Murder By Numbers

Album: Synchronicity (1983)
  • The lyrics describe how to get in the mindset of killing people. Sting said it is about the evil deeds of politicians.
  • Sting wrote this with guitarist Andy Summers. It was their only collaboration on Synchronicity; besides the songs "Miss Gradenko" (Stewart Copeland) and "Mother" (Summers), the songs on the album were written entirely by Sting.
  • This was used as the B-side of "Every Breath You Take" but was omitted from the vinyl copy of Synchronicity because there wasn't room for it. At the time, vinyl albums went on sale before cassettes, and CD technology was just emerging. Many people would buy the vinyl copies right away, so leaving this song off encouraged them to also purchase the "Every Breath You Take" single or the Synchronicity cassette. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jade - Miami, FL
  • The Police recorded the Synchronicity album at AIR Studios on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, where they could get work done away from their adoring throngs. Their producer, Hugh Padgham, set up Stewart Copeland's drums in the living room of an adjoining house connected by video monitors; Andy Summers was located in the main studio and Sting was in the control room. "Murder By Numbers" was conceived and recorded in a matter of minutes. According to Copeland, they were having dinner when Summers started playing so jazz chords Sting liked. Sting pulled out a lyric from his stash and worked on the song with Summers while Copeland had dessert. They soon had the song completed and everyone went to their recording stations. By the time Sting and Summers got going, Copeland had already started playing. Padgham rolled tape and that one take became the track.
  • At some concerts, Sting introduced this by saying it was about the manipulation of large groups of people, knowing that the audience were being manipulated the whole time.
  • TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart said that this was performed by "The sons of Satan." In 1988, a few years after he made his comments, Swaggart was involved in a sex scandal.
  • Sting appeared at a Frank Zappa concert after meeting the eccentric composer before the show. When he got onstage, the band started to play "Murder By Numbers" as Sting talked about the comments Jimmy Swaggart made about this song being written by Satan, Beelzebub, and Lucifer. He concluded by saying, "I wrote the f**king song, alright?" He went on to sing the whole song with the band and the track appears on Zappa's live album, Broadway the Hard Way. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jeff - Kendall Park, NJ
  • This was featured in the Sigourney Weaver movie Copycat. In the film, a serial killer leaves the lyrics to the song as a clue. Murder By Numbers is also the title of a 2002 movie staring Sandra Bullock, but the song is not part of it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nora - Richfield, MN
  • Sting remembers Andy Summers bringing "a set of very jazzy and sophisticated chords" to the studio and wanting to put lyrics to them. Still on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, Sting took a tape of the chords with him on a long walk to a volcano at the top of the island.

    He wrote in Lyrics By Sting: "A few years later this volcano would destroy half of Montserrat, but on this day it was just bubbling quietly and throwing up a strong smell of sulfur. The words formed in my head and that pungent smell of sulfur continued to cling to the song: Jimmy Swaggart, the TV evangelist, publicly cited it as an example of the devil's work. He condemned it colorfully while entirely missing its irony and its satirical content. The devil indeed!" (Sulfur has long been associated with the devil and demons in folklore, suggesting the smell emanates from the fiery pits of Hell.)

Comments: 11

  • Joel from Toronto, OnThis song is good but a little chilling. I can see a socio/psychopath using this little ditty as an instrution manual. It would have been perfect for the Showtime original series Dexter. This was also the title of a 2002 Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling movie. They didn't use the song in the film because the filmmakers felt that would be just too obvious although I still think it would have been cool to hear a clip when cassie is alone on her houseboat. She could have turned on the radio and whamo there is the song but no. Oh well. No harm no foul eh?
  • Thegripester from Wellington, New ZealandI'll never forget the letter to Ann Landers claiming to be from "concerned parents who listened to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones," but were disturbed by this song. And Ann Landers completely ate it up and joined them in their condemnation, without checking to see what kind of people the Police were. I guess those "concerned parents" forgot all about the lyrics to "Stupid Girl," "Midnight Rambler," and "Run For Your Life." I wonder if Ann Landers thought "Mack The Knife" was an acceptable song.
  • None from None , WyI love how it has a sort of jazzy feel to it. That's one thing I just love and The Police and some of Sting's solo career. They can combine my two favorite things: jazz and rock. Oh, and brilliant lyrics, of course.
  • Blake from Houston, TxThe 9/11 trauma involved two parts - the first caused by the Islamist mass murderers themselves; the second resulting from the loss of faith in leaders who failed to provide a modicum of protection and some who heard America's pleas to stop the plot and yet who torpedoed these efforts.

    Some of you may have read about my plea to stop the 9/11 plot. If not, please google 'Bojinka Response Error' for more details. Two Police songs helped give rise to my efforts to stop the plot - Secret Journey and Murder By Numbers.

    Soon after these songs were released I went on my own "Secret Journey" to find out how it was possible 269 people could be shot down by a missile after straying into Soviet airspace. I uncovered the most dramatic and amazing dialogue I have ever read in the pages on the Congressional Record spoken 5 years prior.

    It seems the exact same thing had happened before - a Korean civil airliner flew over Soviet territory and was shot down using deadly force - with scarcely a word of protest from our government. A lone Senator, a former astronaut, had stood up and tried again and again to bring the issue of protest up but was batted down each time for lack of Foreign Relations committee approval. Senator Harrison Schmitt argued that the use of deadly force against a civil aircraft by a government body necessitated the strongest condemnation possible. In its place was a stoney, complacent silence which could only serve to make the attacker feel his actions were warranted and the resulting misery of the survivors justified.

    As a former pilot, he argued that America's rules of engagement would not permit the shootdown of a stray plane but would call for monitoring the flight and looking any sign of aggression such as dropping bombs etc which naturally would necessitate the use of force to prevent.

    Sting's Secret Journey speaks of our search for wisdom and the discovery of love at the end of a journey, through inspection, through experience, or even introspection.

    In contrast, the rythmic appeal of Murder By Numbers reveals how easily and addictive murder can become to our political elite who hold the keys to our security. Ideally, the openness of a democratic republic would preclude an elite from abuse of power but only to the extent the media and the citizenry demand the level of vigilance necessary to keep their nation at peace and their economy strong. Sting's song is a reminder of the precarious state of the human condition and the attractiveness and ease with which humans may engage in and manipulate others to commit acts of depravity and murder.

    Let's be vigilant to these threats; working together we can stop the plots of the demented few to safeguard the life and economy of millions.
  • Xyzee from Boston, MaLiquid Len...
    You're soooo right on!
  • John from Kirkland, WaAnother thought here - One person makes mention of the comments made by Jimmy Swaggart. Then comments about his sex scandal. This sex scandle is the basis for the song "Devil Inside" by INXS
  • Danielle from Palm Coast, Fli like it it makes you think in different prospectives thats what musical art is. it gets allot of gruesome pictures in your head especial when he says then you turn a murder into art. police always has shocking lyrics that make you think.
  • Mick from Las Vegas, NvThis songs meaning is similar to the joke about the guy who carries a briefcase into a bar, walks up to the prettiest girl, opens the briefcase to reveal one million dollars, and asks the girl if she will sleep with him for the million dollars. She thnks, "Hmmm...For a million dollars? O.k.!". He then closes the briefcase and pulls out a one dollar bill and say, "Will you sleep with me for one dollar?" The girl immediately slaps him in the face and asks, "What kind of girl do you think I am?" and he says, "We've figured out what you are, now we are just negotiating the price!"

    This song is basically saying the same thing. Whether you are a individual killer slipping tabs of poison into someone coffee, or a leader of the land, such as the Prime Minister, ordering an army to attack and kill, it is still murder, just on a different scale. Very cleverly done. I remember the first time I heard this, I thought the groove was cool, but the lyrics were horrible (as in this guy is sick). Then I got that it was making fun of politicians.
  • John from Kirkland, WaI think this says it all about this song "If you become the leader of the land, For murder is the sport of the elected" - Need I say more?
  • Liquid Len from Ottawa, CanadaThis song features some very strange overlapping rhythms. Try counting what the drums are doing, compared to the actual 6/8 beat of the song.
  • Nicoletta from Bronx, Nysting is a classical genius for coming up with something so original as this song.
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