The Police

Origin: London, England

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Genres: New wave, Pop rock, post-punk, reggae rock

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The Police were a British rock band formed in London in 1977.  For most of their history the band consisted  of Sting (lead vocals, bass guitar, primary songwriter), Andy Summers (guitar) and Stewart Copeland (drums, percussion).  The Police achieved international stardom in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and were one of the first new-wave groups to achieve mainstream success playing a mixture of punk, reggae and jazz.  In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the Police No. 70 on their list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.  The Police disbanded in 1986, but reunited for tours in 2007 and 2008.

The Police’s debut album, 1978’s Outlandos d’Amour hit the top ten on the UK Albums Chart.  Their second album, 1979’s Reggata de Blanc became the first of four consecutive UK Number one albums.  Their next two albums, Zenyatta Mondatta (1980) and Ghost in the Machine (1981) achieved further critical and commercial success.  Their final studio album, 1983’s Synchronicity topped the charts worldwide, while selling more than eight million copies in America.  One of the album’s single, “Every Breath You Take,” became their fifth UK number one single, while also topping the American charts for the first time.  The Police have sold more than 75 million albums.

The Police have won six Grammy Awards, two Brit Awards, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Four of their five studio albums appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  The Police also appear on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

In November, 1976, while on a tour of northeast England with the British progressive rock band Curved Air, the band’s American drummer Stewart Copeland met an ambitious singer-bassist, and former schoolteacher, Gordon Sumner, called Sting (so nicknamed due to his habit of wearing a black and yellow striped sweater mirroring a wasp) who at the time was playing jazz-rock fusion in a band called Last Exit.  When Sting relocated to London in 1977 he sought out Copeland for a jam session.

Curved Air had recently disbanded and Copeland was eager to form a new band and join the burgeoning London punk scene.  Sting, while less keen acknowledged the commercial opportunities, so the duo formed the Police as a trio with Corsican guitarist Henry Padovani recruited as the third member.  The group played London pubs and recorded a single, “Fall Out,” released in 1977.

The band’s fourth member was Andy Summers.  A decade older than Sting and Copeland, Summers was a music industry veteran who had played with Eric Burdon and the Animals among others.  Summers’ musical ability impressed Sting, who was growing frustrated with Padovani’s abilities and limitations that imposed on the Police’s potential.  Sting approached Summers about joining the band and he agreed on the condition that the band remain a trio.  While Sting and Copeland remained loyal to Padovani it became apparent he did not fit in with the band and he was dismissed.  The Police as a trio debuted in August 1977, with this lineup enduring for the rest of the band’s history.

The Police drew upon influences from reggae to jazz to progressive and pub rock, while attempting to win over punk audiences.  The bleached-blond hair that became the band’s trademark happened by accident in 1978, when the band desperate for money was asked to do a commercial for Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum on the condition that they dye their hair blond.  The commercial shot with the band was shelved and never aired.

The Police debut album, 1978’s Outlandos d’Amour featured the single “Roxanne,” The song became a top forty hit and led to gigs at the famous New York club CBGB’s.

In October 1979, the group issued their second album, Regatta de Blanc, which spawned the hit singles “Message in a Bottle,” and “Walking on the Moon.”  The instrumental title track “Reggatta de Blanc” won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

Pressured by their record company for a new record and a prompt return to touring, the Police released their third album, 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta.  The album birthed the UK’s best selling single of 1980; “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” along with another hit single, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” both of which were top ten American hits.

While band members expressed regret over the rushed recording of the album it still received high praise from critics.  The instrumental “Behind My Camel,” written by Andy Summers, won the band a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, while “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” won another Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance for Duo or Group.

The Police’s fourth album, 1981’s Ghost in the Machine featured thicker sounds, layered saxophones, and vocal textures.  The album spawned the hit singles “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Invisible Sun, and “Spirits in the Material World.”  As the band was unable to agree on a cover picture, the album cover had three red  digital likenesses of the three band members set against a black background.

After the conclusion of 1982’s Ghost in the Machine tour the band went on hiatus with each individual member pursuing outside projects.

By this time, Sting was becoming a major star establishing a career beyond the Police by branching out into acting.  Sting had previously made a well-received debut in the film version of the Who’s rock opera Quadrophenia.  In 1983, Sting filmed his first big-budget movie role in David Lynch’s Dune.  As Sting’s fame rose, his relationship with Stewart Copeland deteriorated.  Their increasingly strained partnership was further stretched by the pressures of worldwide publicity and fame, conflicting egos, and their financial success.

In 1983, the Police released their final studio album, Synchronicity, which included the hit singles “Every Breath You Take,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “King of Pain” and “Synchronicity II.”  By this time they were the biggest band in the world, albeit one whose three members recorded their contributions individually in separate rooms at different times due to the increasing band disputes.

Synchronicity became a worldwide smash topping the U.S. charts for seventeen weeks.  “Every Breath You Take”won the Grammy for Song of the Year.

After the Synchronicity tour ended in 1984 Sting decided to go solo.  In 1986, the trio reconvened to play three concerts for the Amnesty International Tour.  In July, of that year the band reunited to record a new album.  However, Copeland broke his collarbone in a fall from a horse and the reunion plans were cancelled.

For the next twenty years each bad member continued with their solo careers.

In 1992, Sting married Trudie Styler and Summer and Copeland were invited to the ceremony.  Wedding guests pressured the trio to perform and the band played “Roxanne” and “Message in a Bottle.”

In 1995 A&M released Live! a double album featuring two complete concerts—one recorded during the Reggatta de Blanc tour, and one during the Synchronicity Tour.

In March 2003, the Police were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performed “Roxanne,””Message in a Bottle” and “Every Breath You Take” live, as a group.

In 2007, reports surfaced that the trio would reunite for a tour to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary.  The Police reunited for that year’s Grammys performing “Roxanne.”  The performance was followed shortly thereafter by a massive world tour that continued through 2008.  By the end of the tour it had become the third-highest grossing tour of all time.  At the tour’s conclusion the Police disbanded.

Reference –

Police discography

Outlandos d’ Amour (1978)

Regatta de Blanc (1979)

Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)

Ghost in the Machine (1981)

Synchronicity (1983)

Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays the Police.  All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/

Check out the Police performing “Every Breath You Take.”