Sting and the Gravitational Pull of Newcastle

Creative Industries Research Institute (CIRI) Seminar
Sting and the Gravitational Pull of Newcastle
Paul Carr
7 May at 3pm
Board Room (CA419), The ATRiuM, University of South Wales, Cardiff

Abstract: Born in Wallsend, a mainly working class area of North Tyneside in the early 1950s, Gordon Sumner, aka Sting’s creativity and drive for success were established in the region of his birth, with vestiges of the spaces and places of his upbringing, social conditions and ‘Northern Englishness’ continuing to re-emerge in his music long after he left the area. When broadly considering his relationship with the city, it is possible to regard the years 1977 – 1985 in terms of ‘outward momentum’, while close to the last 30 years have witnessed an increasing gravitational pull – during which his interface with the city has become more regular and profound. The process of exploring and sometimes exorcising his background through songs such as ‘All This Time’ (The Soul Cages, 1991) and ‘We Work the Black Seam’ (Dream of the Blue Turtles, 1985) has cumulated in his most recent album The Last Ship (2013), an album replete with local dialect and real and imagined characters based from his past: resulting in a vivid visual portrait of the time, places and spaces of his upbringing – through the lens of his imagination and memory. This paper will investigate Sting’s often problematic love/hate relationship with his hometown of Newcastle since forming The Police in 1977, with a particular focus on a critical analysis of his last album – The Last Ship (2013).

Biography: Paul Carr is Reader in Popular Music Analysis at the University of South Wales’ ATRiuM campus. Prior to moving into academia full time he was an established musician, recording with artists such as James Taylor Quartet (Get Organised 1989), The Jazz Renegades (Freedom Samba 1990) and legendary American Jazz saxophonist Bob Berg (A Certain Kind Of Freedom 1990). His research interests are varied, with subject areas ranging from the impact of electric guitarists on the jazz canon (Cambridge University Press 2008), pedagogical frameworks for work based learning (Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education 2010), and widening participation activities (Beacons For Public Engagement 2009). Much of his recent work has focused on Frank Zappa, with publications ranging from Zappa’s interface with musical theatre (Studies in Musical Theatre 2007), musical gesture (Popular Music Online 2008), tribute artists (Contemporary Theatre Review 2011) and sex (Beitraege zur Popularmusikforschung 2010). In addition to numerous international conference presentations in recent years, he has also been invited to present keynote lectures on his research, including a presentation at the 2009 Zappanale Festival in Bad Doberham, Germany. He also occasionally works as a forensic musicologist for major record companies, and is currently working on a monograph on Sting.