The intro to the song contains one of the great happy accidents in rock history. There was an upright piano in the studio, which Sting sat on thinking the lid was closed. Tape was rolling for his vocal, so the sound of his butt hitting the piano and his subsequent laughter were recorded. These sounds were mixed into the intro
This was the first major-label release by The Police, who were struggling at the time. A year earlier, they released the single “Fall Out” on an independent label. It was a flop, and the group felt a lot of pressure to produce something that would keep them off the dole.
The original sheet of lyrics for this song is decorated with Sting’s random doodles, most dealing with the passage of time. They are “three clocks – one at five to four, another at ten past six, and one sidelong that looks to be showing eight o’clock – a sundial, an hourglass, five sets of five-bar gates that prisoners use to mark the passing of days, some kind of whirlwind vortex spinning in the top right-hand corner, and a spear or an arrowhead. I imagine Sting was drawing these as he was listening back to takes of his vocals, but he doesn’t know what they mean,” you can see these drawings on the back of Sting’s book.
This song is about a man who falls in love with a prostitute. Sting got the idea after walking through the red-light district of Paris when the band was in town to play a club called The Nashville, where he saw prostitutes for the first time. He imagined what it would be like to fall in love with one of them, figuring some of them must have boyfriends.
Sting chose the name of the woman because it has a rich history behind it. Roxanne was the name of Alexander The Great’s wife and Cyrano de Bergerac’s girlfriend.
There’s a drinking game to go along with this song: the women at the party drink when it says “Red Light.” the men drink when it says “Roxanne,”
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.