Song Of The Day 2/17/2014: Sting featuring Brian Johnson - "Sky Hooks and Tartan Paint"


I am not in the habit of promoting Sting on these pages. The one time I featured a Police song it was sung by Andy Summers. Cautious as ever of being unnecessarily inflammatory against musicians who are just making a living and following their namaste-wishing muses, I don't want to make unnecessary character judgments about Sting. When I was a younger man, though, I would sometimes go on tirades that went on almost as long as one of Sting's legendarily epic (and apparently apocryphal) instances of tantric intercourse. Although not nearly as satisfying.

So when Sting says, "Hey, you all, I'm going to make an album about the shipbuilding community where I come from," you can expect that I'd go, "Yeah, that's nice. I'm going to stick my head in a bucket full of adobo sauce, blow bubbles into it, then pick my head up and announce that I've just conquered the Philippines by amphibious assault." But when he says that one of his collaborators on the project is going to be none other than Brian Johnson of AC/DC, a band I happily promote on these pages... well, okay, maybe the Philippines can wait for a sec.

The Sting album was called The Last Ship, and I haven't heard it. The song with Johnson, "Sky Hooks And Tartan Paint," is a traditional-sounding blend of sea chanty and raucous folk balladry. It did not make the final cut of the original album, but apparently is on the super deluxe package. Johnson, whose normal singing voice is a triumph of brimstone and piercing upper range, sings it in his normal voice, and he handles it quite well. Johnson's actually kind of a renaissance man in disguise: he races cars, co-wrote an opera and is an avowed Rodgers and Hammerstein fan. So intellectually this isn't a stretch for him.

Shockingly, this is not a traditional anthem, but actually written by Sting, and it's about nothing more than a boy running an errand to the local supply depot: "First off a brace of sky hooks and a packet of nail holes neat/And then three cans of tartan paint, and that's me task complete/The store-man swipes me on the head and sends me on me way/With a kick in the arse for me efforts, and such was my first day." I'm encouraged. I have also, now, seen everything.


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