Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bring On the Edge of the Night, or "Having only one wing makes it exeedingly [sic] difficult to fly"

This has to be obvious to anyone that knows both of these songs, and I can't believe I didn't notice it until this week: "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks uses elements of "Bring On the Night" by The Police in a very literal way:


The Wikipedia entry for "Edge of Seventeen" seems to suggest that it was session guitarist Waddy Wachtel's idea, while Wachtel claims ignorance in the interview that is cited on Wikipedia:

"I had never heard "Bring On the Night," and at that session they told me they were going to do this song based on this feel. I had heard something about the Police, but I didn't know what they were talking about. Then about two years ago, I had the radio on, and on comes what sounds like "Edge of Seventeen"-and all of a sudden, there's Sting's voice! I thought, "We ripped them off completely!" I called Stevie that night and said, "Listen to me, don't ever do that again!" "

I think the truth is in the middle somewhere. And I also think this may be an instance of the producers mishearing the Police track. Here's what I mean. First, the intro to "Bring On the Night" can be reduced as follows:

Lots of Police hallmarks here: a syncopated single-note guitar riff (which is picked up later by the bass, more or less) with wide, slow flanger (so clear with that constant, "lift the fretting hand ghost note" technique), bass drum on 2 and 4 (also seems to be running through a flanger and lots of reverb--synched with the guitar?), and hi-hat accents on the "ands." All of this adds up to a typical "Where the hell is 1?" Police intro. It's quite possible to mistakenly hear the accents on the hi-hat as downbeats, which in turn puts the bass drum on the "ands." Which brings me to the verse of "Edge of Seventeen":

It's "Bring On the Night" with a more consistent guitar part (borrowed later for this?) and a drum part that has been shifted by an eighth note (the same can be said for the bass line to the first verse). That brings me back to the producers. Was this a deliberate change or did they mishear/misremember the groove from the Police track?

Either way, it's nearly identical stuff. And for the record, I always thought the first line to this song was "Just like the one we knew," or something like that. I guess "white-winged cockatoo" has too many syllables. "One-winged dove" is good, too.

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