Jan 09

THE POLICE – “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”

FT + Popular38 comments • 4,235 views

#488, 14th November 1981

Gratifyingly throwaway by the increasingly intense standards of The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” is the band at their most blithely enjoyable. A lot of that’s down to the arrangement – steelband percussion, Jean Roussel’s delightfully rolling piano, and the uplifting synthesiser chords coming out of the middle eight and colouring the fade out. The whole thing has an off-kilter charm to it slightly reminiscent of XTC, though more straightforward than anything that band did (which is why this is as close as we’ll come to discussing XTC on Popular!). The only downside is – yet again – Sting’s singing, a closed-in growl in the middle of all this splashy colour.



  1. 1
    Tom on 30 Jan 2009 #

    I’d have knocked a mark off if I’d seen that disgusting sleeve in advance!

  2. 2
    rosie on 30 Jan 2009 #

    Tom @ 1: That’s another aspect to the ‘detachment’ element, isn’t it?

    The 50s and earlier sixties number ones are evaluated on what they sound like alone. As we’ve moved through the seventies and increasingly now in the marketing-obsessed eighties, there’s a whole raft of other signifiers to take into account – sleeve design, video, and other trappings. As I’m hearing nearly all of these things mostly on pub jukeboxes and occasionally other people’s radios, those other signifiers whoosh right over my head.

    I’ve never seen that sleeve before. The sleeve I associate with this is the cover of Ghost In The Machine, which features both cod japonnaiserie and a nod towards the digital age.

    As for the song, well it’s enjoyable enough but it won’t surprise anybody here that I like the intense stuff!

  3. 3
    wichita lineman on 30 Jan 2009 #

    It rhymes “magic” with “tragic”.

    Jonathan King pulled off the neat trick of rhyming moon, June and spoon on a Top 5 hit (Everyone’s Gone To The Moon in 1965). But he did that for a bet. I don’t think Sting did.

  4. 4
    johnny on 30 Jan 2009 #

    no matter how much sting annoys the piss out of me, i just can’t hate this one. so atypical of them, maybe that’s why it’s a favorite.

    sting has often been accused of being a crass commercialist. i can’t help feeling that, if that were truly the case, his catalog would’ve had a lot more “everything she does is magic”s and a lot fewer “invisible sun”s.

  5. 5
    Erithian on 30 Jan 2009 #

    Wichita #3 – oh, but there are so many other crimes against rhymes (see what I did there?) to be taken into consideration. Besides, he’s not the first major figure to use that particular one. The famous Barrovian Emlyn Hughes, speaking to the crowd greeting Liverpool FC home after their first European Cup win in 1977, got them to sing “Liverpool are magic, Everton are tragic” – thus pissing off a large number of Everton fans who had sportingly turned out to applaud their rivals.

    ELTSDIM is slight and sprightly, good fun to fling yourself around to, and not the kind of song you’d imagine would be a band’s first hit – but a good one to keep the business ticking over. I like the way the verse is sung over a sparse-ish backing and the instruments crowd in on each other as they build to the chorus. Not epoch-making or a landmark but fun, and there’s nowt wrong with that.

  6. 6
    jeff w on 30 Jan 2009 #

    Hello. Long time no visit FT. (Excuse: my LJ ‘friends’ page is blocked at werk, so I never know about updates now, and it’s TMFD to do special checks. Lame, I know. One of these days I’ll read all the Popular threads I’ve missed – about 2 years’ worth of #1s, I think!)

    This is my favourite Police song. My best friend and I at school were both 16 y.o. bad-poetry-writing emotional head cases with serious crushes on females (different ones, fortunately) when this was #1, so Sting certainly spoke to and for us at the time. But it still stands up as a great pop song I think; the general euphoria of the climax (those uninhibied “ee-yo-oh”s and “YEEEAAA-OH”s) always make me happy. This is a borderline 10, actually.

  7. 7
    jeff w on 30 Jan 2009 #

    also re: Tom @ 1, I’ve never seen that sleeve before. Is that really the UK one?

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 30 Jan 2009 #

    Have to agree that this does have a very light touch for the Police. I reckon they overcompensate with that eager puppy scamper from the verse into the chorus, but the Bobby Darin-ish swing of the middle eight and the jazz lounge piano are summery and rather sweet.

    The ‘Kia-Ora’ chant towards the end isn’t. What was that all about, anyway? Didn’t they use it on other singles too?

    Erithian, I remember Emlyn Hughes, during a stint as a Radio 2 dj, collapsing in squeaky giggles when he got a letter from someone in Pratt’s Bottom, Kent. I wonder if Sting would have done the same – or maybe the links between them end with the rhyming dictionary.

    Shame that Neil Young never had a number one so we can’t make any Crazy Horse connections between him and Emlyn.

  9. 9
    Doctor Casino on 30 Jan 2009 #

    I don’t really mind this, but it’s one of those songs where I spend the whole time waiting for one part (WEE OH! WEE OHH!) and don’t really lose myself in the details of the rest. Much prefer the achier version by The Blow (oddly retitled “Come On Petunia”) where she manages to sound like everything this girl does DOES turn her on. Sting is a bit more distant from the material, singing well but, I think, not quite inhabiting the song. Hence the growl on EVRRRRY – it’s a memorable stylistic tic, part of the large family of “#1 vocal oddities” (Stupid Cupid etc). But it’s an applied act of performance rather than an outgrowth of the song.

    “WEE OH” on the other hand works perfectly. As the music gets more untethered, there’s a real centripetal whirl here and for once Sting seems really caught up in the rush of this woman…

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 30 Jan 2009 #

    To my eight year-old self this was a catchy riot of calypso colour and jollity.

    To my muso aldult self this sounds like a group failing to play to their strengths and always seems to go on a bit.

  11. 11
    peter goodlaws on 30 Jan 2009 #

    This was fair enough as a continuity hit for The Police but would not have been strong enough as an inaugural offering, as Erithian says. It bounces along nicely enough but comes a bit too close to outstaying its welcome for me to embrace it totally.

  12. 12
    LondonLee on 30 Jan 2009 #

    A pleasant surprise after the, ahem, subversive “Invisible Sun” (well, Sting said it was!) and shows how much more people would be inclined to like him if he’d written more stuff like this and “Message In A Bottle” – though by this point I do get the sense that he thinks he’s slumming it a bit with this sort of lighter fare.

  13. 13
    The Lurker on 30 Jan 2009 #

    Johnny@4: I thought the usual charge against Sting (apart from general smugness) was being too clever by half – making references to Nabokov/Shakespeare/Chaucer, having jazz musicians on his solo records etc. He just can’t win, can he?

    If you can divorce your opinion of Sting from the record itself (I find this quite easy – I’ve always assumed that most pop stars are wankers and am quite surprised when evidence to the contrary emerges) then this is a great pop song. If it loses a point for Sting’s vocals, that leaves it an 8 at worst.

  14. 14
    johnny on 30 Jan 2009 #

    lurker: i agree with your point completely. i think you described my charge of “commercial crassness” much better as smugness. of course his singles will chart high – after all, he is a consummate craftsman, correct? funny how his craftsmanship is not quite as strong when he’s tackling weightier material though.

    i think this tune is brilliantly constructed. how many other chart-toppers from ’81, however daring or startlingly original, have an honest-to-god bridge, or use their individual elements to such colorful effect? i know it’s kind of a muso/Mojo argument to be advancing, but it’s worth considering when discussing the merits of a pop single. this level of proficiency is certainly not required (and when overused can become downright dull and stilting), but it shouldn’t be counted against a songwriter. maybe, as someone else rightly pointed out, sting did feel this kind of material was beneath him, but it comes off as much more effortless and complete than something clumsy like “wrapped around your finger” or “synchronicity II”.

    and still i feel the need to defend myself lest anyone think i’m sticking up for the bastard. but i believe in giving credit where credit is due. sorry, this one’s a gem.

  15. 15
    lonepilgrim on 30 Jan 2009 #

    having watched the video again on youtube I find I like this better than I thought I would – I like the subtle synth bass/rhythm – which sounds a bit like acid house to my untrained ears- and the dubby elements on the bridge.
    sting sounds like he’s enjoying himself rather than trying to impress with his pearls of wisdom.

    the song is linked to the sight of the body of a woman found murdered round the corner from my student flat in Newcastle – it was playing on the radio as we drove past the scene early in the morning with the police draping a tarpaulin over her as we left.

  16. 16
    vinylscot on 31 Jan 2009 #

    A very good single; treading water a little, but much better than the vast majority of what was around at the time.

    There is definitely a nod to “Message in a Bottle” at the start of the bridge when he resolves to call her up a thousand times a day, and the second half of the bridge has a very 10CC feel to it.

    I often wondered if their comments on “Invisible Sun” were a bit “Emperor’s new clothes” – I thought it was rather weak by their standards, forgettable in fact, but they seemed to consider it rather complex and ground-breaking.

  17. 17
    Kat but logged out innit on 31 Jan 2009 #

    I’d forgotten about the piano bits – they’re just lovely. Also in the video Sting’s face is obscured by shadows a lot of the time. Tick vg.

  18. 18
    Malice Cooper on 31 Jan 2009 #

    Hideous hateful rubbish. A fraction better than “de doo do do” but not by much. There is nothing whatsoever endearing about this and it makes “Shaddap you face” sound like a masterpiece.

  19. 19
    Matthew K on 1 Feb 2009 #

    Re #2 – it’s not “japonaiserie” on the cover of Ghost, it’s the three guys’ heads rendered in LED segments like a digital readout. I remember the shock when I first realised (which was about 5 years after the album came out).
    I loved this single at the time and hate it intensely now, probably because they plunge into a bit of pop fluff with the intensity of maniacs, thus killing it. The whole album is suffocating in the same way.

  20. 20
    Will on 1 Feb 2009 #

    Well, it took me at least a decade and a half before I woke up to the fact those funny little lines on the cover were supposed to be Sting and the boys, in a computer (ie ‘the machine’, doh!)

    As with all their hits and indeed the Police as a band this is a record to grudgingly admire rather than love. Nice video though.

  21. 21
    David Belbin on 1 Feb 2009 #

    The UK 7″ cover has them lounging on what appears to be a cityscape mural.

  22. 22
    RChappo on 2 Feb 2009 #

    Quite like this myself. Was a cheery little song to my 8 year old ears and it still does have that feel to me now. I particularly like the way the drumming kicks up on the chorus and the cymbal work is nice throughout. Remember the video of the band on some beach stage or something doing a dance involving kicking their legs up and vaguely remember copying it at the school discos.
    Sting obviously liked some of the lyrics here as the line “it’s a big enough umbrella but it’s always me that ends up getting wet” is quoted in a number of his later songs.

  23. 23
    The Intl on 3 Feb 2009 #

    Every little thing they do is shit-tinged.

  24. 24
    mike on 3 Feb 2009 #

    #21 – Yeah, this isn’t the UK 7″ cover. I can scan it tonight, if needs be.

    #6 – I’m with Jeff W: this is my favourite Police song, and a borderline 10. It’s the surging joyfulness that does it for me, especially during the build-up to the chorus.

    I dimly recall a location feature on the making of this single, on C4’s The Tube.

    #8 – While this was at #1, I was sharing a student house with five others, and the girl with the room next to mine was from… Pratt’s Bottom!

  25. 25
    mike on 3 Feb 2009 #

    Aha, here’s the UK 7″ cover.

  26. 26
    lonepilgrim on 3 Feb 2009 #

    re 24 I’d be surprised if the ‘making of’ feature was on The Tube as that didn’t start until 1982 – maybe it was another show or another (police) song.

    re 25 thanks for that – Tom’s image didn’t look too familiar
    btw is there some kind of primer on how to create different fonts and links on posts to this site?

  27. 27
    mike on 3 Feb 2009 #

    Oh, you’re quite right – no Tube for another year or so – I’m getting my memories tangled.

  28. 28
    wichita lineman on 3 Feb 2009 #

    Re 24: I wonder if the making of was much fun. My residual bad taste-in-mouth with the Police has a lot to do with the singularly dull and disinterested performances, even when they played this hoppity thing. Copeland’s miserable, huge head looms larger than ever on the chorus. Take it away, please!

  29. 29
    mike on 3 Feb 2009 #

    Still trying to nail why this appealed/appeals so much, considering how cold The Police usually left/leave me. I guess there’s something refreshingly uncalculated about that joyfulness – and there’s a nice contrast between the simple spontaneity of the emotion and the satisfying dexterity of the arrangement. It feels like they’ve all hit on the same feeling at the same moment, and that they’ve reached that top-of-game synchronicity (ooh!) which means that they instinctively know to to present it. For once, warmth has replaced smugness.

  30. 30
    Conrad on 3 Feb 2009 #

    This is a very enjoyable record.

    It seemed a bit lightweight and throwaway at the time (not necessarily a bad thing), a feeling enhanced by the swiftness of its release. It was debuting in the chart only 5 or 6 weeks after “Invisible Sun.” It was also quickly followed by “Spirits In The Material World”, as The Police crammed all three singles from the new album into the final quarter of 1981.

    The video was shot while they recorded the album, and formed part of The Police at Monserrat special which was aired on BBC1 one early Saturday evening over Christmas as I recall.

  31. 31

    Written back when Sting was still in “Last Exit” !

  32. 32
    Jay on 28 Feb 2009 #

    If I fell in love and did my best to describe to you how deeply I was moved, I would be lucky to find words such as these.

    I would try to describe how a thought of my love would enter my mind as gently as this tune opens.

    I would try to explain how indulging that thought would allow emotional and physical sensations well-up inside me, until I was overcome with joy.

    I would reach a point where my vocabulary was too limited to express my feelings – a point where only cries of joy seemed appropriate. I would want to yell it from the rooftops!

    If I exhausted myself in an effort to make you understand, and your response was to comment on my limited vocabulary, punctuation, or grammatical errors, I would be saddened. Saddened for you.

    From the whisp of a beginning, to the undeniable urge to yell for joy at the end, this song should be sung no other way. The Music for Monsterrat version is my personal favorite.

  33. 33
    Stuart P on 5 May 2009 #

    Nobody’s mentioned how it kept Altered Images Happy Birthday off number 1 – by 10 copies or summat … second closest chart race …ever after Dee Lite V Steve Miller in ’90 …

    so I will

  34. 34
    Billy Smart on 14 May 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 24th October 1981, Paul Du Noyer;

    “Knew it was too good to last. With ‘Invisible Sun’ I found myself stopping to listen to The Police for the first time – the first suggestion of depth and mystery. Here, though, everything’s back to boring old normal: all clatter clatter and eeyo-oh-woh. God, but it grates.”

    Du Noyer made ‘Love Moves In Strange Ways’ by Blue Zoo Single of the week. Also reviewed that week;

    The Fun Boy Three – The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum
    Scritti Politti – The Sweetest Girl
    Heaven 17 – Penthouse & Pavement
    Kool & The Gang – Steppin’ Out
    Prince – Controversy
    Diana Ross – Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

  35. 35
    DanH on 23 Jan 2013 #

    XTC eh…
    *imagines the song sung in an Andy Partidge voice*

  36. 36
    hectorthebat on 13 Oct 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Beats Per Minute (USA) – The Top 100 Tracks of the 1980s (2011) 46
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Woxy.com (USA) – Modern Rock 500 Songs of All Time (combined rank 1989-2009) 830
    Rolling Stone (USA) – Singles of the Year
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 22

  37. 37
    Adam on 23 Mar 2015 #

    The Police are tough for me because I enjoy all the elements they draw from and really have no particular problem with Sting’s personality, so they seem the perfect fit for me… I think in the end it’s just the dense songwriting structure… even this “laid back” example feels forced at every turn. They bombard you and leave no room for the “spaces between the music”… works for explosive styles like hip hop but not for their rhythmical choice… hence the entire genre of “ska punk” being written off by types otherwise open to gems from any genre. It’s like the “Belgian IPAs” some craft breweries here are coming out with. I’ve tried many, none work, the components clash, simple as that.

  38. 38
    Gareth Parker on 5 May 2021 #

    I’m afraid this is a 2/10 for me. I find it to be extremely irritating, and like most Police records this repetition at the end is very annoying. The song goes nowhere.

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