Fortress Around Your Heart

July 13, 2019 • 3:00 pm

Saturdays are slow days for both me and readership, and I use the time to buy groceries, hang out with my ducks and work on non-website stuff. While doing the latter, this song suddenly came into my head, so I thought I’d put it up. It’s Sting, of course, singing one of my favorite songs from his pen.  It’s from the 1985 album Dream of the Blue Turtles. In fact, I think it’s the best song he ever wrote, with this one, from 1993, close behind.

Sting seems to have disappeared, but I always admired not just his voice, but his writing ability, as instantiated in this song. According to Wikipedia, it’s about the breakup of his first marriage. They also quote him:

“‘Fortress’ is about appeasement, about trying to bridge the gaps between individuals. The central image is a minefield that you’ve laid around this other person to try and protect them. Then you realise that you have to walk back through it. I think it’s one of the best choruses I’ve ever written.”

If you know Sting’s real name, you’re wasting precious space in your neurons. (It’s Gordon Sumner.)

39 thoughts on “Fortress Around Your Heart

  1. Good song

    It’s a song that gives me a sad, depressed feeling. Yet, at moments, gives glimpses of resolution- but not happiness. More of a drained relief of something being over…. but that’s just me…. 90’s, I think…

    I think it needs the Jacob Collier treatment- he did it to Every Little Thing She Does…. I’ll ty to find it…. and here it is https://youtu.be/Cj27CMxIN28

    … there’s substantial orchestral lead in you can skip to get to the core part…

  2. Sting hasn’t completely disappeared. Sting2019.com gives him a coming date in Illinois – Highland Park among others.

  3. Dream of the Blue Turtles is perhaps the finest album of the ’80s. I could always listen to it both sides, all the way threw.

  4. “…with this one, from 1993, close behind”

    inspired by the poet Robert Burns:

    The Rigs O’ Barley
    1783
    Tune: Corn Rigs are bonie.

    It was upon a Lammas night,
    When corn rigs are bonie,
    Beneath the moon’s unclouded light,
    I held awa to Annie;
    The time flew by, wi’ tentless heed,
    Till, ‘tween the late and early,
    Wi’ sma’ persuasion she agreed
    To see me thro’ the barley.
    l

  5. I liked that one too… Notice a reference to a Ewan McColl song that I didn’t notice at the time, about building a city and “walking through the streets in the afternoon” — from a song that is unfortunately relevant again, The Ballad of Accounting

    In the morning we built the city
    In the afternoon walked through its streets
    Evening saw us leaving

    We wandered through our days as if they would never end
    All of us imagined we had endless time to spend
    We hardly saw the crossroads and small attention gave
    To landmarks on the journey from the cradle to the grave,
    cradle to the grave, cradle to the grave

    (Lyrics here, powerful version of it sung by the great Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan)

  6. I dunno. Sting’s got a great voice, but in terms of his songwriting, I prefer the stuff he did early on with The Police. Maybe that’s just me, ’cause I was still in my twenties then, and The Police were part of a new thing goin’ on in Rock’n’Roll.

    Those tunes had some edge; they could hit you in the gut. Sting’s solo work is pleasant pop; but by comparison, it’s soft.

    1. I have to agree. Though the Police’s last album (Synchronicity) was also dreadful in places — reading Jung seems to send everyone a bit silly.

    2. I wonder how the lyric “their logic ties me up and raped me” would go over these days.

      1. I’d understood that lyric to be figurative.

        If that’s a problem, imagine how Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” must go over today. 🙂

    3. His solo work is somewhat depressing – this number is overcomplexified jazz phrasing, in a navel-gazing G-minor key with a damned ukulele to top it off. It will sour milk.

    1. Baggy trou? Perlease, they’re called parachute pants as per M.C. Hammer. Look here:

      https://flic.kr/p/2gy3c3H

      This is the ultra-fake, pretentious mid-80s when music crawled into the corner & died.

      mid/late 1980s: Short haired accountant bloke with small pony tail to show he’s cool, casually places his brick mobile phone on the wine bar bar top & orders an OJ Champagne spritzer while eyeing up the girlies in the corner in exercise Spandex. It was hell on Earth!

      Even redneck losers selling speed were adding a rat-tail type pony to their mullet style, guys with permed, shaggy long hair with an entire can of hairspray to cement it together [Robert Plant, Robert Palmer doing Simply Irrisistable, Sting]. Miami Vice pastel suits with BIG, unstructured shoulders teamed with the sockless casual slip-on loafer. The wool mix jumper flung over the shoulders & sleeves crossed at the front in a half knot, spandex exercise wear, ripped jeans, Frankie Tees.

      Vomit, vomit vomit.

        1. Home: Short hair, dark clothes, lotsa pockets, no brands, no tees ever & very sturdy footwear. Ready for anything, well maintained footwear is the ticket.

          Abroad: Unobtrusive, local style & no ‘noise’ in dress or behaviour. Never carry a camera or a map for example.

            1. Old New Yorker cartoon: somewhat supercilious older male customer to overeager young male salesclerk: “Had my mother, and my father, wished me to wear Yves St. Laurent’s name on my clothing (butt?), one assumes they would have named me Yves St. Laurent…”

            2. I buy natural fibre/leather hard-wearing medium/high end classic apparel that will last my life, not disposable shite.

              Winklepickers: I remember them the first time around in the late 50s-early 60s, but I was sub-teen so of no interest. Then it was indie bands & Stewart Brand around the ’00s. No way…

              Tees: Badly made usually, no breast pocket, no buttons to open the neck in heat. Don’t want to be a walking advert for all the new Crazy Horse UK tour dates, as much as I like Crazy Horse.

      1. “Baggy trou? Perlease, they’re called parachute pants as per M.C. Hammer.”

        Do I correctly recall that no one wore them then (as they do now) below the lower limb of the gluteals?

        1. “Sagging” came out of hip-hop culture in the early 90s – by then the parachute pants aberration was history.

  7. I love Sting and The Police. I was too cheap to see them in concert when they reunited though. Those ticket prices were steep!

  8. Didn’t know this song. Unnerving beautiful music and (to me) enigmatic lyrics (some deep personal loss?). Great.

  9. If you’re like me, you can’t hear the lyrics properly, and they’re worth hearing. So here they are:

    [Verse 1]
    Under the ruins of a walled city
    Crumbling towers and beams of yellow light
    No flags of truce, no cries of pity
    The siege guns had been pounding all through the night
    It took a day to build the city
    We walked through its streets in the afternoon
    As I returned across the fields I’d known
    I recognized the walls where I’d once laid
    I had to stop in my tracks for fear
    Of walking on the mines I’d laid

    [Chorus]
    And if I built this fortress around your heart
    Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
    Then let me build a bridge
    For I cannot fill the chasm
    And let me set the battlements on fire

    [Verse 2]
    Then I went off to fight some battle
    That I’d invented inside my head
    Away so long for years and years
    You probably thought or even wished that I was dead
    While the armies are all sleeping
    Beneath the tattered flag we’d made
    I had to stop in my track for fear
    Of walking on the mines I’d laid

    [Chorus]

    [Verse 3]
    This prison has now become your home
    A sentence you seem prepared to pay
    It took a day to build the city
    We walked through its streets in the afternoon
    As I returned across the lands I’d known
    I recognized the fields where I’d once played
    I had to stop in my tracks for fear
    Of walking on the mines I’d laid

    [Chorus]

    Source: https://genius.com/Sting-fortress-around-your-heart-lyrics

    1. I like the song, but don’t like the rhyming of “laid” with itself, especially when the first “laid” shoulda been “lay”…

  10. It’s a common misconception that Sting has largely dropped out of the public eye. He’s actually just engaged in a really long tantric sex session. He’ll be back in about seven months from now.

    Anyway, I’m not a big fan of his solo work, but man oh man did The Police kick ass! What a discography.

    1. And it wasn’t just their music, but the lyrics Sting wrote. Can anyone think of a more acrimonious, poison-tongued, self-pitying song than Can’t Stand Losing You? I can’t. And I can’t think of a better outfit than the one Sting wears in the music video.

      “I guess this is our last goodbye
      And you don’t care, so I won’t cry
      And you’ll be sorry when I’m dead
      And all this guilt will be on your head

      I guess you’d call it suicide, but I’m too full to swallow my pride”

      Holy shit.

      And for all you Stewart Copeland fans out there, you may want to check out his brief-lived band Oysterhead, which was a confluence of great musical prowess involving him, Les Claypool on bass, and Trey Anastasio on guitar. Some of it’s weird stuff, but it gave Copeland a more noticeable place to shine (too many people miss his incredible technique and fills when listening to The Police). The album is good, but the songs had so much more grit and grime when they played them live, so that’s really where the good stuff is.

    2. Oysterhead Bonnaroo 2006 set

      Copeland combined the precision of a Ginger Baker, the energy of Keith Moon, and the intellectual understanding of how drums influence the sound of and create or fill the space within a trio of Neil Peart.

      I guess I would say the same of Peart, just replacing his name with Copeland. And then add some Bonham and Rich in there.

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