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28. November 2021

Well Played: Englishman in New York (Sting)

by

James Ferguson Berr

Today I am going to dive into the world of music. More specifically, one of my all-time favourite songs: Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” released on the album “Nothing Like the Sun” in 1987.

The song tells Englishman Quentin Crisp’s story. An eccentric entertainer, actor and author, Crisp moved from England to New York in 1981. Sting and Crisp’s first encounter was in 1985 during filming and led to an invitation to Crisp’s Manhattan apartment. The backdrop for an insight into the loneliness and social exclusion he suffered as an open homosexual in England.

Although Crisp’s story inspires Sting to write the song, he also processes his own experiences. In 1987, during recordings for his Album, Sting himself lives in New York for multiple months. He writes of unbearable homesickness, which he tried to drown in countless visits to English pubs. The exact opposite to Crisp who broke away from England, Sting looks for an exchange with the English living in New York.

After release, the song initially wasn’t a big success. In America it barely hit 84th and did only marginally better at 51st in the English charts. The remix by Ben Liebrand however did a lot better in 1990. Since we’re at it – I highly recommend watching the music video. Filmed in black and white, by legendary director David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club), it follows Sting and Crisp on a lonely wander through the streets of Manhattan, illuminating the meaning of the famous line: “I’m a legal alien.”

And of course, our comments on famous artists aren’t always completely selfless. A Sting-look á la Mogg? Well, if he had to stumble into our shop, we wouldn’t need a lot of time to think. A black turtleneck and a grey flannel trouser paired with a single-breasted tweed jacket by Fox-Brothers would be a perfect match. This English country-outfit should make his homesickness a thing of the past. NS/JB/YS/KP 

Shop our Sting-inspired Look: