Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Basement Song 2.14.07: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police
During the summer of 1986, Matt and I discovered The Police. For me, the discovery of their music occurred in part because I was in some garage band and we played “Message In A Bottle”, and in part because Matt and I had stumbled upon a documentary of the band shot in the early 80’s, “Police Around the World”. That VHS tape (long out of print) was rented four or five times over the course of the summer and the two of us came to love Sting (the cool one), Andy (the sardonic one) and Stewart (the obnoxious one). Unlike other artists of that time period, we didn’t have a group of friends latching on to them at the same time. This was just three years after the peak of their career (“Synchronicity”), so the band wasn’t classic rock yet. The two of us weren’t unearthing long lost music (like we all did with Zeppelin, the Who, Cream and the Kinks). The music of The Police became a shared obsession between Matt and me, and whenever I hear their songs, I think of Matt and that summer.
It’s not just the popular songs. I’d say that my favorite tracks by the band are “It’s Alright For You,” “Born in the 50’s” and “Voices In My Head, “. tracks that never received any airplay. Also, as a drummer, I really loved Stewart Copeland’s style with that band. His playing was very stylized; yet, it was rough and somewhat improvisational. Unlike Sting the perfectionist, and Andy the consummate musician, I got the feeling that Stewart NEVER played the songs the same way each night (which, I’m sure, led to a lot of the tension that drove the band apart). I also learned a great deal from Copeland about choosing your moments to beat the shit out of the drums and when to really hold back. The one song I thing best exemplified this for me was “Wrapped Around Your Finger”. from “Syncronicity”. Most of the song is very simple. Bass and rim shot during the verses, then a driving beat introducing the snare during the choruses. And finally, at the end, he does one of my favorite fills of all time. Just before they go into the course for the last time, Copeland begins a fill on the offbeat that is merely snare, high hat and a bass drum.
“Daka tss tss, daka tss tss, boom GAT!” and then the chorus.
It’s not just the drumming. Sting sings in one of his most sinister voices, which is offset by the harmonies of the chorus, which are very heartfelt. Meanwhile, Andy Summers’ subtle guitar playing adds a layer mystery to the song (is it a love song? Is it really some kind of medieval story? I’m still not sure). However, all of these wonderful elements are not what makes “Wrapped Around Your Finger” a basement song. It’s not even the endless number of times I played along with the song, either. No, it is Matt who made this a basement song. Like I said, there may be other songs that I would list as my favorite Police song, but “Wrapped Around Your Finger” has a special place in my heart because of him and one classic night back in the summer of ’86.
That year, because I was in a band, I somehow had leverage to miss out on the yearly summer vacation with my parents. We had a couple “gigs” during the two weeks my folks wanted to leave town. And being a “professional”, I wasn’t going to let my band mates down. Remarkably, my parents bought it. What this meant is that I would be staying home with just my older brother (about to enter his senior year of college) as the adult in the house. What THAT meant is that I would essentially have the house to myself because Budd was either working or out with his friends. And what this meant to Matt was he, too, would have a place to hang out, parent free, for two weeks.
Thus, we began two weeks of living like slobs, experimenting stupid ideas (beer on Cheerios? Hey, it worked for Tommy Tutone), and just being idiots. At that time, I was dating a girl named…. we’ll call her “Sandy”. I really had the hots for Sandy and I thought an empty house would be the ideal location to make my “move.” The night I decided to make that “move” was a Wednesday, I believe. Budd was gone somewhere. I had the house to myself. Well, not really. See, Matt wanted to hang out that night, in the house. Being the good friend that I was, I saw no problem with this. As long as he stayed in the basement and kept it down, I could still get it on with Sandy.
Let me set the mood.
It’s about 10:00 pm. Sandy and I have just watched some movie. What it was, I have no clue because the movie was the farthest thing from my mind. The lights were already out, so, I didn’t have to be coy. That said, I did convince Sandy that it would be much more comfortable if I pulled out the futon couch. She agreed. That night I was wearing some tight, OP shorts and cheesy Spiccoli Vans. Sandy was wearing similar OP shorts and a Polo shirt. She also had on one of those shell bracelets around her ankle (of course). I was going to score.
Oh, did I forget to say that for the duration of the movie, Matt had been sitting silently in the basement pounding a six-pack of Genesee?
Sandy and I begin making out. Typical kissing. It’s getting late, so I decide I’m going to forego getting in her shirt. There isn’t time. Immediately, I begin moving my hand up the back of her thigh. Mind you, these were short shorts she was wearing, so to reach the hem of them would mean I was practically home free to getting up her shorts. My fingers crept closer and closer when suddenly… we hear The Police blaring from the basement.
“You consider me a young apprentice…”
Sandy giggles a little. But we soon begin kissing again. Sadly, lacking in confidence and unsure of what the edicate was, I thought I should start all over again, working my way up the back of her thigh, in hopes of getting up the back of her shorts and then working my way around front. Slowly, but surely, I crept my hand back up. Was I even kissing her? I guess. My mind was elsewhere. TRIUMPH! I got my fingers up the back of her shorts and brushed the seam of her cotton underwear. Just as I was about to begin my next move… we hear Matt attempting to play the drums.
Boom. Gat. Crash. Crashcrash. Bommboom. Gat crash.
There is nothing worse than a drunk person who doesn’t know how to play the drums trying to play the drums.
Sandy laughs out loud. “What is he doing? Should we go check?’
“NO! I mean, I’ll go see what’s up.”
I jump up, open the basement door and walk down the 24 steps to the basement where Matt is playing along with the Police. We speak in hushed tones.
“Dude!” “Dude, what are you doing down here? Where’s Sandy?” “She’s upstairs. What are YOU doing down here, Dude? Did you drink that whole six pack?” “Nope. Only four.” A roll of the eyes. “Keep it down, dude. Sandy and I are… I’m trying to…” “Oh. OH! Right. Sorry.” He gives me a thumbs up and I run back up those 24 steps.
Sandy is still lying there. She smiles. I smile. And… we start all over. Why? Because I don’t want to offend her. Some kind of midwestern guilt keeps telling me that I have to work for the good stuff. I can’t just jump right back in and assume she’ll let me go right to feeling her ass.
We kiss. I move my hand up her thigh. I get up the back of her shorts. I’m actually sliding my pinky under her underwear and I can feel her butt. I. Am. Going. To. Score. And… we hear the off-key, warbled singing of a drunk Matt coming from the basement.
“Ah’ll beee wrappedt around yooor fihhinger!”
Once again, Sandy bursts out in laughter. In my head I’m screaming! Once again, I jump up, run down the 24 steps. This time, Matt is on the couch, a new beer in hand.
“Dude!” “What? Oh, shit. Did you hear me? Sorry.” He puts his fingers to his lips, as if to say, “Shhh.” I smile and nod and RUN back up the steps, two at a time.
Sandy is still lying there. She’s now glancing through the TV Guide. I practically jump back down. We kiss. I move my hand. Get it up the back of her shorts. Under the seam of the underwear. I’m going to burst.
Matt CRASHES in the basement, bringing down a cymbal.
Meekly we hear, “ouch”.
Slowly, I walk over to the basement door and calmly open it. I’m praying that he’s decapitated himself with the cymbal. I walk down the 24 steps and find him sprawled out on the floor, a crashed cymbal next to him.
From the stairwell, Sandy calls out, “I think I should go home.” I force a smile. And the Police continue to play in the background.
“Daka tss tss, daka tss tss, boom GAT!” “I’ll be wrapped around your finger.”
As the song begins to fade, I trudge up those damn 24 steps and lead Sandy out to the car. By the time I return to the house, some twenty minutes later, Matt is passed out. He looked so innocent, sleeping like a baby. And as much as I was mad at him twenty minutes earlier, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Girlfriends came and went in those days. But the friendship I had with Matt was more important. I’d give him hell, but what else could I do. He was my best friend. He was my brother.
Twenty years later, whenever I hear “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, I am thrust in a time machine back to Ohio in the middle of July. It isn’t Sandy and my failed attempts at getting lucky that I recall, it is Matt, and my memories of him that I treasure.
February 3rd marked the 2nd anniversary of Matt dying. And with the Police recently announcing that they were back, it just seemed appropriate to write about one of my most beloved basement songs.