Friday, June 26, 2009

The Police: "Dead End Job"

(This little real-life story has been online at http://http://www.ia.wvu.edu/~magazine/issues/spring2004/htmlfiles/remember.html for a few years. Now you don't have to go there to read it.)


On a chilly afternoon in the fall of 1983, a friend of mine and I stopped into Nick's Canteen for what was supposed to be a quick lunch between classes. As we waited for our orders to arrive, we examined the song selections contained by our table's jukebox unit, eventually noticing "Roxanne" by the Police. I convinced my buddy to let me play the record's B-side, the then-rare "Dead End Job."

I would not have normally felt comfortable subjecting my fellow diners to the song, a noisy punk rant that hardly qualifies as dinner music, but given the recording's brief duration, I figured no harm would be done. What I didn't know was that Nick's copy of the record was scratched. So instead of singing "Don't wanna be no number, don't want no dead-end job" and getting on with the song, Sting ended up singing "Don't wanna be no number, don't want no dead-end job" over and over. Because the skip did not interrupt the song's natural rhythm, no one noticed. Although it meant missing our next class, we decided to stay and see how long it would take for anyone to complain.

Eventually, someone sat down adjacent to us, made his own jukebox selection, and ordered and ate his lunch without getting to hear the song he'd paid for. Miffed, he brought the situation to the attention of Nick himself, who immediately stopped what he was doing and disappeared through a door, reappearing only after he'd brought the Police’s three-mute, thirty-second song to an end—forty-three minutes after it had begun.

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