King Of Pain, 12''

Jan 06, 1984
Track List And Lyrics
    DISC NO: 1
  1. King Of Pain lyrics
  2. Tea In The Sahara (Live) lyrics
Recorded At


Sumner's Tales: Sting talks...

"In 'King Of Pain', I conjured up symbols of pain and related them to my soul. A black spot on the sun struck me as being a very painful image, and I felt that was my soul up there on there on the sun. It's just projecting your state into the world of symbolism, which is what poetry's all about, really."
Musician, 6/83

"Actually, it was something I said. I'd just left my first wife - a very painful break - and I went to Jamaica to try and pull myself together. I was fortunate to be able to go to Jamaica, I have to say, and stayed at this nice house and was looking at the sun one day. I was with Trudie who is now my current wife and said 'Look, there's a little black spot on the sun today'. And there's a pause. I said, 'That's my soul up there'. I was full of hyperbole. I said that! I went back in and wrote it down on a piece of stuff, and wrote some other stuff."
'In The Studio' Radio Show

"It's such a cul-de-sac, that whole culture of pain, and I was being partly ironic. But the thing is, it was written at a time in my life when I was in terrible pain. My first marriage was falling apart. But I don't sing that song anymore. I can't really feel for it now."
US Magazine, 4/96

About 'Tea In The Sahara'...
"Paul Bowles has written very many books but he wrote a book called 'The Sheltering Sky' which became a film by Bertolucci, a few years ago. I read it long before it was a film. It's one of tho most beautiful, sustained, poetic novels I've ever read. It's about Americans that regard themselves as travellers and not tourists, and I class myself in that category. I'm a hopeless tourist, but I'm constantly on the move. There was a story within that story - that was a sort of Arab legend that was told in the story of three sister who invite a prince to a tea party out in the desert to have tea, tea in the Sahara. They have tea, and it's wonderful, and he promises to come back and he never does. They just wait and wait and wait until it's too late. I just loved this story and wrote a song called 'Tea In The Sahara'. I don't know whether Paul Bowles ever heard it, probably not, but it's still one of my favourite songs."
'All This Time<'i> CDROM, '95

Andy Summers on how he achieved the guitar sound on 'Tea In The Sahara'...
"I think that way that I did it, because on the track, each of the three of the group were all in different rooms. So I was able to turn up extremely loud, and, you know, you are on the brink of feeding back. So it starts to kind of wobble, it's not quite sure which way to go. I mean, it literally depends on whether you turn to face the amplifier. You have to stand, physically, in the right spot of the room. It is very crucial. Played very loud and used a volume pedal. Literally, the way I held my hands on the string and shifted the chord position right at the moment where it was about to start feeding back. I aged about ten years doing that track."
WHFS 99.1 radio interview in Annapolis/Baltimore, 84/85

About 'Tea In The Sahara'...
"I think it was me who gave Sting that book. Live we began extending the song, opened it up. I really loved playing it with all the echoplex stuff I did. I did it with my band on the XYZ tour so I could show off my fancy guitar part."
Andy Summers: 'Message In A Box' Liner Notes, '93

About 'Tea In The Sahara'...
"On 'Tea In The Sahara' I used what I call, tongue in cheek, my 'wobbling cloud' effect. It comes with using a highly overloaded guitar, to the point of feedback, and moving the chord off just as it's about to break. It's a sound I do a lot in concert, this sort of echo guitar, where basically I turn most of the signal off so that all you hear is echo. Then you control it with the volume pedal, so you just hear this floating, shimmering sound. And you've got to play the right chords, you can't play G major or D7 - it sounds cruddy. You've got to play space harmonies to make it more like that - triads with open strings, tended harmonies like 9ths and 11ths, 27ths. It's really all by ear."
Andy Summers: Guitar World, 4/87

About 'Tea In The Sahara'...
"Sting thought everything was too fast."
Stewart Copeland: 'Message In A Box' Liner Notes, '93

About 'Tea In The Sahara'...
"I've always loved the song. There's so much space in it. But I think we played it too fast on the album and live. It was inspired by a book called 'The Sheltering Sky' by Paul Bowles - he quoted a Berber story about three sisters who make a deal with a prince to have tea in the Sahara every year. But he doesn't come back. It's about broken promises."
'Message In A Box' Liner Notes, '93


One of the classic late period Police songs from the 'Synchronicity' album, 'King of Pain' was released as a single in early 1994, reaching #17 in the UK and #3 in the States. This was actually the final single released by the Police whilst they were still together. One of the small band of Police tracks that occasionally gets dusted off and played by Sting in concert, for example on the 1991 and 1993 tours. A live solo version of the song recorded in Holland in 1991 can be found on the 'Fields of Gold' single. 'Tea In The Sahara' appears on the 1983 Police album, 'Synchronicity' and a live Police version appears as the B-side to this single. Based on a Paul Bowles story ('The Sheltering Sky'), the track was a popular inclusion in the Police's live set, and one of Sting's favourite songs although he is said to have thought The Police played it too fast. Not too surprising then to see the song included in the set list for his first solo tour in 1985. A live version from that tour recorded in Arnhem can be found on the 'Bring On The Night' album. Also worth looking out for is the acoustic version he played on MTV's 'Unplugged' session in 1991 and which was released a s bonus track on the 1993's 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' CD single.

Review from Smash Hits

"Yet another song prised off the 'Synchronicity' LP which is an infuriating mixture of the brilliant and the routine. This one of the brilliant. Sting strings together chilly pictures of people and animals in pain in a voice that sends icicles up your spine. A grower"

Review from No.1

"An eerie little song from the bountiful 'Synchronicity' LP which emphasises the gap between the Police and nearly all their rock/pop contemporaries. Like 'Every Breath You Take', this is simple, very subtle and very classy. Now perhaps Sting and Michael Jackson will get on with some new material."

Review from Record Mirror

"My problem with the Police has been that even though I've liked almost everything they've done - almost! - I've never ever liked it the first or second time I've heard it. The first three times I heard 'Every Breath You Take' I couldn't remember what it was called, or anything about it. At the moment this just sounds like another good Police single, but just how good I'll only be able to judge in about a month's time."

Review from New Musical Express

"I recognise these men. I have already noted 'King Of Pain' as Sting's summit to date, and in 45 form I see no reason to revise that opinion - even though a song that rhymes "reign" with "rain" has a certain idleness in its make up. 'Synchronicity' peaked here some while back and I doubt if this will do that strongly, their live presence notwithstanding. Their Wembley shows were superb tightenings of the set they trailed around America, all the excess showmanship peeled back to an exultant major-league attack. I stick by them."