“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” is a hit song by the rock band The Police (formed in 1977), released in 1980 as the lead single from their 3rd album Zenyatta Mondatta. It concerns a teacher who has a sexual relationship with a student, which in turn is discovered.
The band’s 3rd #1 on the UK Singles Chart, it was also the best selling single of 1980 in the UK. The song also charted in the top 10 in Australia, Canada and the US. The Police won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for this song.
The music and lyrics of the song were written by the lead singer of The Police, Sting. The song deals with the mixed feelings of lust, fear and guilt that a school teacher has for a student and the fallout when the inappropriate sexual relationship is discovered by other adults. The line Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov alludes to Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, which covers somewhat similar issues. The line was criticized for rhyming shake and cough with Nabokov. Sting replied, “I’ve used that terrible, terrible rhyme technique a few times.”
Before joining The Police, Sting had previously worked as an English teacher. His recollection was that he’d “been through the business of having 15-year-old girls fancying me – and me really fancying them! How I kept my hands off them I don’t know.” He referred to the song’s story progression as “the teacher, the open page, the virgin, the rape in the car, getting the sack.”
In 1993, however, he said of the song’s inspiration, “You have to remember we were blond bombshells at the time and most of our fans were young girls so I started role playing a bit. Let’s exploit that.” In a 2001 interview for the concert DVD …All This Time, Sting denied that the song is autobiographical.
“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” features Sting on lead vocals. Like many Police songs, the verses are more subdued, while the chorus is bolder and louder. The song also bears a reggae style, yet another common trait in Police songs.