Perhaps The Archivist shouldn’t mention that they first heard this song as [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Weird Al Yankovic’s[/lastfm] parody version, “King of Suede.” It earns geek points, but makes most rock aficionados just cringe. Nonetheless, the music seemed reasonably peppy enough and upbeat sounding to support Al’s lyrics of a cut-rate clothing retailer talking about his trade. It wasn’t until several years later that The Archivist got to really listen to the lyrics of the original and find them to be laced with truly haunting imagery.
Released in 1983 as part of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Police[/lastfm]‘s wildly successful album Synchronicity, “King of Pain” was the fourth and final single. At the time of its release, some believed that the exceedingly bleak imagery called forth in the song represented the thoughts in the mind of a killer, but this confuses it with the track “Murder by Numbers” (also from Synchronicity).
Interestingly, “King of Pain” was the only single from the album not to have its own video cut. Instead, Video Classics offers this live performance from 1986 which, if nothing else, illustrates the sometimes-sharp distinctions between songs as they are performed live, and the studio versions.
“King of Pain” was The Police’s most-successful U.S. single ever, reaching #3.