Album: The Tenants
. . .
As the Police started having hit after hit in the early 1980s, there was no doubt that in every other major label boardroom, someone stood up and shouted “get me one of those!”Easier said than done, of course, and given that the Police were continually growing and even they weren’t really doing the combo of pop & reggae they’d broken through with anymore, other bands definitely worked the same kind of territory, most successfully Men at Work. Or maybe, ahem, Rush.
Less commercially successful The Tenants, formed in Ontario, Canada in 1981 by a couple of guys named Andy McLean and Gary Brown. Their self-titled debut came out on Epic in 1983, and if I recall correctly, it pretty much sucked. Except for one song, “Sheriff,” which was to The Police what John Cafferty’s “On The Dark Side” is to Bruce Springsteen or America’s “Horse With No Name” was to Neil Young: a total rip-off that somehow transcends rip-offery and becomes perversely profound.
Opening with a very Andy Summers / Stewart Copeland guitar and drums lick, “Sheriff” soon settles in to pop-reggae groove and follows another early 80’s new wave trick: a song that is about a situation experienced by whomever the band is named after. In this case, eviction by the titular sheriff.
Sheriff came around today
Said I have to go away
It’s not you or your type
I wonder where I’ll sleep tonight
While it’s all very on the nose — at one point the lyrics are “I’m the tenant, he’s no friend,” just in case you were curious about the power dynamic — the Brown and McLean vocal harmonies and the general groove of the bassist Lewis Mele and Fraser MacDougall are ridiculously catchy, especially as the organ flourishes from Fraser MacDougall kick in. Oh, and the “oohhh-whooooaaaa-whooaaaaa” background vocals are just aces.
And when the vocals go up in to Sting territory, I’m dead. I should find it hilarious, and I do. But I also find it fun and catchy, even after a spoken-word break down that leads to a breakdown Brown-only bridge that honestly could get him sued for plagiarism.
I woke up this morning
There was a knock on my door
Said you better be out of town
After that, there’s guitar solo, a repeat of the first verse and finally “sheriff came around today” a few times, until the fade.
If you know one song by the Tenants, it’s this one, though I don’t think it was a big hit anywhere, except for maybe on college radio. It definitely got played on KFSR quite a bit, including by yours truly. As far as the Tenants go, they put out another album, Visions of Our Future in 1984, which — according to the Tenants entry on canadianbands.com was slick enough to simultaneously get them a top 40 hit in Canada and break them up. I have no memory of Visions of Our Future, and always thought they broke up after the debut. Though apparently, the band that some of them formed after the break-up was called Moving Pictures, because of course it was.
Also: that video is the most 1980s thing ever.
“Sheriff” Official Music Video
Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim, or any of the other 4,876,987 social media platforms that exist.
The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)
Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page