Sting’s The Soul Cages came out in my final year of high school. I was legally an adult, but Ontario still had the pseudo-Grade 13 of Ontario Academic Credits (OACs) that we had to complete before being able to actually graduate. You could go through faster, a few of my friends did, but most tended to do “Grade 13” and keep the workload a bit more sane.
By this point, as a result of the onzaine, I was already well-versed in all things Sting, so buying the album when it came out wasn’t much of a stretch. I remember listening to it for the first time, intrigued by the “QSound” label on the CD, heralding an era of “more than stereo left and right”. And true to form, even with headphones, there was something more, not quite real, of sensing you were in the presence of the performance, rather than merely listening to it.
And listen to it, I did. If it were possible to wear out a CD, I would have.
The album dropped in January 1991. Many of the onzaine (though not all of us, as I recall) and one of the music teachers, Mrs. Stothart, saw the concert on 12 March at the Skydome in Toronto.
Somewhere around that time, my life went to hell. I can’t recall when, exactly – I didn’t keep a decent journal at the time – but things had unfolded in ways I couldn’t have predicted, and although no-one abandonded me, I felt alone, lost.
This album was my lifeline. Sting wrote the album, centred on Why Should I Cry For You, following the death of his father. Although the song has strong, more upbeat songs (All This Time, Jeremiah Blues (Part 1)), a lot of it is sorrowful, even sad. And it very much echoed a lot of what I was feeling at that point. I spent nearly every night on our much-anticipated music trip to Florida sitting away from the others, listening to this album over and over and over.
Maybe all I really wanted to hear was someone say “Good night” to me. (If you know the album, you know.) Maybe all I needed was a modicum of comfort.
High school was ending in a couple of months. While we still had the summer ahead of us, none of us were truly prepared for those first few weeks away from home, at university. Complications in my own life, matters of the (broken) heart, didn’t help. It was a messy end of my youth.
Music, somehow, became my security blanket. I wouldn’t really recognize this until much later, but it was my stalwart partner and support through all the difficult and challenge I was yet to face…