for this song.
Ryan from Albuquerque, Nmi can relate to this song so well because its like the story of my life. It talks about painful images and that no matter what its my destiny to be the king of pain
Abc from New York City, NyWhen I hear this song it reminds my of Magritte's paintings. Perhaps in KOP where everyone experiences harmony, the melancholic King of Pain experiences dischord and doom. It's a darkly obsessive song. I like to think Frank Sinatra hit on the same sense in 'Every Thing Happens To Me', on a much lighter note, of course. In a radio interview during Sting's 'Soul Cages' tour, the interviewer categorized many of Sting's songs as 'obsessive/compulsive', to which Sting replied that he was "no stranger to those feelings".
William from Milwaukee, WyI love the intellect inherent in many of Sting's lyrics. At the age of 14, "Synchronicity" actually had me grabbing a dictionary and an encyclopedia (pre-internet of course) to fully comprehend some of his brilliant songs. "King of pain" is a masterpiece to me and highly underrated as an exceptional single, especially by the in-the-know rock experts. Anything Bob Dylan ever murmurred or slurred is considered a classic but much of Sting's brilliance (I think anyway) is overlooked.
Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThis was what got the album cited in a trade magazine for "rock star Sting's endless fascination with rock star Sting".
This was parodied by Weird Al Yankovic as "King of Suede".
Clarke from Pittsburgh, PaA remarkable song. The mental imagery is stark and breathtaking (more so as the lyric goes on), the underlying music quietly (well, until the end) disturbing in a "something's not quite right here" sort of way. And at the same time, it's a catchy pop song you can (and will) sing along with. Probably my favorite Police/Sting song of all time.
Kevin from Quebec, Canadathe line that always gets me is "theres a rich man sleeping on a golden bed." I really don't know why i love this line so much but its the line that i identify most with
Christopher from Calgary, CanadaThis brilliance in writing can only come from experiencing an onslaught of which cannot be tampered with since it only belongs to the writer. It is a time that changes Karmic direction & is beyond courage, as you are in it & have no desire to stem the tide. Here the spirit world sits with you & craddles you as you grow in a wither. This light, this SOUL ripens you to the maturity & a hint of the magic that leads to your eternal growth & nature's enchantment.
Rob from Vancouver, CanadaAlanis Morissette does a pretty good cover of this. Nothing can touch Sting, tho.
Matt from West Springfield, Ma I love this entire album. This is maybe my favorite song on the album. One thing that I love about the songs on "Synchronicity" is that Sting's inner teacher kind of comes out. Maybe not on purpose, but, it does none the less. Its widely known that Synchronicity is based on the studies of Carl Jung, but, he also makes references to other literary works. He refers to the Scylla and Charybdis in "Wrapped Around your Finger" which is in reference to "The Odyssey" and in this song, the line, "there's a king on a throne with his eyes torn out" could be seen as a reference to Oedipus from Sophocles' "Oedipus the King." Just thought it was interesting. Not only that, but now I can mention the greatest band in the world in my research paper!
Matt from Danville, VaThis album was not recorded in Monserrat, rather it was the album before this, Ghost in the Machine that was recorded in Monserrat. Another side note to the Ghost in the Machine album is that it was recorded in 10 days. The record company gave them, I think, 6 weeks or something of the such. This really wasn't that uncommon as The Police perfered to record their albums quickly because they didn't believe in spending too much time trying to make it perfect. The Police felt that if they couldn't get it right in one or two takes then they didn't do it.
Matt from Pawtucket, RiThis is most definitely my favorite Police song, beautifully written in terms of both words and music. In fact, this song is the reason I like the Police- I heard it on the radio, and completely loved it. Now they're one of my favorite bands.
Dee from Indianapolis, InThis has to be one of the best Police songs. I've always enjoyed this due to the rich lyrics and the music is well done too.
Doug from Minneapolis, MnProof that serious poetry and popular music can come together in a wonderful fusion. Truly a masterpiece.
Vam from Beijing, ChinaThis is a great song. Although it's not bright, happy..but to me, it abreact my pain in now and past. All images are in my brain. Maybe I'll draw them up in someday...
'I have stood here before inside the pouring rain With the world turning circles running 'round my brain'
Steph from Ottawa, CanadaThought-provoking, as with all of The Police's songs, but this one has the most haunting imagery. A black hat caught in a high tree-top? Beautiful!