Music Memory: The Police, 'Canary in a Coalmine'

'Canary in a Coalmine' appeared on The Police's 1980 release, 'Zenyatta Mondatta'.
'Canary in a Coalmine' appeared on The Police's 1980 release, 'Zenyatta Mondatta'. (© A&M Records.)

This week's Music Memory comes from LIsa Heyman of St. Paul, Minn.:

When my best friend Marilyn and I first heard The Police's "Canary in a Coalmine", we misheard a critical word for the comprehension of the song. We thought the canary was not in a coal mine but rather in a coma.

This was 1981, and The Police were one of the few new wave bands sandwiched between Rush and Bob Seeger on the commercial radio stations of western Massachusetts. The nonsensical image of a little canary in coma fit right in with our burgeoning appreciation for the new music we were slowly learning about via older kids at school or from reading Rolling Stone magazine.

That semester, our art teacher was on sabbatical, and we had a very laid-back substitute who let us use all the art supplies. No more line drawings with charcoal pencils; we were allowed to break out the oil paints and canvas! Marilyn, who went on to study art at the Rhode Island School of Design, was inspired to paint a canary with little X's over its eyes.

Once we learned the real title of the song, it just didn't carry the same amount of whimsy.

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