Every Breath You Take

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"Every Breath You Take"
Single by The Police
from the album Synchronicity
B-side "Murder by Numbers"
Released 20 May 1983
Format Vinyl record (7")
Recorded December 1982 at AIR Studios, Montserrat for basic tracks, then January–February 1983 at Le Studio, Quebec, Canada for overdubs and mixing[1]
Genre New wave, rock
Length 4:13
Label A&M - AM 117
Writer(s) Sting
Producer(s) The Police, Hugh Padgham
Certification Gold (RIAA,[2] BPI)
The Police singles chronology
"Secret Journey"
"Every Breath You Take"
"Wrapped Around Your Finger"
(UK, 1983)
"King of Pain"
(US, 1983)
Audio sample
file info · help

"Every Breath You Take" is a song by English rock band The Police on the band's 1983 album Synchronicity. Written by Sting, the single was the biggest hit of 1983, topping the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for eight weeks (the band's only #1 hit on that chart), and the UK Singles Chart for four weeks. It also topped the Billboard Top Tracks chart for nine weeks, becoming one of the singles in history to have sold over 10 million.

At the 26th Annual Grammy Awards the song was nominated for three Grammy Awards including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Sting won Song of the Year while The Police won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals; however, it did not win Record of the Year. Songwriter Sting received the 1983 British Academy's Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[3]

The song ranked #84 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the highest position of any new wave rock song. It also ranked #25 on Billboard's Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs.[4] The song is considered to be both The Police's and Sting's signature song, and in 2010 was estimated to generate between a quarter and a third of Sting's music publishing income.[5]

In the 1983 Rolling Stone critics and readers poll, "Every Breath You Take" was voted "Song of the Year". In the U.S., "Every Breath You Take" was the best-selling single of 1983 and fifth best-selling single of the decade. Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 song for 1983.[6]

Origins and songwriting[edit]

The lyrics are the words of a sinister, controlling character, who is watching "every breath you take; every move you make". Essentially, it is a song about stalking.

I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn't realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.

Sting later said he was disconcerted by how many people think the song is more positive than it is. He insists it's about the obsession with a lost lover, and the jealousy and surveillance that follow. "One couple told me 'Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!' I thought, 'Well, good luck.'"[8] When asked why he appears angry in the music video Sting told BBC Radio 2, "I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it's quite the opposite."[9]

According to the Back to Mono box-set book, "Every Breath You Take" is influenced by a Gene Pitney song titled "Every Breath I Take". The song's structure is a variation on the Classical rondo form with its AABACABA structure, a form rarely found in modern popular music.

The demo of the song was recorded in an eight track suite in North London's Utopia studios and featured Sting singing over a Hammond organ.[1] While recording, Summers came up with a guitar part inspired by Béla Bartók that would later become a trademark lick, and played it straight through in one take. He was asked to put guitar onto a simple backing track of bass, drums, and a single vocal, with Sting offering no directive beyond "make it your own."[10]

The recording process was fraught with difficulties as personal tensions between the band members, particularly Sting and Stewart Copeland, came to the fore.[1] Producer Hugh Padgham claimed that by the time of the recording sessions, Sting and Copeland "hated each other", with verbal and physical fights in the studio common.[1] The tensions almost led to the recording sessions being cancelled until a meeting involving the band and the group's manager, Miles Copeland (Stewart's brother), resulted in an agreement to continue.[1] The drum track was largely created through separate overdubs of each percussive instrument, with the main backbeat created by simultaneously playing a snare and a gong drum.[1] Keyboard parts were added from Roland guitar synthesisers, a Prophet-5 and an Oberheim synthesiser.[1] The single-note piano in the middle eight was recommended by Padgham, inspired by similar work that he had done with the group XTC.[1]

Music video[edit]

The song had a music video (directed by duo Godley & Creme) loosely based on Gjon Mili's Jamming the Blues (1944) that was praised for its black-and-white cinematography. MTV (1999), Rolling Stone (1993), & VH1 (2002) named it as one of the best music videos ever, placing it 16th, 61st, & 33rd in their respective top 100 lists. Daniel Pearl won the first MTV cinematography award for his work on the video.[11]

Honors and accolades[edit]

"Every Breath You Take" has been acclaimed by many critics and publications as one of the greatest songs of all time.

  • In 2004, "Every Breath You Take" was ranked #216 in WXPN's list of The 885 All-Time Greatest Songs.
  • Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time placed it at #84.
  • The song came in at #424 in Q's list of the "1001 Greatest Songs Ever" in 2003.
  • It is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[12]
  • In 2001, the RIAA's Songs of the Century placed the song 44th (out of 365).
  • It ranked #25 on Billboard's Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs.[4]
  • The 1985 film Cat's Eye featured the song prominently during the "Quitters Inc." segment when the protagonist feels trapped and watched while everyone else is enjoying themselves.
  • In 1989, "Every Breath You Take" was voted #95 by Rolling Stone on its list of the "100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years".
  • In 2005, Blender ranked the song at #315 on its list of the "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born".
  • In 2000, the song appeared at #42 on Rolling Stone's list of "100 Greatest Pop Songs", compiled by Rolling Stone and MTV music critics to rank songs released since The Beatles' breakthrough.
  • The 2001 episode of The Sopranos, Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood has the song interspersed with the Peter Gunn theme when the entire family is under FBI surveillance.
  • VH1 ranked the song #46 on the "100 Greatest Songs of the 80s" countdown in its series The Greatest.
  • "Every Breath You Take" has also been ranked as the 94th best song of all time, as well as the third best song of 1983, in an aggregation of critics' lists at acclaimedmusic.net.
  • In the 1983 Rolling Stone critics and readers poll, "Every Breath You Take" was voted "Song of the Year".

Track listing[edit]

7": A&M / AM 117
  1. "Every Breath You Take" – 4:13
  2. "Murder By Numbers" – 4:31
2x7": A&M / AM 117
  1. "Every Breath You Take" – 4:13
  2. "Murder By Numbers" – 4:31
  1. "Man In A Suitcase" (live) – 2:18
  2. "Truth Hits Everybody '83" -3:34
  • rare 2x7" single


Charts and sales[edit]


In 1999, "Every Breath You Take" was listed as one of the Top 100 Songs of the Century by BMI.[31][32] In 2003, VH1 ranked the song the #2 greatest Break-up song of all time. And also as of 2003, Sting was still taking in an average of $2000 per day in royalties for the then 20-year-old song "Every Breath You Take."[33]

In October 2007, Sting was awarded a Million-Air certificate for 9 million airplays of "Every Breath You Take" at the BMI Awards show in London, with only Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" a close second at 8 million air plays.[34]

Sting performed the song at Live Aid at London's Wembley Stadium in 1985 with Phil Collins providing additional vocals, with an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion people watching the live broadcast. Sting performed it again, 20 years later, at Live 8.

The Police performed the song at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 with Gwen Stefani, Steven Tyler and John Mayer on backing vocals.

In 2007 Andy Summers called his photography book I'll Be Watching You: Inside The Police 1980–1983 after the lyrics of the song.

Samples and cover versions[edit]

Six months after the release of "Every Breath You Take", singer Ray Parker, Jr. released the single "I Still Can't Get Over Loving You", the lyrics of which bore a striking similarity to "Every Breath You Take", even including the lines "Every breath you take, I'll be watching you."[35]

Sting also riffs on the lyrics in his song "Love Is the Seventh Wave", singing "Every breath you take/every move you make/every cake you bake/every leg you break..."

Year Artist Album Notes
1983 Mason Dixon reached #69 on the Hot Country Songs charts
1984 "Weird Al" Yankovic "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D a polka interpretation in his medley "Polkas on 45"
1986 Gloria Gaynor The Power of Gloria Gaynor
1986 The Shadows Moonlight Shadows instrumental
1994 Sergio Blass (ex-Menudo) Sergio remade as "Siempre te amaré"
1997 Puff Daddy No Way Out sampled the opening riff and chorus for his hit "I'll Be Missing You", a tribute to the late fellow rapper The Notorious B.I.G..
When the song was played at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, Sting joined in alongside Puff Daddy and Faith Evans.
1999 Melanie Safka Millenium Collection
1999 Millencolin The Melancholy Collection
2000 Juliana Hatfield Beautiful Creature
2001 Daniel Johnston Rejected Unknown an excerpt appears in the song "Davinare"
2002 Scala & Kolacny Brothers On The Rocks (Belgian version)
2002 Philip Quast Live at the Donmar combined with the song "I'm on Fire"
2004 UB40 50 First Dates soundtrack
2005 Scala & Kolacny Brothers On The Rocks (International version)
2005 Madonna Confessions On A Dance Floor sampled in the track Get Together
2006 Karmah_(band) sampled in the song "Just Be Good To Me (Every Breath You Take)"
2006 MYMP New Horizon
2007 Penn Masala Pehchaan
2007 Copeland Dressed Up & In Line
2007 Andy Williams I Don't Remember Ever Growing Up
2008 Tina Arena Songs of Love & Loss 2
2009 Jessa Zaragoza Sings the Great Musical Icons Volume I
2009 David May featuring Kelvin Scott released under the title "I'll Be Watching You"
2011 Everclear Return To Santa Monica
2012 Floortje Smit Finalist "The Voice of Holland"
2012 Sunflower Dead Self-titled Album Metal version
2012 Thelma Aoyama feat. Brian McKnight My Covers original title: "Every Breath You Take" duet with Brian McKnight
2012 Piolo Pascual From The Movie Same Title Every Breath You Take
2013 Paddy Kelly (ex-Kelly Family) In Live. Solo & unplugged
2014 Naya Rivera & Lea Michele Non-album single The song was covered for Glee's fifth season spring premiere episode, Frenemies by Naya Rivera and Lea Michele
2014 Jaicko feat. Danny Reid Callin' (All Night Long) by Jaicko feat. Danny Reid sampled The Police's "Every Breath You Take"
2014 Alex Preston (singer) American Idol season 13 top 8 redux

Appearance in other media[edit]

  • In 1984, a version of the song was used for a sequence at the end of the first series of the satirical puppet show Spitting Image. The title was altered to "Every Bomb You Make", and alternate lyrics were written by Quentin Reynolds and James Glen.[36] The video featured puppets of several world leaders projected over a setting sun. On the line "I'll be watching you", the puppet of Death appears. Sting himself performed the re-recording.[36]
  • Used in Cat's Eye during the "Quitters, Inc" story, where mobsters watch the protagonist for failure as he tries to quit smoking.
  • A new arrangement of the song by Sting was featured prominently in the advertising campaign for the third season of The Americans.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Buskin, Richard (March 2004). "Classic Tracks: The Police's 'Every Breath You Take'". Sound on Sound. 
  2. ^ RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - The Police Singles, Retrieved 2009-07-20
  3. ^ Lister, David, Pop ballads bite back in lyrical fashion, The Independent, 28 May 1994
  4. ^ a b "The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs". Billboard. 20 September 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  5. ^ According to Sting's former publisher Tom Bradley. "Writing a Super Hit" by David Hepworth, The Word #86, April 2010, p.74
  6. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1983
  7. ^ "Interview Date: May 1993". 
  8. ^ American Top 40 broadcast with Casey Kasem.
  9. ^ "Song Library: Every Breath You Take". BBC Radio 2. Retrieved 2009-07-08.  (Spoken in the second Sting audio clip.)
  10. ^ Summers, Andy (2006). One Train Later: A Memoir, Thomas Dunne Books, pp. 323-324.
  11. ^ Fisher, Bob. "A Conversation with Daniel Pearl". International Cinematographers Guild. Retrieved 2006-10-25. 
  12. ^ "Experience the Music: One Hit Wonders and the Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  13. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Police – Every Breath You Take" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  14. ^ "Every Breath You Take THE POLICE". radio2.be. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  15. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 38, No. 19, July 09 1983". collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  16. ^ "Chartverfulgong > The Police > Every Breath You Take – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  17. ^ "Search the Charts". irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  18. ^ "PoliceIndice per Interprete: P". musicline.de. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  19. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Police search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  20. ^ "Charts.org.nz – The Police – Every Breath You Take". Top 40 Singles.
  21. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Police – Every Breath You Take". VG-lista.
  22. ^ "SA Charts 1969 - 1989". rock.co.za. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  23. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  24. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – The Police – Every Breath You Take". Singles Top 60.
  25. ^ "Swisscharts.com – The Police – Every Breath You Take". Swiss Singles Chart.
  26. ^ "Every Breath You Take". chartstats.com. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  27. ^ a b c "Billboard Singles". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  28. ^ "Italian single certifications – The Police – Every Breath You Take" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Retrieved 7 February 2013.  Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter The Police in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  29. ^ "British single certifications – The Police – Every Breath You Take". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 7 February 2013.  Enter Every Breath You Take in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  30. ^ "American single certifications – The Police – Every Breath You Take". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 7 February 2013.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  31. ^ "Top 100 Songs of the Century". Bmi.com. 13 December 1999. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  32. ^ "Complete list of Top 100 Songs". Archer2000.tripod.com. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  33. ^ "CBS - 60 Minutes II 'Sting: All This Time'". CBS News. 19 December 2003. 
  34. ^ "2007 BMI London Awards". Bmi.com. 16 October 2007. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  35. ^ "Ray Parker, Jr. - I Still Can't Get Over Loving You". BackToThe80s.com. Retrieved 12 September 2010. 
  36. ^ a b Chester, Lewis (1986). Tooth & Claw: The Inside Story of Spitting Image. Faber and Faber. pp. 90–91. ISBN 0-571-14557-4. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Candy Girl" by New Edition
UK number one single
4 June 1983
Succeeded by
"Baby Jane" by Rod Stewart
Preceded by
"Words" by F. R. David
Irish IRMA number one single
4 June 1983 – 25 June 1983 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Baby Jane" by Rod Stewart
Preceded by
"Flashdance... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
9 July 1983 – 27 August 1983 (8 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Eurythmics
Preceded by
"Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant
Canadian "RPM" Singles Chart number-one single
2 July 1983 – 9 July 1983
Succeeded by
"I'm Still Standing" by Elton John